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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Truth in the Tower"
This poem came out of the March 1, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by thesilentpoet, who wanted griffins; and by marina_bonomi, who wanted a griffin building a nest in the belltower of Fiorenza's local church.  This turned into a long narrative poem, written in free verse, with a lot of research behind it.  I used short-toed eagles and Eurasian lynx as partial inspiration for the griffin.  I also looked up griffin symbolism, the Commedia dell'arte, and Italian gold coins.  To read other poems about Fiorenza, visit the "Serial Poetry" page on my website.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50 per line, so $5 will reveal 10 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: marina_bonomi, ladyqkat, tuftears, janetmiles, laffingkat, dulcinbradbury, thesilentpoet, kelkyag

140 lines, Buy It Now = $70 
Amount donated = $49
Verses posted = 13 of 23

Amount remaining to fund fully = $21
Amount needed to fund next verse = $1
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2

The Truth in the Tower

A shadow swept over Fiorenza's garden,
sending her chickens running for cover.
The herbalist looked up from her tilling,
expecting to see a low-flying eagle,
but instead saw a high-flying griffin.
"Well," said Fiorenza to her hens, "That's new."

By Sunday the priest was bragging
that the griffin had settled in their parish.
He even worked it into the sermon:
"The griffin combines the strength of the lion
with the wisdom of the eagle," said Don Candido.
"Its dual nature symbolizes Jesus Christ,
king of heaven and earth, so it stands for salvation.
The griffin is sacred and we are blessed to see one."

While Fiorenza bent over the parish herb garden,
helping Don Candido to prepare it for seeds,
he nattered on at her. "The griffin has come to me,"
he said. "Have you even seen the griffin, girl?"
Fiorenza snorted. "The griffin has frightened my hens,
Don Candido," she said to him. "I'm afraid
you shall have no eggs this week."

Don Candido was not pleased by that.
He was even less pleased when,
as March turned to April,
25 the griffin built her nest.

Fiorenza heard a heavy fist pounding on her door.
"Come, girl, come!" shouted Don Candido.
"You must come and help me."
"What has happened?" asked Fiorenza
as she opened the door for him.
"The griffin has nested in the church's belltower,"
Don Candido said. "You must do something,
or I will not be able to summon people for prayers."
"I could brew you a poison," said Fiorenza.
"No, no!" Don Candido protested.
"The griffin is sacred. Do something else!"

Don Candido dragged Fiorenza to the church.
Fiorenza peered up at the belltower,
now festooned with straw sticking out its windows.
The griffin swooped down at them,
making them dive for cover.
Sunlight glinted off her white breast,
her brown pinions also edged with white.

"She is very beautiful,"
said Fiorenza from under the wagon.
"She is very fierce,"
said Don Candido from behind the wine barrels.
"Perhaps we should leave her alone,"
Fiorenza suggested.
"But what about the prayers?"
said Don Candido.
Fiorenza sighed. "Don Candido, you've been
praying at the same time every Sunday for years,"
she pointed out. "I think that the villagers
50 will remember to show up without the bells!"

In May, the grifflets hatched.
Not long after, Don Candido came
and banged on Fiorenza's door again.
"Fiorenza!" he shouted.
"The griffin is stealing everyone's chickens!"
"I know that," Fiorenza said grimly from where
she was nailing the roof back onto her coop.
"Perhaps you should simply shoot her."

"I can't do that!" Don Candido exclaimed.
"Fiorenza, the griffin talks with angels.
Sometimes I can hear them
while I am attending to the church."
"Well then," said Fiorenza,
"I suppose we must try something else."

So Fiorenza went to the butcher
and fetched a bucket of chicken guts
and a bucket of goat heads.
She walked to the belltower and threw rocks
until the griffin dove out of the window.
Quickly Fiorenza dumped out the buckets
and dove under the wagon.

The griffin pounced on the scraps and devoured them all.
Pleased, Don Candido ordered Fiorenza to feed the griffin
until the grifflets fledged. She grumbled,
75 but she agreed, because it was certainly better
than losing the rest of her chickens.

In June, Don Candido hammered his fist
against Fiorenza's door yet again.
Fiorenza swung her cauldron of herbs off the fire
and opened the door for the priest.
He was crying.
"Now what has happened?"
Fiorenza asked quietly.

"Someone has shot the griffin,"
said Don Candido.
"Some boys found her dead in a field."
"I am sorry," said Fiorenza,
surprised to find that she was.

"The angels are singing lullabies to the grifflets,"
Don Candido said, "but cannot feed them."
Fiorenza had never heard any angels,
but she had heard his sermons improving,
and so she believed him.
"That is kind of the angels," she said, "and it's too bad
that the grifflets will starve without their mother."

"Is there nothing to be done?"
asked Don Candido, wringing his hands.
"Could we not raise them ourselves,
as falconers do with eyases?"

100 "Well," said Fiorenza,
"I suppose we could try."

But the grifflets refused to eat,
hissing and flapping their fuzzy wings
as they backed away from human hands,
no matter what food was offered,
though they cried with hunger all the while.

Finally Fiorenza said, "I think
these grifflets are like gulls, whose chicks
will only eat from their parents' beaks."

Then Don Candido stroked his chin and said,
"My young cousin, he often plays Sandrone
in the Commedia dell'arte -- he could make for us
a griffin puppet to fool the grifflets into eating."

