This poem came from the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from morrigans_eve and kelkyag, then sponsored by janetmiles. It belongs to the Path of the Paladins series; you can read about the other poems on the Serial Poetry page. In this poem, Ari's brother Larn receives the packet of unicorn hairs that she and Shahana sent, and contemplates the slow rebuilding of farm and village with the help of the mule that Shahana left there.
When Larn received the little packet
from the messenger, he was baffled at first
by the lines of writing he couldn't read.
Then he unfolded it to find
an elegant pen-and-ink picture
of a mule and a plow.
For the farm, he interpreted.
Inside lay a few long, fine hairs
that glinted red-gold as sunrise
and tingled his fingers with latent magic.
Unicorn, he thought, and then, Ari.
Larn missed his sister with a deep fierce ache,
but he rejoiced in this sign
that she was safe and well somewhere,
still thinking of him and the farm.
When at last a trader came by the village,
Larn traded the precious hairs
for proper tack to fit the mule so that
he wouldn't have to wear a cut-down horse harness,
for tools to replace what the raiders had broken or stolen,
and for provisions to tide them over
until the garden began to bear.
He whittled a frame for the little picture of the mule
and placed it on the mantlepiece.
Then Larn tacked up the mule,
running his hands over the smooth new leather
and the shiny brass buckles.
It was easier, now, with gear that fit properly
and could be adjusted to any of the jobs a mule might do
rather than tack that really suited only the plow.
They could haul firewood and fence posts
for the farm, big bags and barrels
for neighbors too young or old
to do their own heavy lifting.
There would be no killing the bull calves for meat,
this fall; another boy was already training them as oxen.
For now, though, the mule
was the only draft animal left in the village.
They had to share him.
The other villagers snuck him bits of bread
and vegetable thinnings from the gardens.
When they plowed,
the mule stepped carefully,
drawing the plow to turn over the weeds
growing between the rows.
The crops reached for the sun in fine green lines,
bright with the promise of the waxing year.
They worked with one eye on the horizon,
one eye on the ground in front of them,
the future and the present linked
as securely as the jingling harness,
pulling farm and village alike toward recovery.
Larn gave thanks to Gailah
for sending him a mule
more patient than stubborn.
the mule sighed his appreciation
for a sharp plow and a harness that fit
and the gentle hands of his master.