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Poem: "Cups and Coins" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Cups and Coins"

This poem came out of the January 17, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from ellenmillion and kelkyag.  It was sponsored by janetmiles.  It belongs to the series Fiorenza the Wisewoman, and you can read more about that on the Serial Poetry page.

Cups and Coins

The Zingari  had come, (1)
tinkers and traders --
and, some said, thieves --
parking their colorful wagons
in the fields outside of Nocciolaia. (2)

The old woman who read Tarocchi  (3)
had hands so gnarled she could hardly hold the cards.
She wanted a cup of salve for her aching joints,
but had no coins to offer in return.

So Fiorenza consented to have her future told,
for she hated to turn anyone away,
even if all they had to pay with was nonsense.

Withered hands laid out the cards one at a time.
"Il cavaliere di coppe, il cavaliere di denari --  (4)
you and your young man have far to go,"
the old woman said.

So it went, batons and swords,
the lovers and the chariot,
the sun and the moon and the world
all spinning a tale of travail and triumph.
Fiorenza hid a laugh,
thinking she could have gone to a storyteller
and gotten a better tale there.

That night Fiorenza sat by the fire,
making supper for herself and Mad Ercole.
She toasted slices of bread
and he layered them with ciauscolo, (5)
the rich liver sausage smelling of fennel and oranges.

"What do you think of Giacinto?"
Fiorenza asked suddenly.
"Nice," Mad Ercole said
through a mouthful of bread and sausage.

"Far away, though,"
Fiorenza replied.
"Yes," said Mad Ercole,
and huffed a sigh.

Fiorenza stared into the fire
and thought about Giacinto:
the rich brown of his eyes,
the careful touch of his tanned hands,
the way the cleft in his chin
deepened whenever he smiled.

Someday, Fiorenza would need a daughter
to follow in her footsteps,
and a husband was wanted for that.
She imagined a little girl with silky black curls
and a wild way in the woods,
then found herself thinking of Giacinto again.

But he had a village of his own to tend;
and Faggiola could no more spare Giacinto
than Nocciolaia could spare Fiorenza.
It would not do to have a father
never at home for his daughter;
Fiorenza had enough of that herself
from the long-lost Giordano
and vowed never to repeat her mother's mistake.

There was an end to it -- except that there wasn't,
and Fiorenza's wayward heart
recalled the Zingara's  silly cards.
Was it so very selfish, after all, to wish for a man
with more sense than the village louts
who smacked each other in the eye when they got drunk
and who so often needed saving
from mischief they might have avoided?

"Stop thinking so loud,"
Mad Ercole said,
handing her a plate of frustenga. (6)
"Eat your dessert."

The fig cake tasted good,
thick with raisins and walnuts.
It reminded Fiorenza of the time
she helped Bettina bake a husband from bread.

Fiorenza wondered how Bettina and Arrigo
were getting along these days.
She had not seen them in a while,
so perhaps they had no complaints.
It might be less trouble simply to make  a husband --
but no, Fiorenza wanted someone
who could make his own way in the world.

She put the dishes on the counter
to be washed in the morning,
and went to bed.
That night Fiorenza dreamed
of a little girl with long straight hair
stirring the armor of a knight in a huge cauldron

but by morning, she had forgotten all about it.

* * *

1) Zingari  is an Italian term for gypsies.

2) Nocciolaia means "hazel grove" and is the name of Fiorenza's village.  Many Italian villages are named for local features, and this is a common example.  Special thanks to [Bad username: marina_bonomi"] for the name.

3) Tarocchi  is an old Italian name for Tarot cards.

4) "Il cavaliere di coppe, il cavaliere di denari"  means "The knight of cups, the knight of coins."  These cards are associated with young adults.

5) Ciauscolo  is a traditional Italian food from the Marche, a type of soft sausage made from liver and flavored with spices.

6) Frustenga  is a traditional Italian sweet bread from the Marche.


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3 comments or Leave a comment
siege From: siege Date: January 21st, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Boiled leather can be used as an underlayer for metal armor, though cloth padding is much more common.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: January 22nd, 2012 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Boiled leather actually gets reasonably hard, when it cools and dries, and can also be stretched into non-flat shapes, and thus can be used to make the outside of armor.

It's arguably lighter than metal, but not as good protection, and I think was more likely to be used by poorer soldiers, or where metal was rare.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 22nd, 2012 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)


Waxed leather is the next step -- I've made it -- and studded or plated leather a step above that. In addition to being lighter, it also doesn't absorb heat as badly as metal armor, nor restrict mobility as much.

Metal has more stopping power against weapons, but you pay for that. This is why the most popular uses for metal armor included: 1) helmet, light but protects the most vital part; 2) chainmail hauberk, a compromise between protection and mobility; and 3) full plate mail, riding on a horse.
3 comments or Leave a comment