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Poem: "Sojourners" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "Sojourners"
This poem is spillover from the March 6, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and rix_scaedu. It also fills the "Understanding" square in my 2-1-19 You Are card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Strange Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Sojourners"

[Saturday, October 25, 2014]

Genna fussed and fidgeted
her way through Saturday morning
until Pips pulled her aside and
asked, "What's wrong?"

"I don't know," she said.
"Nothing ... everything!"

"Ah," Pips said. "That
sounds like something
feels out of place, but
you can't pin down what."

Genna sighed. "I miss
Dominic," she said, "but
it's not just that -- I miss
how we used to hang out
with other creative folks."

"Well, I can solve half of
that problem," Pips said.
"Give me a few minutes
to turn up a list of options,
and we can check out
a local maker space."

"Really?" Genna said.

"Sure, just ask Saul
whether he wants to take
the kids somewhere else or
come with us," Pips said.
"Go grab your project bag."

So Genna went to fetch
the rolling craft bag made of
rose-printed cloth that had
"mysteriously appeared" on
her doorstep the day after
she overused her shoulder
lifting school supplies.

It held a standard stock of
basic craft supplies, to which
she added a fashion design kit
that she'd found at a thrift store.

The kit didn't have everything
she really needed, but she didn't
dare complain about that, for fear of
more mysterious windfalls. Instead,
she picked up a sketchbook here,
a colored pencil there, building up
what she considered a proper kit.

Genna picked up her school binders
one at a time and tucked them into
the bag. Then she trundled out
to see what Pips had turned up.

"I'll take that," Saul said, scooping
the handle of the bag away from her.
"I promise to give it back when we
get to wherever we're going."

"Where are we going?"
Genna asked Pips.

"Well, the closest place
is a metalworking shop, so
that's out," Pips said. "There's
a Mini-Michelangelo near here,
and half a dozen coffeehouses
with various creative spaces."

"Something for the whole family,
please," said Genna. "I don't want
to split up if we don't have to."

Pips turned his tablet computer
so everyone could see the list
of coffeehouses and explore them.

"How about Creatah Space?" Saul said.
"That has a Craft Room for the kids and
a Shop Room for me and Victor -- we can
trade off watching the kids. There are
writing spaces downstairs for you too."

"That works," Genna said. She could
always duck upstairs to check on folks
if she started feeling antsy, but typically
being in the same building was enough.

The kids were wiggly and excited
as they drove to the coffeehouse,
pointing out things that they saw
along the way and asking what
they could do when they got there.

Once they climbed out, Genna
handed off some of her art supplies
to Victor. "Use what you want,
and let the kids explore too."

"Thanks, Gennamom," he said.
"I think I'll get the kids settled in
the Craft Room and then check out
the Shop room for myself."

Inside Creatah Space,
Genna perused the menu,
then turned to Pips. "I'm
having café au lait. Shall we
split a vol-au-vent platter?"

"Café au lait for me too,
and the platter sounds
lovely," Pips agreed.

Soon they had their coffee
plus a plate of puffy little pastries
stuffed with delicious crayfish, ham,
mushrooms, cranberries, or pears.

They settled in the Group Writing Room
in the basement, which had bookcases in
back and long wooden tables with chairs.

Genna spread out her binders for school
and began noodling around lesson plans
while nibbling on a crayfish pastry.

Pips picked up a ham one and
watched the other customers.

There were a lot of students,
both high school and college age,
scattered around the room studying
or working on group projects.

Several pairs seemed
to be practicing French
or other foreign languages.

A couple of film students
were brainstorming ideas
for a television series, and
Genna quickly tuned them out.

One girl perched on a corner
of the table while her boyfriend
sketched her with charcoals.

Genna riffled through the stacks
of newspapers on the table, most
from Easy City, some from elsewhere
in Louisiana, and a few national.

A sensational news article about
migrating berettaflies made her go
looking for something more rational,
then one on ordinary monarch butterflies.

She sketched out a lesson plan that
would incorporate different aspects of
science, math, reading, writing, and
art depending on individual interest
and ability. That way she could
offer it to all of her students.

