?

Log in

entries friends calendar profile PenUltimate Productions Website Previous Previous Next Next
Poem: "Pearls and Posies" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Pearls and Posies"

This poem came out of the January 2012 Crowdfunding Creative Jam.  It was inspired by a prompt from clare_dragonfly, as a retelling of "Diamonds and Toads."  It has been selected in an audience poll as the free epic, after the August 7, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl made its $200 goal.  This poem belongs to the series Fiorenza the Wisewoman, and you can read more about it on the Serial Poetry page.


Pearls and Posies


One day there came to Fiorenza's village
a weary widow with two little girls.
The older girl had straight black hair and black eyes,
while the younger had wavy brown hair and green eyes,
but both of their faces resembled their mother very much.

"I am Eulalia," the widow said to Fiorenza,
"and these are my daughters Margherita and Abelie."
Fiorenza glanced at the two healthy-looking girls
and asked, "What seems to be the trouble?"

The widow sighed and said,
"Girls, give your greetings to the wisewoman."
Margherita opened her mouth and out fell two jewels,
a blue-violet iolite and a pale green peridot.
Abelie opened her mouth and out fell two herbs,
a lemon geranium and a sprig of starwort.
But not a sound came from either child.

"Oh, dear," said Fiorenza.
"How long have they been like this?"
"Nearly a month now," said the widow.
"They have been mute ever since
they were cursed by a fata."

"I will see what I can do," Fiorenza said.
She settled the widow inside the cottage
with the makings of soup for lunch,
and she settled Mad Ercole outside the cottage
with a basket for weeding and the girls for help.

Then Fiorenza went to find Befana,
the mother of the fate.
"Come and speak with me, Befana,"
called Fiorenza.  "One of your daughters
has laid a curse upon two little girls,
and I need your help to undo the harm."

"Alas," said Befana, stepping through the greenery,
"it was no curse but a blessing gone awry,
in thanks for sharing the berries they were picking.
I have set my errant daughter to scrubbing out the tidepools,
but that will not undo the harm.  Indeed, I fear
that any further magic would only make matters worse."
She spread her beautiful, wrinkled hands in a gesture of defeat.

"Whatever shall I do for the two little girls?"
Fiorenza said.
"You are the wisewoman," said Befana.
"You will think of something."

Fiorenza trudged home.
She found Mad Ercole in the garden
with a basket of weeds in his hand,
a basket of jewels in Margherita's hand, and
a basket of herbs and flowers in Abelie's hand.
Their little faces turned toward her like sunflowers,
shining with hope.

Sadly Fiorenza shook her head.
"I am sorry, girls," she told them.
"Befana says that the spell cannot be lifted."

Abelie produced a scarlet blossom of autumn Adonis
and some deep orange nasturtiums.
Margherita brought forth a smooth cabochon of lepidolite.

"Come," said Fiorenza,
"let us all go inside for lunch."
So they went into the cottage
and ate the good soup that Eulalia had made.
Fiorenza shared the news from Befana.

"So there is no hope at all?"
Eulalia said, wringing her hands.
"They will not regain their voices,"
Fiorenza said, "but I have other ideas."

She pulled out one of her books,
an old herbal illuminated in many colors,
with a list of the flower language
used by couples during courtship.  Fiorenza said,
"See here, we can look up the meanings of the herbs
and learn what Abelie intends when she speaks."

Abelie opened her mouth
and a straw flower came out.
Fiorenza accepted it, then looked in her book.
"Agreement," the herbalist read,
and Abelie nodded.

"What about Margherita?"
Eulalia asked.
"I am still thinking about that,"
Fiorenza said with a nod to the older girl.
"I do not have so much about stones as herbs."

Just then, there came a knock at the door.
Fiorenza answered it to find Don Candido there.
"Good afternoon, Fiorenza," said the priest.
"I was wondering if you have any garlic."
"No," said Fiorenza, "the bulbs are not yet mature."

But Abelie sprang to her feet and gave a silent exclamation,
whereupon several cloves of garlic fell from her lips.
"How extraordinary!" Don Candido said as he collected them.

"Abelie and Margherita are under a spell
that cannot be broken," said Fiorenza.
"Abelie can only speak in herbs and flowers,
while Margherita speaks in jewels.
I am looking up Abelie's flower-words,
but I am not sure what to do for Margherita."

"Have you tried it the other way?" said Don Candido.
"Perhaps if we know what words Margherita intends,
we can match them to the jewels that she produces."

With that, he pulled out the little prayer book
that he carried with him, and showed it to the girl.
Margherita dutifully read the lines as he pointed them out,
and Don Candido helped her with the difficult words.
It took a while, but they figured out that moonstone
had something to do with applying knowledge
and understanding one's destiny.
"Well, that's a start," said Don Candido.

Then Mad Ercole lifted a puff of white lauristinus flowers.
"Cheerfulness in adversity," Fiorenza said presently.
"Perhaps you would like to help me in the garden, Abelie?
It would be very useful to have some herbs out of season!"
Abelie nodded happily.

"Margherita, if you will come to church and read for me,
I will help figure out the meaning of your jewel-words,"
Don Candido offered.  "You may keep half the jewels
to support your family, and put half in the poor box
to help the less fortunate in the village."
Margherita also nodded.

