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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "You Are the We of Me"
This poem fills a square on my second card for the [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo fest. This fest encourages people to create and share material focused on what is variously called fluff, schmoop, gentle fiction, light reading, comfort reading, positive thinking, chicken soup for the soul, or anything else that offers a fun alternative to usual run of sex, violence, and angst of modern media. I'm hoping to attract some new readers for my writing.

The following poem belongs to the series One God's Story of Mid-Life Crisis. It has the grit of low fantasy and the magic of high fantasy. This is the tale of how the Shaeth, the former God of Evil, becomes the God of Drunks. So far he has two followers, Trobby and Glenta, helping him along the way.  You can find the other poems in this series via the Serial Poetry page.

Fandom: Original (One God's Story of Mid-Life Crisis)
Prompt: Wild Card (I becomes we)
Medium: Poetry
Summary: Shaeth flounders while trying to establish a new worship service. Trobby and Glenta add pieces to make it work.
Content Notes: Spirituality. Domestic. Little comforts. Making new traditions.


"You Are the We of Me"


Shaeth had lost a lot
when he abdicated his position
as the God of Evil.

Gods had ways of perceiving the world
through their followers, ways of discerning
what went on in their spheres of influence.
Shaeth could still see his former followers
but his inner vision had gone dim,
the world no more to him now than
banked coals seen through thick smoke.
Most of the time he had to rely on mortal perceptions.

He was just beginning to develop
some sense of things as observed
by the God of Drunks --
here, the tug of a tavern or a pub;
there, the malevolent burn of a bottle demon.

Trobby was Shaeth's first new follower
and would always be precious for that.
He was learning to become a priest,
fumbling his way through the simple spells
and the basics of meditation.
He had even stood up for Shaeth
in front of another god.

Glenta had arrived without being asked
and would always be precious for that.
She might, in time, become a paladin
for she had the sort of selfless devotion to a cause
that came from a paladin's soul, and to be sure
not even Shaeth wanted to pick a fight with her.
She helped Trobby deal with his drunkenness
and Shaeth learn to deal with everyday things.

Shaeth did not care that Trobby was a drunk
and sure to get into trouble several times a week;
he was familiar with trouble from his former work.
Shaeth did not care that Glenta was old
and no longer a lovely little thing;
he'd had enough of savage beauties.
Now he would hold on to these two followers
regardless of what tried to pry them apart.

It was vitally important
that there were two of them --
for having a single follower was like
peeking one eye out from under a blindfold,
while having two provided depth and perspective.

Shaeth wanted more, needed more,
craved the return of worship
that would give him greater power
and establish the vital cycle of energy
between himself and his followers.

Here there were no fine temples,
only the dingy little room where they stayed;
no altar, no fancy candles or incense,
no other accoutrements whatsoever.

Shaeth brought Trobby and Glenta together,
opened his mouth to begin the service and --
stood there awkwardly for a minute
before admitting glumly,
"I have no idea what to do next.
None of the liturgy from my former role seems relevant."

"Well," said Trobby, "you're the God of Drunks now.
Stands to reason we should have a reminder of that."
He fetched one of the empty beer bottles
that they had turned into skeletons for entertainment,
then positioned it to serve as a candleholder
for two sputtering tallow dips.

"We shall make our own traditions," Glenta said.
She took up her knitting and passed Trobby's to him.
"I declare that worshippers should do handiwork during services,
because comfort and occupation are important."

As the two of them spoke,
Shaeth began to sense things shifting --
and there, dimly glimmering,
came an awareness of bottle glass
and knitting needles and yarn --
tangent aspects attaching themselves
to his primary sphere of influence.

Seeing the world in this new way
was like trying to focus on the end of his nose:
it gave Shaeth a bit of a headache,
but it was infinitely preferable to the darkness
that swallowed forgotten gods.

Shaeth thought back to his first encounter with Trobby,
and what the young man had said drunks were in need of.
"I will provide a place to sleep," Shaeth said.
"I will work with Abredin the Herb Goddess
to develop a cure for hangovers.
I will help with getting drunk less often
and with looking for work.
These are things I can offer my followers."

"We will keep people company,
so nobody has to sleep in the woods
and drunks always have a place to go,"
Trobby said. "That's a good start."

"We will fight the bottle demons,"
Glenta added. "We will study them
and learn their weaknesses,
then teach people how to defeat them."

"Yes, we will," Shaeth agreed.
The words were not fancy,
the trappings were not fancy,
but they got the job done all the same.

Trobby and Glenta were paying attention to him,
focusing their devotion on him,
so that Shaeth managed to sweep up the clouds of power
and return a little to them tinged with his own energy.
It was like wading through a meadow of tall grass
instead of walking along a familiar path,
but the more they trod upon it
the sooner the path would form beneath their feet.

Shaeth's inner senses stretched and ached,
striving toward a strange new shape.
This is what it was to the be God of Drunks,
what it would be, what it could become --
just as Trobby was becoming a priest
and Glenta was becoming a paladin --
however difficult the journey.

