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Poem: "To Its Own End" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "To Its Own End"

This poem came out of the January 17, 2012 bonus fishbowl featuring Fiorenza the Wisewoman; you can read more about that on the Serial Poetry page.  It was inspired by prompts from eseme, the_vulture, and rhodielady_47.  It has been selected in an audience poll as the free perk for the July 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl reaching the $200 goal.  This is a sequel to "The Truth in the Tower" so read that first if you haven't yet. 

To Its Own End

On a damp March morning,
Mad Ercole suddenly lifted his head from breakfast
as if someone had called his name.
"Did you hear that?" he asked.

"No, Ercole, I heard nothing,"
Fiorenza said gently.  One never knew
if what he heard was real, or not.
He went back to slicing his cornetti
and spreading jam on the sweet bread.

The next clear day beckoned them both outside
to work in the many beds of the garden.
Just as the sun reached its height,
Mad Ercole stopped working and peered into the sky.

Fiorenza followed his gaze.
There, high overhead,
swooped the elegant form of a griffin.
At once Fiorenza dropped her hoe
and seized Mad Ercole by the wrist.

"Come quickly," she said.
"We must strengthen the chicken coop
if we want to have any eggs this summer."
So they tightened the doors
and mended all the fencing,
then nailed stakes to the roof.

They did not see the griffin again,
but one day in April when they went to church,
the belltower had straw spilling out of it.
"Fiorenza!" cried Don Candido, grinning.
"Our grifflets have returned!"
"They are great big griffins now,"
Fiorenza said dryly.

"One of them is nesting in the belltower,"
said Don Candido, "and another
has taken over the dovecote in Zola's apple barn."
"So much for Aunt Zola's pigeons,"
said Fiorenza, resolving to share her own.
"Well, every creature behaves according to its own end."

Don Candido delivered an inspired sermon
and sternly admonished people
that harming griffins was a sin.
Fiorenza nodded fervently, not wanting
to spend another summer hand-feeding
wild grifflets with a puppet.

After church, Don Candido asked her
to help provide food for the griffin family
in hopes of keeping them away from livestock.
Fiorenza got a bucket of scraps from the butcher,
but he said, "I can feed one family of griffins, but not two.
I have only so much left over; I try not to waste much."

Don Candido fretted over the news
as he emptied the bucket into a trough
just below the belltower.
"Do not worry," said Fiorenza.
"I shall get more food elsewhere."

Next she went to visit
Teodosio the rag-and-bone man.
He made glue, and horsehair cord, and horn tools,
and other useful things from bits of animals.
Teodosio gladly promised to save the edible trimmings
for the griffins at Zola's orchard,
in exchange for eggs and goat milk
from the livestock that would not get eaten.

The little children of the village
loved the griffins, pointing them out
whenever one flew overhead.
Fiorenza let the older ones
carry the bucket of scraps to the church.

All was not quiet, though,
for the village louts were growing restless.
Fiorenza murmured a warning to Don Candido,
who said prayer after prayer for the griffins' safety,
despite the lack of dead livestock this year.

She was not particularly surprised when
Pasquale came to her cottage one Sunday afternoon,
clutching a cloth over his bloody nose
and whining, "He hit be!"

"Yes, yes," said Fiorenza. 
"Come in and sit down, you great fool."
She gave the pot on her hearth one last stir,
its herbal conconction not quite done,
then turned to the miserable young man.
"Now, what happened?"

"Da priest dragged be frob da booth
and broke by dose!"  Pasquale said.
Fiorenza lifted the cloth and looked.

"It's not broken, just badly bruised,"
the herbalist declared.
She packed his nose with wool,
which would stop the bleeding and
soothe the insulted skin with a bit of lanolin.
"Whatever did you say in confession
to make Don Candido do that?"

Pasquale hung his head and muttered,
"I showed da griffin to by friends
and dey shot her."
"I see," Fiorenza said,
her voice frosting over.

"By dose really  hurts,"
Pasquale complained.
"I'm sure it does," said Fiorenza.
"However, I'm out of painkiller right now,
so you will just have to be a man about it.
Go home and lie down.  You'll be fine."

Pasquale slunk out the back door,
plainly not wanting to be seen in his pathetic condition.
Fiorenza snorted and walked around her cottage
to make sure no busybodies were lurking.

Instead she found Don Candido
sitting on the bench by her front door,
cradling his right arm against his chest.
"Sorry to bother you, Fiorenza,
but I think I have sprained my wrist,"
the priest said quietly.

Fiorenza led him inside
and dutifully prodded the swelling flesh.
"Have you heard the story of Don Pio?"
she said as she wrapped his wrist.
"In my grandmother's day, he dragged a man
out of the confessional and strangled him!
For the fellow had just confessed
to murdering Don Pio's niece."

"I have heard that story,"
Don Candido said through his teeth,
"three times  between the church and here."

Fiorenza patted him on the shoulder.
"Well then, no more needs to be said.
Pasquale will be fine, and you can give him
a more suitable penance tomorrow," she said.
"Perhaps he should work on people's chicken coops
or help the butcher scrape bones."

Don Candido went on, "Orfeo and Ovidio
killed the mother griffin, and Pasquale helped them do it."
"To be sure, they are not very good men,"
Fiorenza said.

"I should not have hit him, though,"
said Don Candido.
He buried his face in his left hand.
"I am a terrible priest."

"You are a good priest,"
Fiorenza demurred,
"with a terrible temper."
She gave him half a smile.
"I do respect your righteous wrath,
Don Candido, however much trouble it may make.
I've no wish to raise another clutch of orphans."

Then she filled a bottle from the pot on her hearth
and handed it to Don Candido, saying,
"Here, you'll want this for the pain.
Your wrist will likely bother you for a while."