"Oh, I know something else!" Fiorenza said suddenly.
"There is an old woman, Sofia, who has
gone deaf and mute from age.
She now makes gestures with her hands
to show her meaning.  She often gets lonely.
I'm sure Sofia would be happy to teach you her hand-talk."

So it was arranged that Eulalia would bring her daughters
twice a week: once with both going to Sophia, and then again with
Abelie going to Fiorenza and Margherita going to Don Candido.
It was not a perfect solution, but it was the best they could do,
and enough to be going on with.

* * *

The Flower Language

Canterbury bells/bellflower -- gratitude
Lauristinus -- cheerful in adversity
Lemon geranium -- unexpected meeting
Nasturtium -- resignation
Pheasant's Eye / Autumn Adonis  -- Sorrowful Memories
Starwort -- welcome to a stranger
Straw flower -- Agreement

The Symbolism of Stones
Iolite -- truth, simplicity, awakens inner knowledge
Lepidolite -- calming, eases stress, brings hope and self-forgiveness
Moonstone -- grants intuition, helps apply knowledge, understanding of destiny
Peridot -- understanding changes in life, renewal, beginnings


Tags: , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

12 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: August 14th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC) (Link)
It was not a perfect solution, but it was the best they could do, and enough to be going on with.

Well done, everyone! I'm more and more impressed with Don Candido every time he shows up.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 14th, 2012 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>Well done, everyone!<<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> I'm more and more impressed with Don Candido every time he shows up.<<

Yeah, I love him too. I'm really glad that marina_bonomi helped me find him.
tuftears From: tuftears Date: August 14th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Cute! Though conversion of magic to matter... can only make me wonder if magic will grow weaker around the two girls as their blessing drains magical energy from the surroundings to fuel the creation of jewelry and herbs.

It'd be curious to see what would result! Would magical creatures like Don Candido's griffin grow weaker? Or would they start to shade to nonmagical creatures? Or behave perfectly normally, as long as they're biologically feasible? Basilisks rendered nonmagical would be more or less giant lizards with awesome glares, I'd guess.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 14th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

Let's see, it would logically draw from the ambient energy ... that's probably why they don't have voices, using that as the base power source to anchor the blessing. For the most part, it probably wouldn't have much effect on anything else. It might cause a dip in the power level of nearby magic if they were around it for long enough.
tuftears From: tuftears Date: August 14th, 2012 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

I think there's kind of a big difference between the amount of energy it takes to speak and the amount it takes to create even a small jewel from scratch. };)

Of course, the numbers change if it's not actually producing matter but instead, translating them from a different universe which is now missing some quantity of jewels and herbs, but in that case I would find it more realistic if a daughter spoke in socks!
pickledginger From: pickledginger Date: August 14th, 2012 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Very sensible -- a trait not often found in fairy tales. I approve. :-)

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 14th, 2012 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I have come to discover that a core theme of Fiorenza is "how very different fairytales would be if anyone in them actually had a brain." And I love smart heras, so.
thesilentpoet From: thesilentpoet Date: August 14th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Peridot is my birthstone, and all I can think, is how appropriate.

Definitely enjoyed your incorporation of the meanings of the flowers and jewels, and how the girls accepted their fate (in a way) long before their mother did!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 14th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>> Peridot is my birthstone, and all I can think, is how appropriate.<<

Cool.

>> Definitely enjoyed your incorporation of the meanings of the flowers and jewels, and how the girls accepted their fate (in a way) long before their mother did! <<

I've always had a thing for symbolism, and I'd never seen it in the context of this fairytale before. It seemed like a good fit.
cadenzamuse From: cadenzamuse Date: January 21st, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
The thing I love most about this retelling is that there are no "bad guys": the girls were kind and generous (none of this "evil step-mother and -sister" nonsense), the fate were well-meaning if a little thoughtless, and everyone is happy to help jerry-rig a solution. Gorgeous.

(Moonstone is my stone, for whatever reason. Moonstone and pearl. If we were calling the corners in a Judeo-Christian hermetic tradition, with the four archangels, I would be Gabriel's daughter, evening and intuition.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 21st, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>The thing I love most about this retelling is that there are no "bad guys": the girls were kind and generous (none of this "evil step-mother and -sister" nonsense), the fate were well-meaning if a little thoughtless, and everyone is happy to help jerry-rig a solution. Gorgeous.<<

I think it's interesting to explore what happens when nobody is to blame, and the characters are sensible enough not to frame someone. That doesn't show up very often in literature; I'd like to see more of it. I'm glad that you enjoyed this.

>> (Moonstone is my stone, for whatever reason. Moonstone and pearl. If we were calling the corners in a Judeo-Christian hermetic tradition, with the four archangels, I would be Gabriel's daughter, evening and intuition.) <<

That's really cool! I love moonstones too.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: March 7th, 2016 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

pH?

Ah, yes, this makes me warm inside.
And Eulalia, "well spoken, sweet of speech" :-)

•There is an old woman, Sofia,
...
I'm sure Sofia would be happy
...
once with both going to Sophia
12 comments or Leave a comment