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Poem: "A Cup of Comfort" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A Cup of Comfort"

This poem came out of the December 3, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rix_scaedu and aldersprig.  It has been sponsored by rix_scaedu.  This poem belongs to the series One God's Story of Mid-Life Crisis.




A Cup of Comfort


Shaeth had not given much thought
to holidays for his new religion,
until Glenta informed him
that it was nearly Winter Solstice
and he had better come up with something.

"Do drunks celebrate the solstice,
and if so, how?" Shaeth wondered.
"With grog, if we can get it," Trobby said.

"Can't we get something nicer?"
Eshne asked.  "Grog is cheap and awful."
"Hard to argue with that," Trobby said.

It was the bottle angel
who saved Winter Solstice
by teaching everyone about
mulled wine and cider,
with an explanation of
winter warming spices
and how they aided health.

Glenta wanted an evergreen,
so Shaeth had hacked down a spruce
and set it up in the temple.
Eshne decorated the tree
with rings and discs of colored glass.
Trobby added long garlands of hop flowers
while the bottle angel perched
atop the tree and watched.

The artist Denore warmed his hands
around a cup of hot cider
until they were limber enough
for him to sketch.

The minstrel Prell
sipped her mulled wine
and picked out a tune on her lute.

"It's strange," Trobby said,
and both of them nodded.

"What's strange?" Shaeth asked.
"Having a holiday without
yelling and fighting," Trobby said.

"There's no fighting in temple,"
Shaeth said.  "I'm through with that."
He was serious about enforcing the rule.
If he had to follow rules,
then so did everyone else.

"We know," said Prell.
"It's just ... new to us."
"We like it," Denore said.

"What do you like best?"
Shaeth asked them.

"A cup of comfort," Trobby said,
nodding at the cider he'd just refilled.
"Having somewhere warm to stay,"
Denore said as he drew a portrait
of the bottle angel on the tree.
"Spending time with kind people,"
Prell said, plucking a chord.

"Then sing about that,"
Shaeth suggested,
and Prell did.

* * *

Notes:

Grog can mean cheap liquor, or more often, a drink made by blending alcohol, spices, and a carrier such as water or soda.  Here it's kind of a combination: cheap liquor stretched out with carriers and made more palatable with flavorings, served on festive occasions.  It's based on a barrel of beer, cider, or wine and left open for people to dip their mugs into.

Mulled wine is a traditional holiday beverageMulled cider may be made with hard or sweet cider, or a combination.  Hard cider has around 4-8% and wine has 8-14% alcohol content.  Heating alcoholic beverages -- or even just exposing them to air -- allows the alcohol to dissipate. The longer the cooking time, the less alcohol by volume remains, although it never ALL goes away.  Holiday drinks can vary greatly in potency depending on the strength of the alcoholic ingredient(s), amount of dilution, and duration of heating.  Starting with a low to average vintage and cooking it off, the actual content of the temple beverage is probably a point or two under the low end for unmodified liquor of its type.

Mulling spices overlap with warming winter spices used for flavor, comfort, and health support.  You can bundle your own spices for mulling hot beverages.

Hops are used for making beer; the flowers turn into small dried cones with a pleasing fragrance.  This seemed like a better fit for Shaeth's temple than the customary popcorn garland.

Bottle ornaments include such things as rings or wreaths.

Alcohol can spark arguments on holidays.  This is stressful for people in recovery and for relatives of addicts.  Solutions include avoiding each other, not serving alcohol at all, or setting rules such as no fighting and a limit on drinks.  Different solutions work for different people.

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8 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: December 6th, 2013 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
If he had to follow rules,
then so did everyone else.


This made me giggle.

I like this poem, although I'm not entirely convinced of the wisdom of serving alcohol to alcoholics. I do know that not everyone at the temple is addicted to alcohol, though; I remember that from one of the other poems.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: December 6th, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I may be wrong, but I thought mulling and heating it would reduce the alcohol content. Alcohol having a lower boiling point than water and everything.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 7th, 2013 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Heating an alcoholic beverage, especially simmering it for a long time, can significantly reduce the amount of alcohol by volume. Thanks for reminding me; I have added a link about this in the note.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 7th, 2013 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> This made me giggle. <<

Yay! Shaeth's experiences color his perspective on rules and shenanigans.

