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Poem: "Winning Hands" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Winning Hands"
This poem is from the November 4, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chordatesrock and [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart. It also fills the "wandering" square in my 9-29-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] mdlbear. It belongs to the series Path of the Paladins.

"Winning Hands"

Johan disliked going into town
even to acquire supplies.
He could do it when he had to,
but he felt awkward now around
people who no longer viewed paladins --
especially paladins of Gailah --
with the respect they used to.

Althey was different.
He could walk through a hamlet
and just smile at people
or offer bits of healing advice,
winning hearts like hands of cards.

"I'm not like you," Althey said
as they wandered down the road
with no particular place to go
save where chance and the Goddess
might happen to take them.
"It's easy for me to make people
like me, but then I don't know
what I'm supposed to do with them."

"That part I actually do know,"
Johan said, a little surprised that
Althey didn't -- but then, Johan had
been trained in the bright temple itself, while
Althey had grown up in this wreck of a world.
"You're supposed -- we are supposed to
find things that need doing and guide people
into solving their own problems."

It felt strange to think of himself
as half instead of whole, but Johan
had to admit that he and Althey together
could accomplish more than either of them alone.

So when they ran out of sugar,
they took themselves and a bag of buttons
that they'd scavenged from a wrecked wagon
into the next village on the road.

The villagers were skittish of strangers --
who could blame them? -- but Althey
was all smiles and soothing fingers,
so that the maple man was willing
to weigh out bits of brown sugar
in exchange for their brass buttons
without putting his thumb on the scales.

When the maple man grumbled about bandits
creeping in through the village's ruined walls
and how their stonemason had died in a raid,
Johan said, "I know how to repair stone walls."

He coaxed the villagers out of their cottages,
sorted out the most able-bodied of the men --
and the women too, since there were few men --
then put the older children to finding pebbles.

Johan showed people how to fit the stones together
by shape and size, wedging them fast with pebbles.
Althey was there to heal the inevitable scrapes.

They learned from each other, too, and
while it wasn't easy for Johan to make friends
or for Althey to give orders, they worked hard
and they got better as they went along.

Within hours the team had the wall repaired,
and while it wouldn't magically keep the bandits
away from the village, it would certainly
encourage them to seek one less well protected.

Maybe Gailah knew what she was doing
pairing us after all,
Johan realized.

* * *


There are ways to make people like you, even very quickly. Althey is sweet and nonthreatening, so this part is easy for him.

Leading on an individual and group level takes practice. Johan has more experience here.

In order to solve problems you need to involve the people most affected, figure out what they really need, and then plan how to get from here to there. This is easier and more effective with a bottom-up than top-down approach, because the local people know what would help them the most.

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Current Mood: busy busy

5 comments or Leave a comment
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: January 14th, 2015 01:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like this one; it's nice and comfortable and includes character development with minimal conflict.

One possible typo?

"You're supposed -- we are supposed to
find things that need going and guide people
into solving their own problems."

Should "things that need going" be "things that need doing"?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2015 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I like this one; it's nice and comfortable and includes character development with minimal conflict. <<

That's good to hear. I want this series to have some lighter pieces.

>> One possible typo? <<

kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: January 14th, 2015 08:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
<warm fuzzies>
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2015 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)


That's always good to hear.
From: technoshaman Date: January 15th, 2015 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Over the last few years I've found myself actual friends with quite a few folks I didn't expect to, because, Big Names.... I was mystified as to why. Finally, at the behest of N, I just *asked*... I got this back, roughly:

1. Show up.
2. Be helpful.
3. Treat people not as flower girls, nor as duchesses, but as *people*.
4. Wit, both the smart kind and the funny kind, have a lot of value. Especially if they come pre-mixed.

Althey doesn't use humour so much here, but the other kind from both of them went a long way...
5 comments or Leave a comment