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Poem: "A Cave Swarming with Strange Forms of Life" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A Cave Swarming with Strange Forms of Life"
This poem is spillover from the September 4, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from DW users Technoshaman and Alexseanchai.  It also fills the "nightmares" square in my 6-4-18 Dark Fantasy card for the Winteriron Bingo Adventure fest.  This poem belongs to the Iron Horses thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $0.25/line, so $5 will reveal 20 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: pool hosted by ng_moonmoth,

1152 lines, Buy It Now = $288
Amount donated = $44
Verses posted = 43 of 308 

Amount remaining to fund fully = $244
Amount needed to fund next verse = $1.75
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $1.25

A Cave Swarming with Strange Forms of Life

It had been two days since Kenzie
had kicked Mick for pouncing on him,
and just over two weeks since the assault.

Now Kenzie watched the scenery roll by
as the red pickup truck jounced and bounced
over the rough roads of Rocky Boy's Reservation.

His knees jittered up and down too, until he
folded his arms over his lap to hold them down.

"Nervous?" Ida Starblanket asked him,
glancing over at Kenzie as she drove.

"Yes," he admitted. "I don't know what
to expect. I've had a few great experiences
in therapy, and some ... not so great ones."

"I think you'll like Pretty Ears," said Ida.
"Expect her to treat you more like
a favorite nephew than a stranger,
though. She's a trained psychiatrist,
but it's a very tribal-flavored practice."

"I'm smooth with that," Kenzie said.
"It's not that I'm afraid of therapy or
worried that it will be too different. I
just don't want to disappoint anyone."

"Kenzie, you have looked at the sun,"
Ida said as she turned into a long driveway.
"You are not  going to disappoint us, and
I will repeat that as many times as you
need to hear it in order to believe it."

"I'm trying," he said. "It's just new, and
after my background, sometimes it's hard
to understand why people want me now,
when almost nobody did that before."

Gravel crunched under the wheels
as Ida pulled into the small parking lot
beside the beautiful log cabin.

"Hop out," she said, patting
Kenzie on the knee. "Now,
let's go see Pretty Ears."

Wooden boards creaked
underfoot as Kenzie climbed
the steps to the porch. The cabin
actually had two of them, one
in front and one in back.

Inside, the log furniture had
leather cushions, facing
a fieldstone fireplace.

Beyond that, Kenzie could
see the dining room and
the U-shaped kitchen.

Bena Pretty Ears was
a middle-aged woman with
copper skin and warm brown eyes.
Her long brown hair curled at the ends,
streaked with auburn and dark blonde
where the sun had bleached it.

She came out of the kitchen, drying
her hands on a dishtowel. "Welcome to
Pretty Ears Private Counseling," she said.
"We could talk in the counseling nook or
the upstairs counseling room, but those
are a little snug for three people. If you like,
we can go downstairs to the common room
where we do most of the family counseling."

"Downstairs, maybe?" Kenzie said. He
clung to Ida, not wanting to be alone.

"Right this way," Pretty Ears said,
and led them downstairs. Then she
took a stick decorated with beads and
feathers, and hung it from the doorknob.
"The talking stick tells people that we're
using this room, and not to interrupt."

"I've been in therapy groups that used
something like that," Kenzie said. "We
passed it from hand to hand to show who
had the right to speak at the moment."

"That's a more common use,"
Pretty Ears said. "It came out of
tribal cultures, though, and we have
various ways of using it. A talking stick
fits better with the decor here than
the usual sliding sign would."

The basement was an open space
with wooden cabinets along one wall
framing a desk and chair. Nearby
stood a table and chairs sized
for older children or tweens.

One corner held a padded mat
with a toddler-sized table and stools
along with shelves full of toys.

The sitting area included
a wraparound couch and
several different easy chairs.

Kenzie promptly curled up
in the corner of the couch.
Ida sat beside him and draped
an arm around his shoulders.

Pretty Ears took an easy chair,
then picked up a notebook and a pen.

"I've heard a lot about you, Kenzie,
ever since you came to Rocky Boy's,"
said Pretty Ears. "The other day, Ida
told me about what happened between
you and Mick. Now I'd like to hear
from you what brings you to me."

"I need help," Kenzie said.
"I thought I was coping okay --
everyone's been really nice to me,
and Ron and Henry say nightmares
are normal after such a trauma."

"They are," Pretty Ears said.
"They're still upsetting, though."

"I knew I was twitchy, but I've been
working on meditations that people have
taught me, and I thought it was helping,"
Kenzie said. He sighed. "Then I kicked Mick,
and that's definitely not okay. I need to ensure
that kind of thing doesn't happen again."

"Are you coming here more for other people,
or for yourself?" Pretty Ears asked. "That
makes a difference in treatment approaches,
as well as in the chances of success."

"Both, actually," said Kenzie. "I can't
go around hurting people, and I think
I need to work on some stuff anyway."

"All right, let's take those one at a time,"
Pretty Ears said. "How do you think that
therapy could help you with other people?"

"I want to get along better and fit in more.
I'm making progress, but help might make
that go faster and smoother," Kenzie said.
"The big issue is that I can't be around
other people if I'm a danger to them, and
I really  don't want to do the retreat thing."

"Kenzie, you have many shapes," Ida said.
"You're a horse as much as a fox, and I know
that defensive kick because Joseph does it too
if someone pounces on him the wrong way.
Mick was just being Coyote, and this time
it got him in trouble. It wasn't your fault."

"True, and there's more," Pretty Ears said.
"Horses are herd animals, just like primates
are troop animals. That means they need
company, and isolating people just tends
to make matters worse instead of better."

"So no retreat, which means I really
do need to fix this," Kenzie said.

"We'll get to that," Pretty Ears said.
"Hurting people, even by accident,
is definitely not a good thing. However,
Mick needs to remember not to tease people
who just survived something terrible. That's
hard for him, but fixing it is a work in progress."

"Mick is a coyote, he's always going to be
a coyote, and being around him means that
we have to make some allowances," Ida said.
"He can resist pranking people for a while,
but not forever. So he needs people to help
keep that from becoming a major problem
instead of just a minor annoyance."

"Then if I work on my stuff, and he
works on his stuff, it should come out
okay in the end?" Kenzie said.

"Exactly," Ida said. "We're not
giving up on either one of you,
because you're family."

"I think that covers
the social side of things,"
Pretty Ears said. "Kenzie, what
do you hope that therapy will do
for you on a personal level?"

"Straighten out my head,"
Kenzie said. "For a while, I had
a therapist who really dug down deep
to find out what was bothering me, and
that helped a lot. I'd like to do it again."

"That sounds like you have more concerns
than just the recent attack," Pretty Ears said.

* * *


This poem is long, so the notes will appear separately.  See the character, location, and content notes.

[To be continued ...]

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