Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Backbone of Society"

This poem came out of the April 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] eseme, and LJ user Paantha. It also fills "The Igor" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.

"The Backbone of Society"

Oddly enough it is Igor
instead of Victor who
begins the village library.

This is because Victor
grew up with books always
in easy reach, while Igor
had to beg or borrow them
from whomever he could.

I love books; they have been
my friends at times when I
had no others,
Igor thinks.

This is no longer so.

Now he has friends
in the castle and all over
the valley, and he wants to be
able to share books with them.

"We need a library," Igor tells Victor.
"Libraries are the backbone of society."

"We have a library," Victor says,
which is true as far as it goes;
the castle has a whole room
full of books, some that were
there when they arrived and
others Victor had brought.

"I mean a village library,"
Igor clarifies, waving a hand
at the little market square.

"Igor, you know that most
of the villagers can't read,"
Victor says gently.

"We've been teaching them,"
Igor says. "They're learning,
especially the children, but
they need books to practice."

"That's true," Victor says,
stroking his chin. "A great deal
has changed since we arrived."

Igor looks around at the children
writing on the flagstone with
sticks of charcoal, the werewolves
(in human form) dickering with
the butcher for bones, and
the vampire softly flirting with
the brewer and his wife.

The villagers pay no more mind
to Victor and Igor dandling Adam
between them than they do to
Ilona and her wife Katalin
kissing beside the well.

Victor is right, Igor thinks.
It's like a whole new world.

A great deal has changed,
indeed, because Victor and
Igor changed it -- changed
themselves, too, if truth be told.

At first they made those changes
from the outside looking in, because
Victor is the mazil and must be obeyed;
but the villagers have welcomed them
in unexpected ways, so that now they
are changing from the inside out.

What began with teaching people
how to care for minor injuries and
when to send up the mountain
for a real doctor has turned into
a general skill at solving problems.

What began as the mazil directing
certain tasks and rules, and the villagers
reminding him of their obligations to help
take care of the castle and its grounds, has
become friends looking out for each other.

What began as quashing Artúr's nonsense
has evolved into an ongoing discussion about
what is or is not acceptable in their little society.

The villagers aren't the only ones changing,
Igor thinks ruefully, remembering
how Dorottya had taken a firm hand in
straightening out the relationship
between himself and Victor.
They've changed us too.

Igor realizes that this is an advantage,
because now he knows people well enough
to recognize who is best suited to help
with any given project.

"Let's ask Dénes the brewer if he's
willing to host the library," Igor says.

"Why Dénes?" asks Victor.
"Why not Kálmán instead?"

"People go to Kálmán for
Bible verses, but it's Dénes who
keeps a flip book of fruits and
a log book about brewing," Igor says.
"Besides, a few extra feet coming through
the door will give Dénes more business."

"This assumes that he's willing
to give up the room," Victor says,
eyeing the brewer's shopfront.

"It doesn't need to be big," Igor says.
"A shelf would do for the start."

Victor shakes his head. "If we're
going to do this, then we should do it
right," he says. "We'll bring down
the duplicate books from the castle
to start the village library, which is
closer to a case than a shelf."

"I think Dénes can find space
for one bookcase," says Igor.

"We shall see," Victor says,
and Igor knows that he's won.

Dénes is more than willing;
he is delighted. "A library?" he says,
rubbing his hands together. "Oh, that
would be so good for the children --
and help my customers learn more
about brewing so they can ask
for what they want and get it."

"Thank you for your help,"
Igor says. "We'll need a few folks
to pack the spare books and
bring them down here to --"

"No trouble at all!" Dénes says.
"I'm sure Lóránt will be happy
to haul them, and build us
a bookcase besides."

"That would be good," Victor agrees.

"What books do you have?" Dénes asks.
"There's one I've been wishing I could afford,
The Arte of Good Spyrits, but it's just too dear."

"I don't believe we have a copy of that in
the castle, but I'll gladly buy one for you.
Consider it a fair trade for the space
you're contributing," Victor says.

"We have some reference books and
a few storybooks that are duplicated
between the castle's collection and
our own," says Igor. "We can start
with those, and perhaps Kálmán
could spare a Bible for the library."

"What about pattern books, cookbooks,
a book of hours, or a lady's book of days?"
Dorottya asks as she comes in.

There's trouble, Igor thinks,
but it doesn't materialize after all.

"Oh, take them and welcome," Victor says.
"I've no use for such things myself."

So it is that the village library begins,
the backbone of the society they are
building here, a little old and a little new
and altogether unique to their needs.

It takes forethought and planning
to make a village into a community,
to provide for its future needs as well
as the present ones, but Igor counts
the effort entirely worthwhile.

* * *


Libraries have a long history as foundations of society. They offer many benefits. In a small pastoral village like this, even a handful of communal books can have a big impact.

Early books on practical crafts covered such topics as crochet patterns and sewing instructions.

Historic cookbooks reveal some fascinating things about what people ate.

Originally a book of hours was a type of private prayerbook, often given to a bride as a wedding gift. Gradually people added more things such as a calendar, recipes, and advice on seasonal activities. That helped young couples in the challenging task of establishing a new household. These more elaborate volumes are often referred to as a book of days, with one entry for each day of the year which may include several different tidbits. Today you can get a blank book of days with pages for entering important anniversaries and such. You can also make your own.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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