Genna suspected that her home
would get covered in paper models
of butterflies and berettaflies.

She looked forward to it.

Setting aside the lesson plan,
she turned to fashion design.

Genna started by sketching
peplum tops and peasant blouses,
empire dresses and halter dresses,
high-waisted pants and A-line skirts,
and all kinds of asymmetric things.

She still didn't know much about
her client, but the least she could do
was offer a wide range of options.

She was capturing images of
fabrics with flowy prints when
a spate of familiar names
snagged her attention.

It was the film students,
to her surprise, talking about
famous women in history.

The two black girls --
one lighter in jeans, and
the other darker in hijab --
smiled and beckoned.

"I couldn't help overhearing,
and now I'm curious," Genna said.
"What are you working on?"

"A new television series,"
said the lighter girl. "Sojourners
would be an eastern about
influential women. We're
drafting a description of it
for our film course."

"That sounds like fun.
By the way, I'm Genna
and this is Pips," she said,
waving a hand at him.

Pips had gotten bored and
fixated on his tablet computer.
He merely flicked a finger in
response to her introduction.

"I'm Idéa-Marie, Director and
Director of Photography,"
said the lighter girl.

"I'm Saamia, Producer
and Location Audio -- all of
the sound things, really,"
said the darker girl.

"Pleased to meet you,"
Genna said. "I work as
a freelance teacher, so I'm
curious about your assignment.
I'm not a fan of television, but
I admit you piqued my interest."

Idéa-Marie gave a little squeal
of glee. "If we can hook you,
maybe we can land a studio!"
she said. "We're taking a class
on how to make a television show,
so the assignment is to draft one."

"We need a show synopsis,
character sheets, and a brief
of the episodes," Saamia said.
"Then add some storyboards
and at least one script."

"Once we have all that,
then we do a little shoot
to show what our program
would look like," said Idéa-Marie.

"What will it look like?" Genna wondered.

"A tour of the East Coast starting in 1866,"
said Idéa-Marie. "Our protagonists are
Cora la Liberté, a black woman journalist
who is adventurous and creative; and
Lavinia Scrivener, a white woman journalist
who is cautious and methodical. They're
friends who travel around meeting and
writing about influential women."

"In the pilot episode, they meet
Sojourner Truth," said Saamia.
"She tells them her story, then
explains that she's getting pretty old
and needs to pass along her cause
to a new generation of sojourners."

"Wow," Genna said. "How
did you hit on that idea?"

"I love your easterns so much!"
Saamia gushed. "They're
all sophisticated and hopeful."

"Saamia suggested the genre, and
then that got Ingram on board for
writing it, followed by Hyacinthe
who's doing hair, makeup, and
costuming because he loves
a challenge," said Idéa-Marie.

"Zoé is our production assistant
and gaffer," said Saamia. "She liked
the idea of a show about women."

"You sound like a well-matched team,"
Genna said, wondering if she could
ask Hatter for a classroom pasture
so her students could work together.

"We are," said Idéa-Marie. "The first day
was just everyone writing down things
they wanted to try and reading what
other people thought up. The next one
had us mingling to sort out teams."

Genna quickly grabbed a binder
and jotted down notes for that idea.

She didn't have enough students
to do it right now, but that
might not stay the same.

"We want to tell stories about
the issues of the time," Saamia said.

"Oh, which of them caught
your attention?" Genna asked.

"People were arguing about race
and gender and all kinds of things,"
Saamia said. "I'm taking a minor
in Peace and Justice Studies, and
my old country of Bangladesh is ...
kind of a mess, so I'm really into this."

"Those are good stories," Genna said.
"I think we need more about women,
especially about black women."

"Hyacinthe wants to do an episode
on historic lesbians, too, because he's
sort of mostly gay," said Idéa-Marie.

"Talk to me about budgeting,"
Pips said suddenly. "What's
your lowball for proof of concept?
What's a reasonable middle of the road?
What's your pie-in-the-sky ideal?"