They were three now,
and that mattered,
it mattered deeply
to what they were doing.

A god and two followers,
a sphere of influence and those who tended it,
these things came together like leaves
in an eddy of river water,
blending and bonding and becoming.

"You are the we of me,"
Shaeth said to his followers.
"A god without worshippers is nothing,
just a person with some power but no importance.
You are my connection to the world;
you help define what needs doing
and then you do it with me, for me.
You are my eyes and my hands and my heart."

"You are my shelter,"
Trobby said, leaning against Shaeth.
"You are my purpose,"
Glenta said, wrapping an arm around Shaeth.
"You are the we of us too,"
they both said to him.

The new religion they were making
hung between the three of them
like an unfinished scarf,
incomplete yet already beautiful,
a promise of warmth to come.

Shaeth realized,
with a start of joy,
that he was learning
how to create.

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Current Mood: busy busy

21 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 1st, 2013 05:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Happy New Year

In over 30 YEARS of reading science fiction and fantasy, this poem stands out as the most original thing I've ever read, bar none.
Thank you for sharing it with us!
:)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 1st, 2013 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

*pop* *celebratory beverage* *confetti*

Thank you for the compliment! That is right up there with "new headcanon accepted" as a best-ever piece of feedback.

I love crowdfunding. It lets me make experiments like this and share them in hopes of attracting some new readers.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 1st, 2013 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

Best of all, you get valuable feedback in what works emotionally for your readers and what doesn't.
I remember back when I was in college and taking English lit. We were often forced to read stuff from writers that simply did not appeal to me personally even though their stuff was technically perfect (according to the professor that is).
:\
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 2nd, 2013 08:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

>>Best of all, you get valuable feedback in what works emotionally for your readers and what doesn't.<<

Yes, that makes it much easier to tailor my writing for the people who are buying it -- and to discern wider patterns that generally improve it.

>>I remember back when I was in college and taking English lit. We were often forced to read stuff from writers that simply did not appeal to me personally even though their stuff was technically perfect (according to the professor that is).<<

To date, I have found only one unbreakable guideline to writing: Thou Shalt Not Bore Thy Reader.

I learned early to distill and reflect what was in a story. I learned what worked and what didn't, and how to dissect flaws with ruthless precision even in what was touted as "great" literature, some of which really sucked.

It got me in trouble rather often. But I learned a lot more about literature that way than I would have just writing what the teacher wanted to have parroted back.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 2nd, 2013 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

No English teacher ever wants to hear that the short story, poem, or novel he or she has assigned is boring enough to make watching paint dry look exciting, or worse, leaves their students in a foul mood.

I got one English professor worked up into a rage when, after he'd spouted off that time was the true test of good literature, I casually mentioned that 'Tarzan, Lord of the Apes' would soon be celebrating its 100th anniversary and that it apparently had never been out of print.
I followed up by saying that 'The Hobbit' had been written back in the 1930's and that it was still in print as well.
:\
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 3rd, 2013 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

Well said. Too many people have a grossly inferior grasp of literary structure.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 3rd, 2013 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

"Too many people have a grossly inferior grasp of literary structure."
Agreed!
The most important thing the literary types usually forget about is that people want to be entertained by what they read---even when they are reading to learn something, the learning is easier when it's fun to read.
The other thing the literary types completely forget about is that the fun stuff can be as excellently written as the "literary" stuff they prefer to read.
I secretly think the reason why literary lit is so dull and boring is because it's written by dull and boring people!
;D
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 3rd, 2013 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

>>The most important thing the literary types usually forget about is that people want to be entertained by what they read---even when they are reading to learn something, the learning is easier when it's fun to read.<<

I think they often write for different reasons -- to create a puzzle, or to show off. The results are only occasionally good.

>>The other thing the literary types completely forget about is that the fun stuff can be as excellently written as the "literary" stuff they prefer to read.<<

Reading in general, and learning in particular, should be engrossing. If it is not, then somebody is doing something wrong. And while we're on the topic it should also be clear. There's a place for puzzles, but far more people who are trying to write "mysterious" wind up writing "murk" because they don't know what they're doing.

>>I secretly think the reason why literary lit is so dull and boring is because it's written by dull and boring people!<<

Often true, I suspect. At one point they actually banded together and made that the fashion: writing purely objective stories in which, of the ones I read, nothing noteworthy ever happened and no interesting character ever appeared. It remains the high bar of unreadability, even above bad fanfic.

So far one of the best descriptions of structure that I've found is in Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. He describes the six steps as: 1) Idea/Purpose, 2) Form, 3) Idiom, 4) Structure, 5) Craft, and 6) Surface. And then he describes how everyone starts at #6 and works back, most of them giving up before getting anywhere really worthwhile at #2 and #1.

