Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "A Candle Inside a Multicolored Lantern"

This poem is spillover from the September 3, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] librarygeek, SlytherClaw Teen, and [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah. It also fills the "Beads" square in my 9-1-19 card for the Arts and Crafts Bingo fest. This poem has been selected in an audience poll as the free epic for the October 3, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl making its $200 goal. It belongs to the series Arts and Crafts America.


"A Candle Inside a Multicolored Lantern"

[September, 1890]

Addie Dunmore
had two club feet,
so severely deformed
that she could not stand
on them, so she used
a wheelchair instead.

It was a lovely thing
with canework filling in
the back, seat, and leg rests.

Addie quite liked it, and she
could wheel herself along
the sidewalks at a brisk pace.

The boys didn't like it, though,
and the older she got, the more
her parents worried about that.

Since she had few prospects
for marriage, they sent her to
the Williamsburg Academy of
Practical Crafts in hopes that she
would learn a trade for her support
and self-respect, rather than spend
her days shut away in a room at
her parents' or sister's house.

Addie made a dutiful attempt
at everything the teachers
offered, but it was no use.

"This doesn't seem to be working,"
said Headmistress Fairfax.

"It's knitting," Addie said.
"I've never had any knack for
this sort of thing. Knitting, crochet,
weaving, sewing -- if it's to do with
yarn or cloth, I'm hopeless at it."

"What troubles you so about it?"
asked Headmistress Fairfax.

"It won't stay where I put it!"
Addie exclaimed. "It flops and
slithers all over the place."

"Perhaps you'd do better
with some other type of craft,"
said Headmistress Fairfax.
"It's usually the boys we put
to woodworking and metalcraft,
but there's no reason why you
couldn't try it if you'd like to."

"What do they do?" Addie said.

"Oh, all sorts of things -- they
make furniture and lamp bases
out of wood, cups and lanterns
of tin, copper pots for the kitchen,"
said Headmistress Fairfax.

"I think I should like to work
with tin," said Addie. "I love
the beautiful tin ceilings
in all the townhouses, and
the chandeliers that look
like a night sky with stars."

"It might take you a while
to work up to something
that fancy, but let's see how
you do," said the headmistress.

Addie did quite well. She loved
working with the tin, which was
soft enough to cut with shears
but stayed wherever she put it.

She could punch holes in it,
too, using a mallet and awl
to follow a marked pattern.

She didn't cut herself once,
and when Thomas did,
she got a cloth over
the cut before it could
bleed all over his clothes.

Thomas was more than happy
to go try his hand at knitting,
and Addie wished him luck at it.

"You're doing much better than I
expected, better than some boys
who started this class last year,"
said Headmistress Fairfax. "How
would you like to try something
a little more challenging?"

"Yes, please," said Addie.
"Working with tin is so easy,
and exciting! I like watching
as the pattern takes shape."

"Look at these pictures,"
said Headmistress Fairfax.
"Some people put beads
on their tinwork to add color
or keep a lightbulb from glaring."

"I've seen a chandelier like this,"
Addie said, pointing to one with
a long fringe made of seed beads.
"Our neighbor had one in the parlor.
That looks like it would take a lot
of practice to make, though."

"This one uses bigger beads,"
the headmistress said, pointing out
a tin-framed mirror with ceramic beads
the color of turquoise dangling from it.

Addie wrinkled her nose. "Those
are too big and clumsy-looking."

Then she spotted the lantern
studded with colored glass.

"Ooooh," she said. "How
do they get the glass in there
without a line in the middle?"

"When you cut the hole, you
have to leave a tiny pin on
the top and bottom, then
fit the bead into place so
the pins hold it in the hole,"
said Headmistress Fairfax.

"I think I could do that,"
Addie said. "May I try?"

"I'll fetch you a box of beads,"
said Headmistress Fairfax.

They were simple things,
but beautiful, smooth spheres of
brown and amber, blue and green.

