This poem has been selected in an audience poll as the free epic for the March 4, 2014 fishbowl reaching the $200 goal. It came out of the January 2014 Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from wyld_dandelyon and sylvaine. It also fills the "snowed in" square in my 1-2-14 card for the Trope Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the series Beneath the Family Tree, which you can explore via the Serial Poetry page.
Busy Fingers became a woman
the summer that the long-toothed cat
killed its fifth and last victim,
a young shaman on wanderway.
There was no doubt that
Busy Fingers was a woman,
for she loved women's work,
but she found the hard bodies of men
and the soft bodies of women
equally appealing to her eyes.
So it was that she thought often
of the lost shaman, who had
been marked as one-between.
In the way of such things,
the shaman's spirit found her
and began to speak.
When the spirit wind came,
Busy Fingers would lift her head
and listen, tilting this way and that,
following a voice that only she could hear.
The shaman's gift had been
bringing things from the world of spirits
into the world of bodies, and even though
the long-toothed cat had swallowed up
the shaman's body, those gifts
were still waiting to become.
Busy Fingers listened,
her little hands never still,
as the lost shaman whispered
the way of making things.
At first the things she made
were no better than the old things --
or not even that good, for some of them
fell apart into bits as she shaped them.
Winter came, bringing with it
the cold and the snow.
There was nothing to do now
but seek shelter and stay out of
the weather as much as possible,
relying on stores of food.
The Tall People and the Strong People
and the Hand People all huddled close
to share the heat of their bodies.
It was much warmer than being alone,
but they were still chilly.
Everyone wrapped themselves
in animal skins, but it was hard
to keep the hides in place.
Tufts of fur came loose
and blew about the dwelling place,
getting into everything.
Children played with the fluff,
and so did Busy Fingers,
which got her scolded
by the grandmothers, because
she was a woman now and
too old for such nonsense.
But the lost shaman was
so Busy Fingers bent her ear
to the spirit wind and kept working.
Her clever hands twisted the fur
this way and that way,
pulling it apart and sticking it together.
Long hairs were good for tying things
but they were difficult to find
and they broke easily. Short hairs
were not much good for anything.
The spirit wind insisted
that there was some magic
hidden in the softest, shortest hairs
and Busy Fingers was determined
to find out what it was.
Suddenly she noticed that
the woolly fur of the wild sheep
was sticking together on her thigh
where she had rolled bits of fluff
into a long thin line that was
twice the length of her two hands.
Busy Fingers tugged at the thing
and found that it would not come apart
into individual hairs again, but was stuck
quite snugly to itself like a fuzzy snake.
It bent like a blade of grass,
although it was round like a reed,
and it could wrap around and around things
without breaking or coming loose.
It took a few attempts for Busy Fingers
to figure out how to make the fuzzy thing
longer and thicker and stronger.
She rooted through all the corners,
gathering up whatever wool she found,
working it into the thing that grew
upon her thighs like magic.
When its length matched her own height,
Busy Fingers wrapped it around and over
the animal skins that she wore
so that they stayed in place
to keep out the wind and snow.
Then everyone gathered around,
staring at her and what she had made.
"What is this thing?" people asked.
Busy Fingers opened her mouth
to say that she did not know,
but then the lost shaman
whispered into her ear,
The name of this magic is Cord.
It grows in a spiral, like a grapevine
climbing up a sapling, and you
can use it for many things.
The young woman repeated this,
and everyone was impressed.
They were glad that the shaman
who had been eaten by a cat
had found a tribe anyway
and now gave them advice
from the world of spirits.
The old man who made things
carved two slips of bone into feathers,
and dyed one with red clay,
one with blue clay, so that
people would know Busy Fingers
had a friend on the other side
who was one-between.
Busy Fingers spent the winter
making the magic of Cord
so that everyone's furs would stay on.
She dreamed of spring when
the animals would shed their coats,
leaving tufts of hair everywhere
for people to collect, and this time
it would be for more than children's whims.
Bisexuality is one of the many aspects that can fall under the broad umbrella of "two-spirits," a category which varies over time and culture. Bisexual people are associated with shamanism in some cultures.
Shamanism comprises a wide range of techniques and abilities, at the core of which is interfacing between the material and immaterial layers of reality. Communion with the dead is among the key attributes of a shaman.
Cord making has a long history, somewhat documented by anthropology and archaeology. One technique of hand spinning involves rolling fibers along the thigh.