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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Weight of the Day"

This poem was written outside the Poetry Fishbowl.  It is presented here as a freebie, selected in an audience poll.  You can read more Path of the Paladins poems through the Serial Poetry page.

The Weight of the Day

They woke to a leaden sky and a steady drizzle of rain.
Shahana unwrapped herself from the damp wool
of her bedroll, feeling the weight of the day
hanging on her as heavy as her wet blanket.

Shahana nudged Ari, urging the girl to get up.
"It's time to go," she said.  "Help me break camp."
"Don't wanna," Ari grumbled.  "Stay here.  Sleep."
She rolled over and burrowed deeper into her woollen bed.

The paladin reached down and stripped off the blanket, revealing
the girl curled like a seashell on the gray beach of her bedroll.
"I know.  I don't feel like moving either," Shahana said.
"Nevertheless, we must."  She pulled Ari to her feet.

They ate a cold breakfast, no chance of starting a fire
with the wood so soggy, and then broke camp.
"What's wrong, Shahana?" Ari asked.  "Everything feels like
slogging through mud.  Even my thoughts are bogged down."

"Gailah is having a bad day," the paladin replied.
"Naturally that spills over onto us, who serve Her."
"Oh," said Ari.  "So what do we do about it?"
She lifted her chin, though her shoulders still slumped.

"We must find a way to lift her spirits," Shahana said,
"just as she does for us when our burdens drag us down."
So they trudged along the muddy road, singing the hymns
that Shahana had learned in the bright temple so long ago.

Near noon, Ari mopped her dripping hair out of her face
and said, "I don't think this is working very well."
"I know," Shahana said.  "We'll have to try something else.
There's a village just west of here -- we'll take that fork of the road."

"That's not the way we've been headed," Ari pointed out.
"This is more important," Shahana said to her. 
"We can turn back later.  Right now, we need more people." 
She just hoped they would be enough.

They found the fork and followed the road westward, still singing.
The drizzle thinned to mist, though the sky remained overcast.
At last the village came into view, a scatter of cottages
looking like little brown mushrooms sprouting in the muddy field.

An old man, keeping watch over the road,
stood as they approached. "Welcome to Clover Field,"
he said, his gaze sweeping over their armor.
"Are you in need of care, warladies?  You look tired."

"A hot lunch and a spot by the fire wouldn't go amiss,"
Shahana admitted, "though we're more in need of cheer."
"Ah, now you sound like the children -- they meant to play today,
and they're stuck inside doing lessons on account of the rain."

The old man led them to a nearby cottage where
a woman was dishing out soup to a flock of children.
Shahana and Ari accepted the bowls offered to them
and huddled around the potbellied stove to get warm.

Ari dutifully pulled out her hornbook and studied as she ate. 
A little girl with golden hair asked, "What are you doing?" 
Ari smiled at her. "I'm learning to read from this hornbook. 
I've already learned the letters and most of the words on here."

"We don't have anything like that," the child said.  "We just learn
from whatever someone writes on the wall." Ari looked up at
the whitewashed wall smudged with charcoal words. "Now you do,"
she said, handing over the hornbook, "but you must share it nicely."

"That was well done of you," Shahana said to Ari.
"I was nearly finished with it anyway," Ari replied,
"and Nilos said to pass it on.  They need it more than I."
"So they do," the paladin agreed, as the children pored over it.

"Might you lead a lesson or two?" the teacher asked Shahana.
"The little ones are quite bored of me, and you are new."
"Of course," Shahana said.  It was fair trade for their lunch,
and a good opportunity to brighten the day's gloomy mood.

So Shahana sang the easiest of the teaching songs
about peace and hope, and the one about daisies that
wasn't in any of the Canticles but all the novices knew it anyway,
and before long Ari and the children were singing along.

Shahana rolled her shoulders, the folds of her clothes
lying a little more lightly against her skin as they dried.
Then one of the children exclaimed, "Look!  The sun!" and
they all scampered out to see the pale beams peeking through.

"Thank you for helping with the lesson," the teacher said.
"It was my pleasure," Shahana assured her, as she watched
the laughing children chase each other around the yard
and jump in the shimmering puddles of water.

Ari watched them with a wistful look on her face.
Not long ago, Shahana thought, Ari would have been
one of those playing in the puddles after a rain.
"Well, that looks like fun," Shahana said.  "Let's join them."

Ari gaped in shock as Shahana shucked off her armor
and set it carefully aside, then rolled up her breeches.
But by the time Shahana had reached the largest puddle,
Ari was there beside her, unarmored and barefoot and grinning.

The two women waded through the puddles and the soft mud,
and chased the squealing, giggling children as they ran in circles.
Shahana taught them to play Wind and Candles, a game
that she hadn't seen since she left the bright city so long ago.

When they tired of the game, the teacher helped them clean up
before herding the children toward their respective homes.
Shahana and Ari walked back along the way they came,
eastward between fields jewelled with rain and red clover.

"Did it work?" Ari asked Shahana.  "Did we do the right thing?"
"It worked," Shahana said.  "Nothing ever erases bad memories,
but we can always make newer and better memories to outweigh them."
"That's good," said Ari.  "The world needs all the happiness it can get."

Shahana nodded, glad they could help their Lady with Her burden.
The paladin looked along the road lit by the late afternoon sun.
The day felt no less heavy, but at least it was moving now,
like a loaded wagon finally going somewhere.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

7 comments or Leave a comment
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: March 13th, 2012 09:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Not just happier for an afternoon but a little bit of longer lasting better for that village too. A worthy diversion and an afternoon well spent.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 13th, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)


Small improvements are slowly starting to emerge and accrue. In keeping with the earlier March theme, sometimes it's the little things that make a difference.
eseme From: eseme Date: March 22nd, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, the little things really are important. I did enjoy the way this poem built.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you like it.

In a way, the pattern that builds in this poem reflects the structure of the series as a whole.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: April 21st, 2013 03:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been going back and reading the whole series again. Glad I'm doing it -- I seem to have missed this one when it came out. Thanks.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 21st, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

I'm glad that you're enjoying this so much.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: October 3rd, 2017 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: You're welcome!

.... and here I am again, refreshing memories.
7 comments or Leave a comment