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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Bouquets of Bygone Days"

This is posted as a second freebie from the March 20, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl, courtesy of new prompter catsittingstill.  It was inspired by a prompt from minor_architect.  This poem belongs to the series Path of the Paladins, and you can read more about that on the Serial Poetry page.

Bouquets of Bygone Days

When the bucket-boy who brought water
to the merchants in the marketplace
gave Ari a bouquet of wildflowers
and then scampered away blushing,
Ari turned to Shahana and hissed,
"What am I supposed to do with this?"

"What do you want to do with it?"
Shahana asked.
"I don't know!" Ari said,
throwing up her hands
and making the petals flutter.
"It's not like I'm going to be  here
for some boy to moon over.
We're only coming through for supplies."

"If you want a sweetheart, Ari,
something could be arranged," Shahana said.
"It is not forbidden, merely uncommon.
Most paladins of Gailah have other things on their minds
than the matters of men and women,
but there are always a few who take lovers,
or even choose to marry."

"What about you, Shahana?" Ari asked.
"Did you ever have a sweetheart,
before you became a paladin, maybe?"
"Not exactly," Shahana said.
"That is, I had a suitor,
but I did not return his affections."

"Some men are horrid,"
Ari said darkly.
"Actually he was a very dear boy,"
said Shahana.  "He brought me flowers
and apple taffies and asked me to the fair."

"Why didn't you stay with him, then?"
Ari asked. 
"Because I did not love him,"
Shahana said.  "No man has ever
called to my heart in that way."

"You could always choose a woman,"
Ari said slyly.  "I once knew a shepherdess
who ran away to live with a goose-girl."
Shahana chuckled.  "Ah, no,
I have never fallen for a woman either."

"I love my brother Larn," Ari said slowly.
"I loved the rest of my family,
before they died or went away."
She caught Shahana's gaze.
"I love you." 
Then she sniffed at the bouquet.
"But not like this."

Ari shrugged. 
"Perhaps I'm like you," she said.
"There are so many other things to do.
If I fall in love later, I'll worry about it then."
"A wise plan," Shahana agreed.

"Did you ever see him again,
that suitor of yours?" Ari asked.
"Do you ever think about him?"
"I saw him again," Shahana said,
"with his wife and a gaggle of children.
I hadn't thought of him in years, until you asked.
Why should I ponder the bouquets of bygone days?
I have too much else to think about,
places to go, people to teach."

Ari looked at the tired girl
selling wild apples from a market booth.
"Here," said Ari as she fastened her flowers
to a post holding the awning over the table.
"You look like you could use something to brighten your day."
"Why, thank you," said the girl,
and gave her a bruised apple nobody was likely to buy.

They finished their business in the market
and resumed their journey,
walking down a road flanked by late summer flowers.
Ari sliced the apple for them to share,
cutting away the bad parts and flicking them aside.
"Where will we go next?" she asked.
"Wherever we are needed," Shahana replied.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: March 23rd, 2012 11:07 am (UTC) (Link)
"cutting away the bad parts and flicking them aside"

I have sometimes thought this is the best approach to life; eat around the bad parts; enjoy the good.

And often the parts that look bruised are the sweetest when you actually try.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 23rd, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> "cutting away the bad parts and flicking them aside"

I have sometimes thought this is the best approach to life; eat around the bad parts; enjoy the good. <<

In my experience, this is so.

>> And often the parts that look bruised are the sweetest when you actually try. <<

There are actually types of heritage apple that do that as a defense mechanism against insects. They make 'scabs' on the surface and 'sugar-windows' inside that have a higher sugar concentration and different chemistry that kills off certain pests -- coincidentally making the apple tastier. They look like hell, so modern consumers don't like them, but some traditionalists really do.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: March 26th, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

That sounds really interesting. I would like to try one someday, though I might need someone "in the know" to tell me this was this special kind of apple and not one infested with insects :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 26th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Okay, first you want to look for antique (heritage, heirloom, etc.) apple varieties. These are old varieties from before people used lots of chemicals on the crops so they have their own defense mechanisms to combat pests. They're not very popular anymore but you can still find some descriptions online such as:
"Heirloom Apples"
"Apples of Antiquity"
"Sites for Apple Variety Descriptions" (scroll down, the link list is about a quarter of the way down the page)

As a general category, russets have a thicker skin that is brownish or scabby looking. They are among the more pest and disease resistant varieties, and usually have excellent flavor. Most are antiques because modern shoppers don't like the appearance. But many of them have a sweeter layer just under the skin that's part of the protective barrier.

Next, you have to track down some good old apples. Try small private orchards, farmer's markets, and health food stores. Organic produce from anywhere is worth checking, just because these older varieties were bred for use with similar techniques and don't rely on half a dozen different sprays to produce decent fruit.

Also, wild apple trees are worth a try. Part of our "birdgift tree" (which is actually two trees grown together) produces quite marvelous yellow apples with a very sweet buttery flavor, but they're only about the size of golf balls and usually full of bugs. I often pick them anyway and just cut loose the edible parts.
4 comments or Leave a comment