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Poem: "To Know After Absence" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "To Know After Absence"
This poem is spillover from the April 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from DW user Technoshaman.  It also fills the "white" square in my 4-1-17 card for the Month of Rainbows fest.  This poem belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The SALE rate is $.25/line, so $5 will reveal 20 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: zianuray, janetmiles, DW user Technoshaman, Shirley Barrette

FULLY FUNDED
372 lines, Buy It Now = $93
Amount donated = $46.50
Verses posted = 54 of 106

Amount remaining to fund fully = $46.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.75
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $1



To Know After Absence


On the way to Blues Moon,
Shiv fretted over all the new stuff
that he was supposed to remember --
his apartment keys, the new address,
the hours for the amenities -- and it had
him gnawing his thumbnail from nerves.

Boss White listened to him muttering
the information so he wouldn't forget it,
then said, "Write it down, Shiv. I didn't
give you that daybook for a doorstop."

"Oh yeah, right," Shiv said. He had
forgotten about the little notebook from
Boss White, because it was new.

It was so easy to get lost out here,
without someone telling Shiv what to do
and where to go all the time. He shivered.

"Burger Bash up ahead," Boss White said.
"You wanna stop for some food now?"

Shiv's mouth flooded. He hadn't
gotten anything from Burger Bash
in a long time. "Aw, yeah!" he said.

Inside, the menu was a bit much,
but Boss White narrowed it down neatly
by naming a few of Shiv's favorites. "Do you
want a bison burger, strawberry turkey,
or the triple protein?" he asked.

Shiv waffled a minute, then said,
"Bison." He missed the dark flavor.

"Triple protein for me," Boss White said,
and placed the order for both of them.

The food, when it came, was
rich and plentiful. Shiv savored
the spicy taste of the bison.

"Thanks," Shiv said as
he licked his fingers.

After that, they cruised
through the city until they came
to the familiar neighborhood.

"It seems so different,"
Shiv whispered, pressing
his cheek against the window
of the van. "I wasn't even
gone a whole year, but ..."

"To know after absence
the familiar street and road
and village and house is to know
again the satisfaction of home,"
Boss White said as he pulled into
the parking lot behind the lair.

Shiv sniffed, determined
not to cry just because he was
finally home. "Yeah," he said.

He followed Boss White upstairs
to the first floor of apartments, which
Shiv had only seen before when he
needed to crash in a flop room.

"This here's yours," Boss White said
as he stopped in front of a plain door
toward the end of the long hallway.

Shiv stopped too, waiting for
Boss White to open it for him.

"Key," the older man murmured.

"Oh!" Shiv exclaimed, digging
the old brass key out of his pocket.
"Sorry, I forgot about this."

"It's new," Boss White said politely
as Shiv fumbled the door open.
"Mind if I come in for a bit,
show you around some?"

"But it's your place," Shiv said.

"Building's mine," said Boss White.
"Room's yours, you got the key."

Shiv looked around his new place.
It was, by his standards, huge.

"Kitchen," Boss White said,
opening the door to a little space
lined with an L-shaped counter and
white cabinets. The small fridge
was a startling cobalt blue.

"It's nice," Shiv said,
reaching out to touch
the basket of fruit that
someone had left there.

"We put in a few dry goods,
milk and eggs, but you'll need
to stock up," said Boss White.
"Here's your dining room."

That was just a barren corner
at the moment, but the floor was
hardwood, nice and smooth.

"Living room," Boss White said,
and at least that had a futon,
but nothing else so far.

"Uh huh," Shiv said,
wondering if he could get
something to throw over
the boring futon mattress.

"Bedroom, and the bath's
through there," Boss White said
as he opened the door, but he
didn't go into the room.

Hesitantly, Shiv crept into
the bedroom and looked around.

The bed had a frame, box springs,
and a mattress but no headboard.
Someone had put on plain white sheets
and thrown a white cotton bedspread
over the two pillows at the head.

Shiv didn't have full-size sheets,
so at least he had something
to sleep on for tonight.

The bathroom had a towel
and a washcloth folded over
a bar, and a whole package of
toilet paper sat on the can.
Soap, still in its wrapper,
lay beside the sink.

"Look in the cabinet,
should be cleanin' stuff
there if you need any,"
Boss White prompted.

Shiv looked, and there was
a double-bucket full of scrubbers
and cleaners and what-all else.
"Yeah, it's here, thanks," he said.

It felt like a weird echo of
his almost-move-in back at
the Public Housing place, only
this was for real. This was home.

Funny how Boss White had brought
his old stuff to his new apartment,
instead of here, but it worked.

Shiv wasn't keen on reminders.

"Guess I should go out and
get some stuff," he said as
he left the bedroom.

Boss White grinned at him.
"Let's try next door first, and
see what you turn up there."