"Uh ... each team gets access to
all the theatre department props,
costumes, and makeup," said Saamia.
"Then we get a $500 budget to shoot
a proof-of-concept scene or teaser."

"Anyone who wants a workshop on
budgeting, fundraising, or leadership from
the College of Business Administration
can get extra credit," said Idéa-Marie.
"Saamia and I both want to do those."

"After grading, the college kicks in
$1,500 to the best project in each class
so students can produce their show,"
Saamia added. "I think that we could
probably raise enough to match that."

"So is $3,000 your low, middle,
or high budget?" Pips asked.

"I don't know," said Idéa-Marie.
"We haven't really gotten that far.
Right now, we're just pitching ideas,
because if we can get any studio interest
then it's worth extra credit. There are
enough indies in Easy City that
I think we've got a chance."

"O ... kay," Pips said slowly.
"For now, let's guess $3,000 is
the lowball, $6,000 is the middle,
and $10,000 is pie-in-the-sky."

"Why do you even care?"
Idéa-Marie asked him.

"Let's say I have an interest
in authentic ethnic productions,"
Pips said. "I like the sound of
Sojourners so I'm willing to lend
a hand in making it happen."

"But you're white," she protested.

"I have pale skin," Pips said.
"Despite that fact, I do not
belong to an ethnic majority."

"I don't get it," Idéa-Marie said,
"I mean, you look white."

Pips stood up. "Come here,"
he said. "Stand next to me."

Even at her modest height,
Idéa-Marie towered over him
by at least half a head.

"Wow," she said,
"you're really tiny."

"Yes," Pips said.
"What other words
come to your mind?"

"Small, short, skinny,
cute, chibi, petite, pixie --"

"Stop right there," Pips said coldly.
"That last one was a racial slur."

"What?" Idéa-Marie said.
"But -- but it's about fairies,
they're made up creatures."

"No it's not," Pips said. "It's
a very old, very rude term
for my people in particular.
Picts. Pixies. Hear it?"

"Yes," she whispered.
"Doh Jesus, I just called you
a nigger! I am so sorry."

"Forgiven," Pips said.
"You didn't know,
and now you do."

"I'm still trying to wrap
my head around how
you can look like that, and
not get treated as white,"
Idéa-Marie said slowly.

Pips sighed. He held a hand
over his head and nudged it
gently against her nose.

"It's the height," he said.
"People literally look down
on us. They mistreat us
because we're small. They
overlook us because we can
hide in plain sight. We didn't
assimilate, though, we just ...
disappeared into the hills."

"They forgot about you,"
Genna said. "I get that."

She shivered. As short as
she was, her mother had
been even shorter, and
sometimes people tried
to take advantage of that.

"Exactly," Pips said as he
sat back down. "In some ways,
my experience parallels that of
a Hispanic man with very fair skin.
Just because someone looks white,
doesn't necessarily mean he is white."

"Understood," said Idéa-Marie, returning
to her own seat. "I should've known better,
because some black folks have got enough
white ancestors to wash out, and then
nobody believes that they're black."

"Why did you ask about our budget
in particular, though?" Saamia said.
"It's one of the things we're supposed
to sketch out, but toward the end."

"Oh, I've been chatting with
some people online, and I wanted
to know how close their expressions
of interest came to your needs," Pips said.
"I've already got you a little bit over
that $3,000 if you two want it."

"But they haven't even seen
our show," said Idéa-Marie.

"That's okay," Pips said.
"Some people will throw money
at an idea they love, just to show
support, whether or not it pans out.
Other folks want more assurance."

"What kind of assurance?"
Saamia said, leaning forward.

Pips flicked his fingers over
the screen of his tablet computer.

"So far I've got a dozen requests
to see the scripts, half that wanting
storyboards, three for your budget,
and five for a proof-of-concept clip,"
Pips said. "Two people want to know if
you're taking applications for actors yet."

"Ingram's gonna shit a brick,"
Idéa-Marie muttered. "He doesn't
have more than a few scene sketches
written out, because we haven't even
finished outlining the episodes."

