Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "All the Things"

This poem came from the January 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from Dreamwidth user Jjhunter and haikujaguar, along with the original source of "Clean ALL the things!"  (The entry "X all the Y" on Know Your Meme is also fun.)  This poem belongs to the series Practical Magics, and you can read more on the Serial Poetry page.

All the Things

Jenina was busy researching a new spell
when news of the war reached her Tower.
She gave the newsboy a copper coin, patted his head,
and told him to come back if anything important  happened.

The wizard tucked her frizzy hair behind her ear,
certain that she could get the spell right eventually,
although the shampooing charm and the conditioning charm
seemed determined to behave like oil and water.

As the days passed, Jenina realized
that the city around her home was starting to reek.
"What is going on out there?"
she demanded of the laundry girl.

"The city is besieged," the girl said,
"and the opposing force is led by a filth wight.
It cast a curse over our entire army
so that every speck of dirt left will multiply."

Jenina said, "That explains a lot."
Soldiers generated a great deal of dirt
and had little skill at cleaning up any of it.
"I'd better recast the housekeeping spells."

Before long, the general in command of the army
pounded on the door of the Brown Tower of Practical Magics.
"You must help us!" he exclaimed.  "Disease is killing my men.
"Soon we will be unable to defend the city from invasion."

So Jenina named her price, and the general called it robbery,
and they dickered for an hour until they agreed on a rate.
Then Jenina locked herself in her laboratory
and tried spell after spell to vanquish the filth wight.

But the filth wight was powerful, since after all
the world consisted largely of dirt.
Time and again she found her spells repelled,
and the situation was getting desperate.

Finally Jenina summoned the general back to her tower.
"I have an idea," she said, "but every man jack of your army
is going to have to help, and they won't like it one bit."
"Just tell me what they're going to do," said the general.

Jenina grinned at him and explained her plan.
So at dusk, the soldiers lay down their weapons.
They picked up mops and brooms and buckets.
They brought out sand and bleach and bars of lye soap.

Everyone in the city scrubbed and washed
under the cover of darkness, working desperately,
even the soldiers, for they hated the thought of defeat
even more than they hated doing housework like maids.

At dawn, Jenina climbed to the very top of
the Brown Tower of Practical Magics and cast her spell.
"Clean ALL the things!"  the wizard roared,
and her enchantment raced through the city and beyond.

The rising sun blazed over the sparkling windows,
the pristine streets, the polished armor and swords.
The evil spell was broken and backlashed on the filth wight,
banishing it back to the malodorous abyss.

The soldiers went forth and drove off the enemy force.
Then they returned to the city and celebrated.
They wanted to give her a medal, but Jenina declined:
"I really don't need something else to polish."

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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