"Oh right, the storage building,"
Shiv said. "That'd be great."

"Make a list, first," said Boss White.
"What do you need for the kitchen?
You want a table and chairs for
the dining room? A better bed?"

"Plates, cups, knives and forks,"
Shiv said. "Pots and pans. Yeah,
table and chairs, but the bed's fine.
I need more sheets and stuff, though.
Bathroom things. Maybe a chair
or something for the living room?"

"Write it down," Boss White said.
"We'll go through the storage rooms
and you can check off what you find.
Anything you can't get there, you
can go out and buy tomorrow."

That sounded like a good plan,
because even though it was barely
after lunch, Shiv was already tired.

"Okay, boss," he said, and
laboriously wrote out the list.
Then he doodled little pictures
by the words so he could actually
remember what he meant to get.

It had been nice of Dr. G
to teach him that lists could be
made with pictures, not just words.

They went next door to the smaller building
where the Ebonies & Ivories stashed things.

"All right, pick out whatever you like,"
Boss White said. "Use your list. Think
how things will look back at your place.
Do you have a favorite color?"

"I like blue," Shiv said.

"Right, go with that, then,"
said Boss white. "Most of
the place is done in white, and
brown'll go with the floors too."

One whole room held furniture,
mostly in shades of brown. Shiv
could not find a white chair for
the living room, but he found one
striped in brown and black
that didn't totally suck.

There was a big white stereo
and a little end table, too, so
he added those to his haul.

Shiv spied some old windows
leaning against a wall, cut glass
pieced together in pretty patterns
inside wooden frames painted white.

"Hey boss, can I have these?"
he asked. "I could prop them
behind the bed like a headboard."

"Sure, take whatever you want,"
Boss White said, waving a hand.

They went to housewares next.
It was hard to find things amidst
all the clutter, but the list helped.

Shiv picked up dishes, silverware,
and glasses. He found a blue teapot
that he couldn't resist, and he knew
what to do with a toaster, but
then he stalled out.

"Check off what you got,"
Boss White said, and Shiv
marked his list. "Good. Here,
you can't ruin jello." He plucked
a copper mold off a nail and
then handed it to Shiv.

Shiv rubbed his fingers over
the thick grooves. "Dr. G says
that I used to like orange jello."

"Well, get you some at the store
tomorrow and find out if you still do,"
Boss White said. "Now pick out
some tools -- bakeware, pots and
pans, mixing bowls, spatulas,
measuring spoons -- you will
need that even if all you ever
do is mix up shit from a box."

"Okay," Shiv said, stacking
stuff into a cardboard case that
had once held dish soap.

"Linens," Boss White said
as he led Shiv to a new room.

Shiv stared at the piles of cloth.
"Uh ... what'm I supposed to do?"

"Here, move anything you don't like,"
Boss White said. "These're sheets."

Shiv pushed all the pink ones aside,
and eventually found gray flannels,
a gorgeous blue plaid also in flannel,
and some plain blue cotton for summer.

There was a beautiful blue bedspread
with medallion patterns on it, made of
crushed velvet, with a matching pillow.

In fact there were pillows everywhere,
and Shiv picked up several of them
just because he could. He loved
lying in a big pile of pillows.

There was also a white blanket
with black trim for the futon, and
a black rug with such deep shag
that it made Shiv want to kick off
his shoes and wiggle his toes in it.

He found towels for the bathroom
in solid blue and plain white, then
discovered a bath set that included
a snowflake shower curtain, decals,
and even snowflake tub treads.

Surreptitiously he added that
to his loot, thinking about Frozen
and Elsa and the fact that folks
made movie things to sell like
beach towels and drinking cups.

Then Shiv noticed the houseplants
scattered amongst the other junk,
most of them wilting or turning yellow.

"Aww," he said, gathering the pots
into his arms. "Somebody should've
put these in a window at least. You
can't leave plants in the dark, they die."

"Take 'em if you want 'em," said the boss,
so Shiv carefully tucked them into a box.

"Is that it?" Shiv asked, checking
his list. "I think I got everything."

"Art last," said Boss White.
"You could use something
to liven up the walls."

This was true. Shiv was
tired, but the empty expanse
of white walls was just depressing.

"Good idea," he agreed.

The art room had paintings
and pictures piled against the walls
or stacked on shelves, but it also had
some sculptures and crafts.

Shiv found three blue prints of
jazz musicians for the kitchen, and
a Bob Marley quote in blue vinyl that
could be rolled onto the dining room wall.

There were other little stickers, too,
like the tiny saxophonist meant
to sit atop a light switch plate.

Flipping through the photoprints,
he decided on one of Mark Turner
to hang in the living room.

One shelf held all kinds of things
made from old records, some of them
bent in strange shapes. Shiv chose
a table lamp and a mail sorter.

