Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Not Far from the Tree"

This poem came out of the July 2, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi.  It belongs to the series Fiorenza the Wisewoman.  This is a direct sequel to "Cimaruta," so you should read that first.

Not Far from the Tree

With the help of her aunt Zola,
who heard most of what happened in Nocciolaia,
Fiorenza tracked the tales of malocchio
to a family of French travellers.

The French were not well liked in Italy,
but these were merchants
with connections to Otoniel,
so their presence was grudgingly tolerated.

Fiorenza tried to talk with them,
but they refused to acknowledge her polite Italian,
and she had no French.
She looked to Otoniel for support,
but he was no use, more interested
in trading gossip with his foreign friends
than in solving the problems of his own village.

So Fiorenza went to the church
and prevailed on Don Candido,
who was not precisely a friend
but at least a reliable ally --
and whose education had left him
with a knowledge of several languages.

Don Candido questioned them closely
and then threw up his hands
in a gesture of dismay.
"The boy has a glass eye that he bought
from a street vender in Fermo,
who claimed that it came from the skull
of a hanged man," said the priest.
"He has been using it to play marbles
with the boys in the village!"

"That would certainly explain
the malocchio," said Fiorenza.
"If we fling it into the river,
that should put an end to the trouble."

"The boy refuses to part with it,"
said Don Candido.  "He says it is a souvenir
with too good a story to let go."

From her apron pocket,
Fiorenza pulled a pearl
that had come from Margherita,
showing it to the boy.

"Tell him I will trade a real pearl for a glass eye,"
Fiorenza said to Don Candido.
"Then he will have a souvenir
from a village wisewoman,
and two stories to tell back home."

The boy grinned at them
and accepted the trade,
Then he said something to his parents
in lilting French.

Don Candido rolled his eyes.
"What is going on now?"
Fiorenza demanded.
"Is he making more trouble for us?"
She already had enough to do,
with walking down to the river
to dispose of the cursed object.

"He is bragging to his parents
about how he made such a deal
with the ignorant villagers,"
Don Candido said with a sigh.

"Well, if Otoniel gets himself cheated,
that is his problem," Fiorenza said.
"I will go deal with this one now."
She headed toward the river,
her aunt Zola following along.

"Dal frutto si conosce l'albero,"
Zola muttered, glaring at the French family
as she and Fiorenza left.
The apple does not fall far from the tree.

* * *


Malocchio or the Evil Eye is a type of wicked magic known throughout Mediterranean territory among other places.

Italy has had many enemies over time, including France during the Italian Wars of the Renaissance period.

Glass eyes date back for centuries.  They have sometimes been associated with magic, as people often find them creepy.  Indeed, eye beads are among the charms against malocchio.  Objects connected with the dead may also assume mystical powers.

Marbles also have early origins.  Renaissance village boys would probably be playing with clay marbles or round pebbles -- easily beaten by a good glass sphere.

Dal frutto si conosce l'albero.
Idiomatic translation: The apple does not fall far from the tree.
Meaning: Children observe daily and — in their behaviour — often follow the example of their parents.
-- Italian proverb

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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