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Poem: "A Stranger's Way" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A Stranger's Way"
This poem is from the April 1, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] helgatwb and [personal profile] rix_scaedu. It also fills the "camp" square in my 3-30-14 card for the [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo fest. This poem has been posted as the linkback perk for the August 5, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl, originally hosted by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It belongs to the series Beneath the Family Tree, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.

All verses have been posted.  You can reveal more verses by linking to the unsold poetry list or a favorite poem from this fishbowl.  Special thanks to linkers [personal profile] aoifes_isle, [personal profile] technoshaman, [personal profile] siliconshaman, [personal profile] thnidu, [personal profile] helgatwb, [personal profile] chanter_greenie, [personal profile] wyld_dandelyon, [personal profile] mdlbear, Twitter user Harriet Clough, and [personal profile] janetmiles.

"A Stranger's Way"

In the spring when the wild sheep
were shedding their wool,
a stranger of the Strong People
came to the Camp of the Wide Tree.

Twined in a tuft of hair were
the blue and red feathers
of one-between, but with
the blue fastened over the red
so that only a crescent showed at the tip.

The first thing the stranger said was,
"I don't want to be a shaman."

"That is fine," said the oldest woman.
"We already have a shaman."
She pointed across the camp
at Busy Fingers, who was making
cord-magic with a basket of wool.

"And I am not really one-between,"
the stranger said next. "I am a man.
It is not my fault that my body looks like a woman.
I am on wanderway looking for a wife."

"Well then, what kind
of men's work do you do?"
asked the oldest man.

"I knap flint and make weapons,
so I am called Cobble."
said the stranger.
"I can hunt too."

"We can always use a good toolmaker,"
said the elder. "How picky are you
in looking at women?"

Cobble just shrugged.
"I cannot afford to be picky.
I will take whatever woman will have me."

"Hoy, Gullwing!" hollered the elder.
"Here is a man you have not said no to yet.
Come and meet Cobble."

A woman of the Tall People
rose gracefully to her feet
and walked over to them.
She gave Cobble an appraising look.
"If he brings me courting gifts," she said,
"I will not turn my back on him."

So Cobble joined the Camp of the Wide Tree
where the Strong People and the Tall People
and the Hand People all lived together.

He met the shaman Busy Fingers,
who liked men and women equally,
and who told him about the lost shaman
killed by a long-toothed cat and
now whispering magic in her ears.

He got to know Gullwing,
who gathered birds' eggs
and made feathercrafts,
and was pretty enough
to make him hopeful.

Cobble brought her fat ptarmigan
and colorful magpies, and once,
an awl knapped so fine
that sunlight shone through it.

Gullwing spent more and more time
following Cobble around the camp.

When Willow and Thrush died in a flood,
leaving behind their infant son Speckle,
the elders thrust him upon Cobble and Gullwing
saying, "You are the only young adults
without a baby right now, except for
the shaman, who is busy making magic."

To be one-between was to be
indeterminable and uncertain,
and each tribe had its own way
and its own expectations.

Cobble was immensely grateful
that the Camp of the Wide Tree
was so complicated and peculiar
that they accepted a stranger's way
without any argument at all.

He looked at his tall beautiful wife
and his brand-new son --
who happened to be a Hand Person,
but nobody cared about that --
and he thought that this family
was the finest thing he had ever made.

* * *


Cobble is nodule of flint, from knapper vocabulary.

Magpies are colorful birds. Even the black-and-white ones have stunning iridescence.

[To be continued ...]

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2 comments or Leave a comment
labelleizzy From: labelleizzy Date: August 9th, 2014 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I really like thus, look forward to hearing the rest of the story!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 9th, 2014 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you like it. Link to a favorite poem from this fishbowl, or to the unsold poetry page, and you can reveal a new verse (or more than one, if you link on multiple services).
2 comments or Leave a comment