There was even a neon sign
that said Jazz in blue cursive.

"Is this enough?" Shiv said,
shifting from foot to foot.

"I reckon it's a good start,"
Boss White said. "You can
put this away today, and then
see what else you need later.
There's a clothing room, but you
got enough of that to start with."

"Yeah, the prison sent me off
with three whole outfits, 'cause I
didn't come in with any," Shiv said.

Then he looked at the giant pile
of stuff that he'd built up somehow.
"Uh ... how'm I supposed to get
all this crap back to my place?"

Boss White chuckled. "Don't worry,
we got extra help handy," he said.
He tucked a box under each arm.
"Why don't you carry them plants,
and I'll get some guys to haul
your furniture over for you."

"Okay," Shiv said. He lifted
the box of bedraggled houseplants.

Popgun couldn't be pried off of
the couch, but Faster Blaster
was happy to lend a hand and
even roped in the other guys
who worked under him.

It took over an hour to move
everything into the apartment,
even with several folks helping.

Mostly Shiv just guessed where
he wanted things, and other people
would put them there, but it was
still exhausting to think about
where all that stuff should go.

To top it all off, the damn knives
he'd picked for the kitchen were dull,
so Shiv had to sharpen them before
putting them into the drawer.

"That'll do," Boss White said
at last. "Why don't you rack out
for a while, and then come down
when you're ready for supper."

"Yeah," Shiv said, grateful
for that suggestion.

Boss White shooed out
all of the other guys and
then they left Shiv in peace.

Shiv retreated to his bedroom,
where he'd done little more than
toss stuff in the door. He didn't
want anyone in his space.

Now he unpacked his backpack
so he could hang his new clothes
in the wide closet and then hide
his few valuables under the bed.

He arranged the pillows and
bedspread in place, then released
his Microfyne from its vacuum packing.

Shiv stretched out on his bed and
found the mattress surprisingly soft.
His fingertips traced over the pattern
of medallions in the bedspread, even
as he snuggled into his Microfyne.

The tension of the day began
to slip away from him at last.

Soft strains of blues music
drifted up through the floor, and
the familiar sounds of home
wrapped around him.

Shiv ached a little,
body and soul, but it was
a good hurt, in a different way
than nicking himself with a knife.

He didn't know what he'd done
to deserve this, but he sure as hell
hoped that he could keep it up.

* * *

Notes:

"To know after absence the familiar street and road and village and house is to know again the satisfaction of home."
-- Hal Borland

This picture shows the outside of Blues Moon with the main floor and two layers of apartments. The smaller building on the right also belongs to the Ebonies & Ivories, used as storage space for artwork and furnishings which can be used in any of the apartments above the jazz joint. The storage building has space for furniture, housewares, linens, art, and other things.

The basement of Blues Moon contains the working part of the lair. The largest office below the lunch room belongs to Boss White. The one across from it is the guest room. The accounts/manager and board room offices are shared space. The big corner office in the upper right is the patch room. They actually don't have an exercise room in their own lair; instead they have a group membership at a nearby gym.  Here is the layout of the main floor showing the jazz club and restaurant.

The two floors above the club have apartments similar to these. The hallway extends all the way to the back stairs. The central stairwell and elevator is instead a common lounge area.
On the lower floor, the front right "open" apartment is a flop room with multiple beds, which can sleep a total of 12 people. The front left "Mies" apartment is furnished normally, but not permanently assigned, used as temporary housing or extra function space as needed. Shiv gets the back left "standard" apartment, with the bathroom protected inside the bedroom. Popgun has the right middle semi-open apartment. On the top floor, Boss White has the back left "standard" apartment, and Lieutenant Brown has the back right semi-open apartment.

This is the key to Shiv's apartment over Blues Moon.  Shiv's kitchen is a cozy little L tucked into the front of his apartment.  He has three blue prints on the wall there.  Shiv's dining room has a small table and a quote on the wall.  Shiv's living room includes a
black-bordered blanket spread over a large futon.  On the wall he has a photoprint of saxophonist Mark Turner.  This is one of Shiv's houseplants.  Here is the mail sorter.  This light switch has another stickerShiv's bedroom has the bed done in blue.  Shiv's bathroom has a snowflake theme.

A daily planner such as this leatherette one helps organize life so that it seems less overwhelming. Shiv's planner includes daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly pages. There are also pages for important dates, budget, meal planning, projects, and to-do lists. For entertainment he has a movie strip planner for current films and a list of movies to watch for.

