Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Linkback Perk Poem: "Carrying the Sea and the Sky"

This poem came out of the February 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles and minor_architect.  It belongs to the series A Conflagration of Dragons.

This is the linkback perk poem for the March 5, 2013 and the April 2, 2013 Poetry Fishbowls.  Fully posted!
Each link will reveal a new verse.  17 of 20 verses have been posted.  One person can reveal multiple verses by posting to different services such as LiveJournal, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.  Please comment with a link to where you posted.
March linkers include: janetmiles, rix_scaedu, wyld_dandelyon, technoshaman, rosieknight
April linkers include: janetmiles, thnidu, kajones_writing, thesilentpoet, wyld_dandelyon

Carrying the Sea and the Sky

Adhiratha had carried the others
out of the ruins of Shaunaka,
the beautiful city built into the cliff.

He had carried them in a cart,
and he pulled a cart because he could not fly,
because his pearl-feathered wings
were broken long ago, and this was the first time
he had truly felt grateful for the damn cart.

There were two old men:
Pariksit had been a sailor in his youth,
and swore he had seen worse storms than the dragon
not so long ago, for all his slate hair was paling
toward the silver-grey shade of his skin.
Shyam the accountant still had sleek black hair
that billowed over his ice-blue skin, but his hands
shook and shivered like seagrass in the wind.
They were both grandfathers,
but neither Adhiratha's nor anyone's now.

There were two little girls:
Pallavi was four months old
and in the height of her power, infant-tyrant
who pulled him away from her dead mother.
Dushala was four years old
and still strong enough to seize Adhiratha
with the vice of her mind and drive him from the city.

They both had the same platinum blond hair
and lilac skin as Adhiratha himself, common colors,
though only Pallavi was related to him,
the last of his children left alive.
They had undoubtedly saved his life,
but he was unsure whether to thank them for it.

There had been one other, at first,
an Imran warrior who died of his wounds --
such burns he had from that dragon,
not even a Hachi healer could have helped
so it's no wonder that he died.
Adhiratha had left the corpse in a ditch
and dragged his cart onward.

It was said that caring for elders
was like minding the sky --
you could see it coming from a long way off.
Pariksit and Shyam were diffident about their needs
but Adhiratha was accustomed to the weight;
he had looked after his mother's parents
before the dragon swallowed them down.

It was said that caring for children
was like minding the sea --
you never knew what squall would strike next.
Dushala was an adorable little despot
who might, if she held her strength as few did,
survive to become an autocrat.
Pallavi's demands were no less forceful,
though often simpler: feed me, clean me, love me.
Adhiratha served them both and bore the strain
with the practice of six previous children.

When they came to a stream,
Adhiratha set down the handles of his cart
and rinsed the peeling skin off his blistered palms.
Cool water soothed the pain a little;
it was better than nothing.

A wild goat came to drink
and Adhiratha killed her
with a stone from his sling.
It was wicked to kill a nursing mother
but Pallavi needed the milk
so in this moment, the needs of people
outweighed the needs of nature.

Pariksit could not walk far
but he swore that he could milk a dead goat
and surely cleaning it could not be much different
than cleaning a fish, so he took on those tasks.

Shyam might have hands that shook
but he could still watch the girls
and keep them out of trouble
while Adhiratha set up the camp.

Even Dushala was too little
to be of much practical use,
but she and Pallavi both excelled
at what all Madhusudana children did:
keeping the adults focused and motivated.

Adhiratha worked himself to exhaustion
but they were with him all the way,
twin anchors holding his mind steady
and pushing the complaints of his body
to the edge of his awareness as he labored.

He was so tired that he could scarcely eat,
but he managed it, even carried Pallavi
to the creek to wash her clean
before falling into his bedroll with
her on one side and Dushala on the other.

Pariksit and Shyam took the second bedroll.
They only had two, and were lucky
to have scavenged even that much
from the ruined city and the fleeing refugees.

How long could they possibly last
out in the wilderness with only
one almost-able-bodied adult among five people?

They would last as long as Adhiratha
had breath in his body,
he decided with grim determination,
and that was going to be a long time indeed.
He would not break, not even
carrying the sea and the sky all at once.

The damn fall that shattered his wings
had not killed him, no,
so the damn dragon and the damn diaspora
would not kill him either --

or anyone else in his care.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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