I was stunned. I have always started with idea (I want to explore motif X) or form (I want to make an X thingie). If I see something that I like, I am immediately drawn to take it apart to see how it works. Once I understand how it's put together, why it does what it does, then I can use that knowledge to create something related yet different. I do it when reading literature. I will crunch a stack of fanfic to find out what people find so utterly compelling about it, and then put those core concepts into canon fiction or poetry.

It is glaringly, painfully obvious to me when others do not do this. The structure is flawed. The result in literature is exactly the kind of crud produced when someone attempts to draw humans from outside observation only, without studying anatomy. Without that underlying knowledge the surface winds up looking wrong and the contents do not perform properly.

Actually when I tried my hand at art -- for which I have minimal skill in this body -- I very quickly got into anatomy. Didn't help turn crappy art skills into even adequate art, but it did play strongly into my interests in worldbuilding. When I make a fantasy/alien animal or plant, I by gods know how it is put together, sometimes in ridiculous detail. Frex, I know that my Hailen centaurs have one, two, and three extra vertebrae per cervical, thoracic, and lumbar set which is why they can twist around so far; and they have an omnivore stomach above the herbivore stomach, which is why they eat meat last if they're going to. These things matter. They tell me how and why creatures will behave as they do, which makes them different from other people's creatures of the same rough category (if any) and makes them more useful in plot action.

I think the primary thing wrong with entertainment as a whole industry is that McCloud nailed it: most people start at the surface and work backwards, and a great deal of rubbish results. Very few people find their way to the core of creativity and produce something new. Most are just ... basically copying someone else's ideas and rubbing off the serial numbers. They don't even look for the factory.

Me, I want the spare parts, the factory, the blueprints. I want to make whole new factories. I want to fling interesting new parts to geek friends and say, "Hey, let's have a robot war and see what y'all can make with this cool shit."

And we will see whose writing is read under a distant sun, a thousand years from now, won't we.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 3rd, 2013 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

I think lions definitely have the right idea: eat a big meal and then go lay up somewhere comfortable and digest a while.
You've given me something big to think about...
Thank you.
:)

"And we will see whose writing is read under a distant sun, a thousand years from now, won't we."

Should I tease you about having an ulterior motive?
;D



ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 3rd, 2013 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

>>I think lions definitely have the right idea: eat a big meal and then go lay up somewhere comfortable and digest a while.
You've given me something big to think about...
Thank you.<<

Glad I could help.

>>"And we will see whose writing is read under a distant sun, a thousand years from now, won't we."

Should I tease you about having an ulterior motive?<<

Eh, it's hardly a secret that I build to last and write for deep time.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: January 4th, 2013 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Happy New Year

"Eh, it's hardly a secret that I build to last and write for deep time."
And that's how it should be.
:)
rowyn From: rowyn Date: January 3rd, 2013 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Aww. ♥
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 3rd, 2013 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked it.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: July 7th, 2013 01:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Religion as found family!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

That's an excellent way to put it. Family of choice is a prevailing theme in this series, as it is in several of mine.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 17th, 2016 02:33 am (UTC) (Link)
<3 <3 <3

And ritual as co-creation of community and purpose. Which WORKS, sometimes astonishingly well.

-- alatefeline
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 17th, 2016 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Ritual is important, community is important, and they can hold each other together.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: December 17th, 2016 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad you're reading this series!
kengr From: kengr Date: June 12th, 2017 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Y'know, if I was still DMing I think I'd borrow Shaeth as part of the pantheon. There are *so* many possibilities.

And the interaction with both clerics and believers of other sects could get "interesting". To say nothing of the quests and relics.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 12th, 2017 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Y'know, if I was still DMing I think I'd borrow Shaeth as part of the pantheon. There are *so* many possibilities.<<

:D That would be so cool.

>> And the interaction with both clerics and believers of other sects could get "interesting". <<

Yeah, most of them don't get along. I think he's only got one or two who might be considered allies, or at least tolerant.

>> To say nothing of the quests and relics. <<

All kinds of quests could happen, yes.

I don't think Shaeth has made any relics yet, at least not as the God of Drunks. The old God of Evil ones probably don't work anymore, or at least would be greatly diminished.

Now I'm wondering if there is a collector's market for defunct holy items.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 13th, 2017 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>> Y'know, if I was still DMing I think I'd borrow Shaeth as part of the pantheon. There are *so* many possibilities.<<

:D That would be so cool.<<<

So is being able to "swipe" something with permission :-)

>>> To say nothing of the quests and relics. <<

All kinds of quests could happen, yes.

I don't think Shaeth has made any relics yet, at least not as the God of Drunks. The old God of Evil ones probably don't work anymore, or at least would be greatly diminished.<<<

Well, I was thinking of when he's been in business longer.

But I wonder how many adventurers would think that rusty old flatiron was a holy relic (The Iron of Glenta)

>>Now I'm wondering if there is a collector's market for defunct holy items.<<

Hmm. Interesting thought.
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