"Fiorenza, lying is a sin,"
the priest said in a tired voice.
"I overheard you tell Pasquale you were out."

"So I was," Fiorenza said evenly,
"twenty minutes ago when I told him that."
Don Candido chuckled.
"You're a good herbalist, Fiorenza,"
he said to her,
"with a terrible  temper."

The next time Fiorenza went to the butcher,
she found Pasquale on his hands and knees
scraping blood and guts into a scoop.
She waited patiently while he finished cleaning the floor
and emptying the scoop into her bucket.
"Thank you, Pasquale," she said to him.
"You're welcome," he said to his grimy boots.

Fiorenza dumped the bucket into the feeding trough.
Nearby, Don Candido was bent over in the parish garden,
picking herbs with his one good hand.
Around him a dozen old women pulled weeds and chattered.
Fiorenza doubted that anyone would report Don Candido
to the church officials for his outburst,
but they clearly intended to remind him
about the sanctity of the confessional.

For a few days, all remained quiet.
Then Teodosio the rag-and-bone man
came to Fiorenza and said,
"I am worried about the brothers Orfeo and Ovidio.
Those two louts are planning some kind of trouble."

"The village children are always watching the belltower,
said Fiorenza.  "I will warn Aunt Zola
to set my cousins watching the apple barn also."

When she reached Aunt Zola's place,
she spied Pasquale mending the shelter
for the sheep that mowed the orchard grass.
"What have you heard about Orfeo and Ovidio?"
she demanded of him.
"Nothing," he said in a dull voice.
"I haven't spoken to them since ... the scene in church."

He looked thin and worn,
though his nose was merely purple
and no longer so swollen.
"What's eating at you, Pasquale?"
Fiorenza asked in a gentler tone.

"Every time I saw the griffins,
I heard the angels singing,
and they were so angry  with me."
He hunched over his work.
"It got so bad, I had  to confess.
Then the priest hit me."

"Well, the old wives are scolding him plenty for that,"
Fiorenza said.  "You might consider talking with him.
You might also apologize to the griffins
for getting their mother killed."
Then she went to find Aunt Zola.

Later that week, Fiorenza brought a basket of eggs
to the church for Don Candido, but he was not there.
She left the eggs with the old women
working the parish garden,
though they had not seen him all day.
Then Fiorenza went home.

Urgent pounding brought her to the cottage door.
Fiorenza's uncle Alberto supported Don Candido,
who had blood running down the side of his head.
Fiorenza helped get the injured man inside
and then started cleaning up the mess.

"What in the world happened to you this time?"
she asked Don Candido. 
"Never tell me you started another fight!"

"Orfeo and Ovidio attacked me," he said.
"Orfeo hit me over the head with a cudgel.
By the time I picked myself up,
the griffins were tearing him to pieces."

"Orfeo is dead," Alberto said grimly.
"Ovidio has run off, no one knows where."
"The griffins know," Fiorenza said,
"and the angels.  By all means tell the authorities,
but I suspect this trouble has come to its own end."

"Yes," Don Candido said, "it has."
Fiorenza finished tending him
and tucked him into the spare bed.
"Tonight you stay here where I can watch you,"
she told him.  "Tomorrow you may go home."

Then she turned to Alberto.
"Uncle, please tell the people at the church
that Don Candido is safe here."
Alberto nodded and let himself out.

"I do not know how I failed those two brothers,"
Don Candido mumbled.  "They were so young ...
they had not even married and fathered sons."

"A gold ring does not cure a felon,"
Fiorenza said firmly.  "It was no fault of yours.
Some men care more for the temptations of the Devil
than for the words of a priest."
Then she read to him from the Bible,
and kept him company,
and if he was not entirely comfortable
at least he was not alone.

In May, the grifflets hatched,
and Pasquale -- looking rather better --
had finished his penance and sat in the front
to hear Don Candido's sermon about forgiveness.

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8 comments or Leave a comment
rowyn From: rowyn Date: July 12th, 2012 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)
It's sweet to see Fiorenza and Don Candido getting along.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you liked it. They both have prickles, but they're good people.
rowyn From: rowyn Date: July 12th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC) (Link)
That's what I like about it. It makes them feel real, to be flawed and have different viewpoints, but not have either of them be the Bad Guy. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)


That was part of the original prompt for Don Candido from marina_bonomi. She wanted someone with a different area of authority who could butt heads with Fiorenza, yet still respect each other in some ways, and be friends even though they're both kind of exasperating at times.

I love character dynamics like that. I love my audience. People give me such awesome ideas.
From: technoshaman Date: April 17th, 2013 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

*nods* It is fun watching those two bounce off each other... and Pasquale had that coming, both ways! At least he learned his lesson and remained in one piece. Those two louts... had it coming as well. As Kaylee says, some things just get broke what cain't be fixed. Sadly, this includes people.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 21st, 2013 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>> *nods* It is fun watching those two bounce off each other... <<

Yay! I have fun with it.

>> and Pasquale had that coming, both ways! At least he learned his lesson and remained in one piece. <<


>> Those two louts... had it coming as well. As Kaylee says, some things just get broke what cain't be fixed. Sadly, this includes people. <<

In my observation, no one is unsalvageable who does not choose to be. Some people are just determined to make a plague of themselves. This tends to end badly.
eseme From: eseme Date: July 26th, 2012 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)

This one didn't make it to me through back-channels, so I read it for the first time. I am very glad to see the return of the griffins, and to see Fiorenza and Don Candido working together.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 27th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you like it. Fiorenza and Don Candido are fun, whether they're butting heads or cooperating.
8 comments or Leave a comment