Burger Bash is a fast food chain appearing primarily in the Great Plains and the South.  They sell hamburgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, shish kebabs, and other stuff.  They are noted for their fresh fruit and vegetable options, most of those either grilled or raw.  Another interesting trait is that they use less sugar than most fast-food restaurants, and little of the food is deep-fried except for the ubiquitous french fries.  They have a paleo menu, although not everything they carry is paleo.  They focus on selling good, simple food so it's pretty high-quality meat for a fast food restaurant, but they don't have a big menu or a lot of fancy choices.  It is made to order so it's not the fastest of fast food; the prices are good and the portions are generous, though. The mascot is a caveman carrying a club.

There are many ways to make paleo burgers, such as this basic recipe.  Also on the menu are Bison Burgers, Strawberry Turkey Burgers, and Triple Protein Burgers.

Bread can be paleo; hunter-gatherers ate whatever they could get, including wild grains such as emmer and einkorn wheats.  Along with regular hamburger buns, Burger Bash offers grain-free and einkorn versions.

Feeling overwhelmed is a common result of facing too many choices. It can cause choice paralysis. Incarceration greatly exacerbates these problems, impairing people's ability to function in the outside world, which can be a temporary or permanent disability. Cope with choices by simplifying and breaking things into chunks. Know how to handle overwhelm too.  Boss White helps by cutting the whole menu down to a few things that he knows Shiv likes.  This is a basic skill of assisted decision-making.

Stocking a pantry involves choosing staple foods that can be used to make a wide variety of recipes.  Many of these are nonperishable, such as dry pasta and canned vegetables.  Boss White wanted to make sure that Shiv had something to eat in his new apartment, in case Shiv didn't have the time or energy to go shopping immediately.  Here is a checklist of pantry essentials.

Cleaning supplies and other essentials may be placed in a bucket as a housewarming gift.

Illustrated shopping lists are helpful for nonverbal, illiterate, and/or visual thinkers.  They may be drawn by hand, preprinted, or electronic.  They're not a sign of ignorance; Michaelangelo used to draw his grocery list so the servants could make more sense of it.

There are lists of basic equipment for your first kitchen so you cover the essentials.  Here's a checklist you could shop with.  Notice that Shiv is only thinking of things that he uses regularly.  He has no idea what it actually  takes to run an effective kitchen, because aside from a few scenes in prison, nobody's ever let him near one, because he likes sharp things so much.

Tub treads are decals that attach to tile, sticky on one side and rough on the other.  While great for safety and fun to decorate with, some people find the texture of these uncomfortable. It's not too bad if you're just standing on them, but if you ever actually sit down in the tub, some of these can scrape sensitive skin. For this reason, some people prefer the removable kind with suction cups. Put them in for a shower, take them out for a bath.

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6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 23rd, 2017 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's a good Boss. As always, your end notes are informative. Thanks for sharing this with us. -kellyc
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 23rd, 2017 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

>> He's a good Boss. <<

That he is, especially compared with Shiv's previous examples like Boss Batir.

>> As always, your end notes are informative. Thanks for sharing this with us. -kellyc <<

*bow, flourish* Happy to be of service.
From: technoshaman.dreamwidth.org Date: June 2nd, 2017 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)
*sigh* sadly, there's not a place like that for me right now. I mean, this is my place, my cat is here, but my *people* are scattered hither and yon, and some of their stati is in flux... and where I grew up sure as frack ain't home anymore; aside from the few I share genetics with, those people would like as lynch me if they knew what I am... nay frack that.

c'est la pomme de terre. Time to dig a new warren, eh, Fiver?
thnidu From: thnidu Date: June 18th, 2017 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
«Feeling overwhelmed is a common result of facing too many choices.»
See icon.

I feel so good for Shiv now.

«Shiv found three blue prints of
jazz musicians for the kitchen,»
Blue and blues.

And Mark Turner, maybe this:

From: (Anonymous) Date: June 20th, 2017 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
(starcat_jewel, no longer on LJ)

This is lovely. Watching Shiv reveal bits and pieces of his own personal taste is a real treat. And I never would have envisioned him being a plant-lover!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 20th, 2017 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> This is lovely. Watching Shiv reveal bits and pieces of his own personal taste is a real treat. <<

Yay! :D I haven't written the poem where Shiv gives Dr. G a tour of the apartment over Blues Moon, but that's basically what Dr. G's reaction will be. The place looks very different from what we saw of Shiv in the prison. This is him at home where he feels safe relaxing a little and letting more of his true self show. He's colorful and quirky and has a pretty princess bathroom.

>> And I never would have envisioned him being a plant-lover! <<

You can thank Dr. Bloch for that. He turned Shiv on to a relaxing computer game where you grow desert plants. Without even meaning to, Shiv learned a fair amount about succulents. He loves sharp things, and desert plants tend to have thorns or spiky leaves. But once he learned that much, he started noticing other houseplants more -- enough to know that you can't leave them in a dark room or they'll die, and dead plants are sad. So he rescued them.
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