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Poem: "Songs from a Different Shore" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Songs from a Different Shore"

This poem was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi, who wanted to know about the lullabies Maryam grew up with.  Belonging to multiple cultures can be a challenge when not everything gets represented.

Songs from a Different Shore

It is the music box which catches Maryam's attention,
the porcelain ballerina poised above her silvered plate
in her stiff skirt and perfect pink slippers,
her gilt hair in a tight bun.

The music box is a clever device
powered by khthonios, (1)
the nether-fuel perfect
for combining aspects of Earth and Air.

Maryam presses a dark fingertip
against the porcelain circle set into the oak base,
hearing the faint click as the mechanism activates.

The tiny keramos automaton comes alive  (2)
and dances across the mirror,
singing "Lavender's Blue" in a high sweet voice.
When the song ends, she returns to her former pose
and freezes in place.

Maryam tugs open the little drawer in the base,
and yes, there are several extra buttons
each storing a different song:
lullabies like "By Baby Bunting" and famous ballets
like "The Sylphide Calls the Sylphs" from La Sylphide.

With a sigh, Maryam closes the drawer,
for such things never hold the songs she loves best.
She remembers her mother's voice,
dark and bittersweet as chocolate,
singing the cradle-songs of Africa
that are all Sarah has left of her own mother.

These are the memories from childhood
that Maryam treasures the most,
rocking and rocking in her mother's vast lap
to the sound of those sea-whisper lullabies.

Tonight Maryam will ask again,
and Sarah will shake her head
saying that her voice could never do justice
to those songs in a language that neither of them speaks.

Maryam will keep asking, though,
and someday Sarah will agree,
or someone else will agree ...

and then there will be a new dancer
glazed in manganese and iron
with her dark hair braided into a proud crown,
as graceful as a black swan,
singing the songs from a different shore.

* * *

1) khthonios -- nether; one atom of ge (Earth), one atom of aer  (Air), and one atom of aether (Quintessence).  This is one of the two exalted fuels in alchemical science.

2) keramos -- ceramic; consisting of one atom of aer (Air), three atoms of ge (Earth), two atoms of hudor (Water), two atoms of pyra (Fire), and one atom of aether  (Quintessence).

Porcelain is a type of ceramic.  Cobalt, manganese, and iron yield an intense black.

See the discussion about fixing this poem.

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7 comments or Leave a comment
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: February 21st, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
How beautiful this is.

Thank you, Elizabeth.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 27th, 2012 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you like it.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: February 21st, 2012 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I do hope Maryam can find someone to sing the songs of her childhood into the music box.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: February 22nd, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

I hope Maryam has made a music box with a dark-glazed dancer, so that when she finds someone who knows the songs she wants, or convinces her mother, she'll be ready to record them. And perhaps the right box might add a bit to the convincing?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 22nd, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC) (Link)


That's a thought, especially later if she keeps not finding anyone to sing. She probably has at least some of the parts handy. Ceramic seems to be a good recording medium there.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: March 8th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh I do like this image.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 8th, 2012 06:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear this.
7 comments or Leave a comment