This poem came out of the April 2013 Muse Fusion. It was inspired by a prompt from vaerys and continuing discussion about touch aversion. It also fills the #11 Sheer slot in the Rainbowfic Sunlight list. It has been sponsored by Stephen Laird.
This poem belongs to the Torn World project. It is a sequel to "Stinging Like Nettles." I'll be submitting it to the Canon Board, but it hasn't been approved yet.
Lekeeth does not like
being on the ground
where all the people are.
It is too easy to be
crowded, bumped against,
hugged by well-meaning people
who do not yet know that
such touches hurt her sensitive skin.
So she climbs,
and people say that
she is like a snow-filly
or a mountain goat,
and before long she has
a white bone bead of a goat
to go with the stuffed snow-unicorn
giving people hints about herself.
Lekeeth knows what everyone knows:
that wandering the heights is risky business
because the Others live in the sky,
brilliant glimmers of ever-present danger,
reason behind the rule that warns,
Always look up before going up.
Lekeeth loves the high places anyhow.
Once when Tekura's back is turned,
she scrambles onto a roof
to see the whole world spread below,
laughing for the sheer joy of it.
Not so fun is the tight grasp
of Osro's hands around her
as the builder hauls her down,
so she doesn't go there again.
But the bunks -- the bunks are safe,
the upper ones close under the ceiling,
where Lekeeth can look down
on the infant-house floor
thick with playing children,
see what is going on
without getting caught up in it.
Sometimes they go outside
with Tekura or Luulan or another raiser
taking the oldest of the infants,
the ones like Lekeeth who are
almost old enough to form an age-set.
Then she climbs trees, climbs rocks,
climbs the sheer face of the small cliff
that borders one edge of the play meadow.
Her tiny feet are sure on the slim ledges,
her fingers clever and strong in the cracks.
Lekeeth climbs, but she never falls --
and Tekura who was once a ranger notices this,
speaks with Fala who even as a child
wandered but never got lost.
Little ranger, they whisper,
and Lekeeth who loves the wilderness
but stands back from other people
thinks that they are right,
that this is the path her life will take,
even though she is only
and has not yet even joined an age-set.
It will not be long now, though.
The infant-house where she lives is crowded,
the child-houses are crowded, even the adults
are packed together like dried fish in a box,
but at least they have the option of moving.
There are more babies coming,
even though people don't speak of it --
women waddling about with big bellies,
and poor Taiv with her skin turned so sensitive
by pregnancy that it's all she can do
not to slap the healers who care for her.
Lekeeth knows what it's like
to have skin that thinks every touch
is as harsh as a nettle-whip.
For Taiv she walks across
the crowded floor of the gather-house
to share the secrets of how
snug undergarments soothe the prickling
and protect from casual brushes of careless hands.
Taiv may be wearing a cage-bead
but it won't hold her back forever;
Lekeeth may live in the infant-house
but given how the raisers are talking
she won't be there much longer.
They look at the door of the gather-house
framing a patch of yonder spring,
blue sky and green-growing grass.
Wildflowers, Lekeeth whispers,
and their thoughts go to the mountains
where the alpine meadows bloom with
chiming bells and frigid arnica
and Akovu's Crown flower that grows
on the mountain of the same name.
Taiv gives her a weary smile
and Lekeeth holds out one more hope:
someday, she promises,
when they are both free to do so,
they will go wandering the heights together.
* * *
Chiming bells is a blue Torn World wildflower similar to Terran bluebells.
Frigid arnica is a yellow wildflower with uses as an herbal remedy.
Akovu's Crown flower is a Torn World wildflower blooming yellow to red, which resembles the Terran King's Crown.