"We haven't finished choosing
all the featured characters, either,"
said Saamia. "Hyacinthe will be
happy though -- he's got storyboards
that he doodled up the first few days."

"That's a start," said Idéa-Marie.
"Tell people we don't have a budget
or proof-of-concept shot yet, but
we definitely will in December."

Pips' fingers flickered over
his screen. "Done," he said.

"I should tell Hyacinthe and
Ingram we've got a hot lead
and how it affects their parts
of the project," Saamia said,
taking out her smartphone.

"What about the actors?"
Idéa-Marie asked Pips.
"Are they any good? We
will need to hire some, or
better yet, find volunteers."

"Take Shonji," said Pips.
She can do any accent. I
suggest that you let Tumult
attend your cattle call to be fair,
but you do not want to deal with
his level of chaos. Don't worry,
he should fail out on his own."

"I'm not sure whether to be
alarmed or reassured by that,"
Idéa-Marie said, shaking her head.

"Both," Saamia said, "but we can
deal with it. We've handled worse."

"We could really do this," Idéa-Marie said.
Then she shivered. "Suddenly this project
seems a lot more daunting. I mean,
we only have the first five episodes
thumbnailed, we still have to do
the other half, and the budget, and --"

"If you want my advice," Pips said,
"then do the first ten episodes
with the best budget that still
falls inside numbers which you
currently know how to handle."

"Good idea," said Saamia. "Even
with the workshops, handling a budget
of $10,000 would be a stretch, and I wouldn't
want to try any more on my first show."

"Excellent," said Pips. "Develop
those early episodes using
the historic people and places
that you already know and love.
If the show catches on, then
you can always expand later."

"Well, that's easy," said Idéa-Marie.
"Our team made character cards
for some people we'd like to feature --
each of us had to pitch in at least five --
so that's twenty-five to choose among.
Settings are all up to Saamia and Ingram."

Saamia nodded eagerly. "When my family
moved to America, we landed in New York,"
she said. "Then after we graduated from
the support program, we traveled up
and down the East Coast, exploring
the history of our new country."

"Ingram comes from Boston,"
Idéa-Marie added. "He's big into
East Coast writers and their locations."

"The character inspiration came
from Idéa-Marie, though," said Saamia.
"She's the one who wanted to do a show
about women and people of color."

"It hits close to home," Idéa-Marie said
with a shrug. "Shit, if this might be
for real, then Hyacinthe will need
more help with makeup and costumes,
and all that affects the budget too --"

"So we get volunteers for as much as
we can, and try to find affordable options
for the rest," Saamia said. "There are
fashion students who might like
to help make some costumes."

"Actually ..." Genna said
as she raised her hand. "I am
a reasonably skilled seamstress,
and Saul is an adept woodworker.
We could use some gigs now."

Pips rolled his eyes at her.

He tended to overestimate
her talents sometimes.

"Great," said Idéa-Marie.
"Give me your contact info
and I'll pass that to Hyacinthe
so you can discuss costuming."

Genna hesitated, torn between
her enthusiasm for the project
and a burning need for safety.

The events of the past year had
made her much less trusting than she
had been before all that happened.

She didn't like that about herself,
but neither was she willing
to throw caution to the winds.

"Here," Genna said at last,
handing Idéa-Marie a card
before she lost her nerve.
"Please tell Hyacinthe that
I look forward to meeting him."

"I will," Idéa-Marie promised.

"I'll send you what information
I have, too," Saamia added. "I'm on
camera duty, so I'm collecting lots of
reference images for the show."

"Oh, those will be fun to see,"
Genna said. "I've gone to
Restoration fairs a few times.
The Juneteenth Jamboree
was a family favorite."

"What are those?" Saamia said.

Idéa-Marie laughed. "You are
about to have so much fun,"
she said. "Americans like
to dress up and play out
different historic periods.
One is the Restoration,
when our show is set."

"They can be quite a trip,"
Pips agreed. "I think we have
a good preliminary plan for
Sojourners here. Genna,
what do you think?"

"This would be worth
buying a television
to watch!" Genna said.

* * *

Notes:

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

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