>> I like this poem, although I'm not entirely convinced of the wisdom of serving alcohol to alcoholics. <<

So many points to cover here ...

* Shaeth is the former God of Evil stumbling his way toward enlightenment. Do I really need to put a "Don't try this at home" label on this series?

* Alcohol can become psychologically addictive at moderate use and quite strong physically at high use. That means quitting cold turkey is not a good idea, especially without medical support. People still do that, but it's hazardous. So having alcohol available to drunks can be necessary if you want them not to die on you, as well as if you want to wean them off it gradually or help them shift problem drinking to safe drinking.

* Shaeth's sphere of influence was strongly influenced by Trobby's initial request. Trobby wanted his survival needs met, not to have his addiction lifted. Shaeth is the God of Drunks. He looks after the ones who have no intention of quitting, as well as the ones who want to get their habit under control or quit altogether. Because everyone should have somewhere to go and someone who cares about them.

* While Alcoholics Anonymous is the most famous program with its emphasis on complete abstinence, it is not the only option and it does not work for everyone. Some people who have a drinking problem want to fix it in a way that lets them drink safely, and don't feel that abstinence is a very healthy solution. (The "dry drunk" problem is an example of unhealthy abstinence.) It's a contentious issue in the substance abuse field whether total avoidance or moderation are -- either of them -- possible or healthy. So I try to include references from a variety of sources and approaches, because diverse solutions improve the chance of more people finding something that will work for them.

>> I do know that not everyone at the temple is addicted to alcohol, though; I remember that from one of the other poems. <<

Right, some of them are friends/family of drunks, while others have different addictions (or relatives). On the other hoof, Shaeth really is pouring drinks for drunks, which is something that not everyone approves of.

On the third hoof, given the alcohol content of the beverages typically offered, and the tendency for habituation, it would take a LOT for any of them to get really drunk.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: December 8th, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Of course you are right in all particulars. I apologize for getting it so very wrong. Is there some way I can make amends?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 8th, 2013 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

It's okay. I'm happy to discuss my work, and it's fine if people have different opinions about it. I'm pretty hard to offend.
From: technoshaman Date: December 6th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
This seemed like a better fit for Shaeth's temple than the customary popcorn garland.

When I was a lad our academy did Early American Christmas Dinners as a fundraiser for the school... and we made popcorn and cranberry garlands to decorate the trees. The idea of hops instead of popcorn kernels makes me smile... I'm not a fan of overly hoppy beer, but as a decoration? Yeah. :)

I think mulled cider is going to become the drink of choice this winter at Rainbow's End... it's warming, the spices are good for you, and everybody t/here likes it.

Sometimes there are oh-wow poems, and sometimes there are ones that just bring a gentle smile. The latter are a needful leavening; this is one of them. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 6th, 2013 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> When I was a lad our academy did Early American Christmas Dinners as a fundraiser for the school... and we made popcorn and cranberry garlands to decorate the trees. <<

I've done that. I think a mix of the two is prettiest, although more challenging. An advantage of popcorn is that it can be given to wildlife later. I've also made paper chains; those are fun.

>> The idea of hops instead of popcorn kernels makes me smile... I'm not a fan of overly hoppy beer, but as a decoration? Yeah. :) <<

Yay! I'm not a big fan of beer, which tends to be too sour for my taste. Some of the dark beers are okay. Ale is better. However, I rather like using herbs for flavoring. One of our friends is a home brewer who sometimes brings out things to share at their gatherings, and if I'm there he always asks me for feedback because my sense of taste is so precise.

>> I think mulled cider is going to become the drink of choice this winter at Rainbow's End... it's warming, the spices are good for you, and everybody t/here likes it. <<

Excellent. If you haven't already tried it, I also highly recommend hot caramel cider, made with a dash of caramel syrup in hot cider.

>> Sometimes there are oh-wow poems, and sometimes there are ones that just bring a gentle smile. The latter are a needful leavening; this is one of them. :) <<

*tip hat to Master Tolkien*

What I learned about hurt/comfort as a plot dynamic is that it facilitates raising the total pressure much higher, by providing periodic relief. Plots that don't do that can easily become overstimulating, boring, or ludicrous. So I'm careful about cycling the tension up and down. If you wondered where my tendency to use food, family, and song for the comfort parts ... well, my mother read me The Hobbit when I was four.

I'm glad this is working for you.
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