"Go and ask your cousin for the puppet,"
said Fiorenza. "I will ask the butcher
for another bucket of chicken guts."

So Don Candido and Fiorenza
climbed up to the belltower
with the puppet and the chicken guts.
They fed the three screaming grifflets,
and got bitten once apiece, and
retreated as soon as the bucket was empty.
Downstairs, they tended each other's wounds,
and changed their clothes, and rinsed the bucket.
125 Then they tiptoed back upstairs to watch
the grifflets twitch black-tipped, lynxine tails in their sleep
and to listen, awestruck,
to the whispered lullabies of angels.

They shook hands over the nest,
and then they went home for the night.
Fiorenza and Don Candido
might never quite be friends,
but at least they were no longer enemies.

In September, the grifflets flew away
to join the autumn migration to Africa.
That Sunday, Don Candido's sermon
preached about fellowship and forgiveness,
and a smiling Fiorenza --
who had done well in Fermo's market --
140 dropped a gold ducat on the collection plate.

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36 comments or Leave a comment
tuftears From: tuftears Date: March 2nd, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is interesting. ^_^
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 2nd, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)


Oh, it gets even more interesting. Nesting in the belltower is just the first twist.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: March 2nd, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't wait to read more. :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 2nd, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)


Oh, this poem has plenty of cliffhangers!
thesilentpoet From: thesilentpoet Date: March 2nd, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm very much enjoying this - griffins!

I've loved everything so far out of this Fishbowl, come to think of it. Hoping the Monster House serial is funded as well.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 2nd, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I'm very much enjoying this - griffins!<<

Yay! They seem to be wildly popular, with three donors so far, one of them new.

>>I've loved everything so far out of this Fishbowl, come to think of it. Hoping the Monster House serial is funded as well.<<

Indeed, the Monster House poem has been activated for microfunding:
eseme From: eseme Date: March 3rd, 2011 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my! Do they ever have a problem.

I'd pick the chickens, but then I like eggs. I'd agree that killing the griffon is a bad idea and that there has to be another solution.

I like the image of a "high flying griffon."

You have written some great poems this month, and a bunch in popular series!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 3rd, 2011 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)


>>Oh my! Do they ever have a problem.<<

Yes, and they haven't even realized all of its aspects yet. Heh.

>>I'd pick the chickens, but then I like eggs. I'd agree that killing the griffon is a bad idea and that there has to be another solution.<<

Precisely, and there are reasons for both of those. Both chickens and griffins are valuable, in different ways. Conflicts like that demand clever thinking.

>>I like the image of a "high flying griffon."<<

I wanted to play around with expectations a bit, and the way that distance can play tricks on the mind. It's kind of a variation on "objects in mirror may be closer than they appear."

>>You have written some great poems this month, and a bunch in popular series!<<

Thank you! I'm really pleased to see how much people are enjoying the serials. I think that having the anchor page helps remind folks what is available. I need to update it, too -- I realized that I forgot some of the science fiction series I've done.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: March 9th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, my! What a point to stop ...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 9th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)


This poem lends itself well to cliffhangers. I saw this one coming and thought it would really boost the tension. I think cliffhangers help encourage donations. Both of the new epics have seen a flurry of participation as people revealed different verses, though it's tapered off a bit now.
dulcinbradbury From: dulcinbradbury Date: March 9th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Noooooooooooooo! :(
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 9th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)


I was dismayed by this twist also, although I'm glad the poem has strong emotional impact for readers.

The really sad part is that this kind of thing happens in real life. Eagles, lynxes, and many other rare animals are often killed for annoying humans -- or even just because some moron is in the mood to shoot anything that moves. For example:
As a hobby-naturalist, I have read reports like this so many times that when a similar case appeared in a poem, I went with it.

Now, if you're really upset about what happened to the poor griffin, check out this related post on my musings about new ideas for the Poetry Fishbowl and serial poetry:
"The Truth in the Tower" is already written, but I'm open to the idea of tracking down the griffin-killer(s) in some other poem(s), particularly if that idea proves popular.
eseme From: eseme Date: March 10th, 2011 03:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh, that's horrible!

And I can see what the new problem is. I bet it takes a village to raise a griffin.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 10th, 2011 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)



Oh, that's horrible!<<

That seems to be the consensus. I was saddened by this turn of events, but as I mentioned in a reply to dulcinbradbury, it's backed up by real life news. You might like to read that exchange for further ideas.

>>And I can see what the new problem is. I bet it takes a village to raise a griffin.<<

*grin* Peeking ahead?
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: April 9th, 2011 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice. A very satisfying poem and a very satisfying ending.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 9th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that. It turned into a more complex little tale than I was expecting, and revealed a lot about the characters.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: April 9th, 2011 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Well done! I really liked the overall themes here, and I loved the idea of using the puppet to get the baby griffins to eat.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 9th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm happy to hear that.

>> I really liked the overall themes here, and I loved the idea of using the puppet to get the baby griffins to eat.<<

When you write speculative fiction, you just never know what will suddenly prove to be useful. In this case, it was background reading from my hobby-naturalist and activist work.
e_scapism101 From: e_scapism101 Date: May 17th, 2011 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't see this before - I really like it!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 17th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.

All the poems about Fiorenza the Italian herbalist are linked on the serial poetry page:
36 comments or Leave a comment