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Poem: "Faith as a Grain" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Faith as a Grain"

This poem came from the January 22, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from thesilentpoet and Dreamwidth user Avia.  It has been selected in an audience poll for sponsorship out of the general fund.  This poem belongs to the series Fiorenza the Wisewoman.  You can read more about Baba Yaga and the Bible verse that inspired the title online.


Faith as a Grain


When Fiorenza noticed that
Margherita and Abelie were lonely
because they could no longer speak in words,
she introduced them to some of her cousins.

Elene and Margherita became friends,
and on days when Margherita studied with Don Candido,
Elene would gather up the falling jewels
as Margherita read aloud.

Columbine and Abelie became friends,
and on days when Abelie studied with Fiorenza,
Columbine would gather up the herbs and flowers
that Abelie spoke during the gardening lessons.

It was not easy on the girls -- any of them --
for the friendship of girls was a thing
woven of secrets, as a crown of flowers
made in a wild meadow.

Fiorenza did not know precisely what they said
to each other, or how, but when she saw
Elene and Margherita trading chalcedony stones,
then Columbine and Abelie exchanging
white rainflowers, it made her smile.

Friends would always find a way
to say what needed to be said.

Then one day, Fiorenza's aunt Carine
did not bring Elene and Columbine to the village.
Margherita and Abelie were disappointed.
"It is because of the witch,"
their mother Eulalia explained.
"Some foreign hag is going about
stealing little children.  Everyone is afraid."

So that day they did the gardening lesson
with Mad Ercole standing by with a stout branch
and Fiorenza's father Giordano with his crossbow,
so that it was halfway nerve-wracking
and halfway boring instead of fun.

Then Eulalia came back with the news
that she needed to visit her brother,
and asked Fiorenza to watch the girls for a night.
Fiorenza sighed and said that she would,
although it would make the little cottage quite  crowded.

They were roused from a sound sleep
by the yowling of Marchesa Micia the cat.
The foreign witch had come to find them.

She rode in the bowl of a mortar
made of fine green marble, and
she wielded a matching pestle like a massive club.
"I will grind your bones to brew my spells!"
she cried as she swooped down toward them.

Mad Ercole knocked the witch from the sky
with a sweep of his branch,
and Giordano shot her in the shoulder,
but apparently foreign witches were made of stern stuff
for that did not even slow her down.

Fiorenza snatched up a poker from the hearth,
for iron was proof against many kinds of magic.
She edged forward, trying to get between
the two men so that she could swing freely.

The witch darted toward the girls.
Fiorenza hooked her robes
with the sharp end of the poker
and dragged her away from her quarry.

Just then Margherita grabbed the Bible
and pushed it into her sister's hands.
Abelie read the verse her sister pointed out --

and a rain of mustard seed fell from the sky,
thousands upon thousands of tiny yellow grains
bouncing along the flagstones of the path
and into the grass and all over the witch.

At once the hag fell to her knees
and began to count the mustard seeds.

Abelie kept reading,
and the witch kept counting,
until the sun came up
and turned the old woman to ash.

"That's the end of that," Fiorenza said
as she swept the ash from her path with a broom.

"Now how did you girls know to do that?"
Giordano asked in amazement.
"They might have been getting lessons
in more than gardening and catechism,"
Fiorenza admitted with a smile.

Margherita helped Mad Ercole
roll the enormous pestle off the path
so no one could trip over it.

"What shall we do with this?"
Giordano asked, kicking at the giant mortar
where it lay partially embedded in Fiorenza's garden,
too heavy even for the men to move
with its magic drained out by the witch's death.
It would require ropes and pulleys
and probably a plowhorse.

"It's a lovely piece of marble,
and not a coin did it cost us," Fiorenza said.
"I shall send for the fontaniere  in Faggiola
and trade him the pestle in exchange
for making the mortar into a fountain."

* * *

Notes:

Chalcedony  stands for "the faithful serving in secret."

White rainflower  represents secrecy.

Fontaniere  -- someone who makes and maintains fountains, as in a Renaissance garden.

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Comments
From: rhodielady_47 Date: February 1st, 2013 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I really like this one. You put all the bits and pieces together so nicely.

I once heard about a man who still uses a big wooden mortar to make gumbo file powder from sassafras leaves in Louisiana. Sassafras being an American Indian herb that's used for healing.
:)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 1st, 2013 08:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I really like this one. You put all the bits and pieces together so nicely.<<

That's good to hear.

>>I once heard about a man who still uses a big wooden mortar to make gumbo file powder from sassafras leaves in Louisiana. Sassafras being an American Indian herb that's used for healing. <<

I'm familiar with sassafras. It makes excellent tea.

I've got a mortar and pestle made of marble, that I use for grinding spices.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: February 1st, 2013 11:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Fresh nutmeg makes an excellent poundcake!
:9
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 2nd, 2013 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>You know that's not the end of Baba Yaga, tho she may well never mess with this village again! <<

*chuckle* Yes, villains do tend to respawn.

>> She's one of my favorite characters ;) <<

Me too. I've done other Baba Yaga poetry before.

>>Nice to see some folks who know the right reactions, too. Competence is always one of my favorite qualities in a protagonist.<<

Yay! That's how I like it. I can't abide stupid characters. They tend to have a low life expectancy around me.
siege From: siege Date: March 1st, 2014 04:55 am (UTC) (Link)
And in rereading, I noticed another linguistic joke: the mother who asks Fiorenza for a favor is named Eulalia, Latin for "sweet talker". :D
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 1st, 2014 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I love it when people find my eastereggs.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: March 1st, 2014 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Y'know, the obvious use for the morter and pestle is to grind up all those mustard seeds!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 1st, 2014 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

That would be kind of cool.
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