Addie spent the whole next class
just working with scraps, cutting holes
and learning how to make the beads
go into them and then stay there.

She spent the next week
making flat panels of tin
studded with beads, which
could be hung in a window
to throw specks of color
all around a room.

Addie took lunch with
the boys more often than
the girls, as the teachers kept
a watchful eye over them.

She met Clarence, who was
two years younger than her and
quite adept at woodworking.

He turned pieces on a lathe
and made them into furniture.
He liked seatweaving too,
whether with cane or rushes.

Clarence stuttered so badly
that most people couldn't
understand him, but
Addie didn't care.

Using a wheelchair
had taught her patience.

Showing that patience
to Clarence made her
a new friend, who admired
her tinsmithing skills with
great enthusiasm.

The next week, Addie
made a lantern, decorated
with many slits and circles and
crescents cut from a sheet of tin.

Into a few of the holes she
put the colorful beads.

When Addie lit the candle,
the lantern twinkled, reminding
her of the way sunlight made
sparkles in the morning dew.

"Religion is a candle inside
a multicolored lantern. Everyone
looks through a particular color,
but the candle is always there,"
said Headmistress Fairfax.

Addie thought about how
the school accepted all kinds
of children, whether they were
Catholic or Protestant or Baptist --
there were even a few Jewish ones.

But they were all the same at heart,
like the candle inside the lantern.

"Next week," said Addie, "I want
to try making a chandelier."

Maybe if she got good enough,
her work could hang in a church,
like the stained glass windows
that tinted the morning sunbeams.

Regardless, it would be exciting to try.

* * *

Notes:

Addie Dunmore -- She has fair skin, silver eyes, and long ash-brown hair. She has two club feet, so severely deformed that she can't even stand on them. So she uses a wheelchair instead. Addie is 15 in 1890 when her parents enroll her in the Williamsburg Academy of Practical Crafts. While she has no skill at all with traditionally feminine crafts like knitting or sewing, she excels at metalwork, especially tinsmithing.

Clubfoot is a birth defect that ranges from a mild bend with near-typical feet to severe bending with malformed feet. While the milder cases may permit walking, worse cases can make walking painful or impossible.


Phebe Fairfax -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and gray hair usually pulled back in a bun. She runs the Williamsburg Academy of Practical Crafts, which enrolls disabled children in hopes of teaching them a trade for their support and self-respect. The school typically has between three and five dozen students. Its staff consists of Headmistress Fairfax -- who also teaches classes -- along with one additional teacher per dozen students, a cook, a custodian, and a groundskeeper.

Clarence Warren -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and brown hair. His ears stick out from the sides of his head. He stutters so badly that most people can't understand him. Clarence is 13 in 1890, and his parents enrolled him in the Williamsburg Academy of Practical Crafts at 12. He excels at woodworking, especially turning wood on a lathe to make furniture, and he enjoys seatweaving too.

* * *

"Religion is a candle inside a multicolored lantern. Everyone looks through a particular color, but the candle is always there."
-- Muhammad Naguib

Addie's wheelchair has caning in the back, seat, and leg supports. People have been making beautiful and comfortable wheelchairs for many years.

For a variety of reasons, people with disabilities are about half as likely to marry as people without disabilities.

People with disabilities make up about 20% of the population, but only about 20% of people with disabilities participate in the workforce. They can do many jobs and crafts. Historically, some societies have put extra effort into teaching disabled people a craft so they can support themselves. Arts and Crafts America simply broadens the scope beyond a few sheltered professions to allow students free choice among many crafts according to their skills and interests.

Tinsmithing has been an important craft in history.

This tin chandelier has a beaded fringe.

A tin mirror from Mexico incorporates large ceramic beads.

This tin lantern features glass beads.

The SeatWeavers' Guild offers information about caning, weaving, and related crafts. Compare several styles of seatweaving here.

Caning is one type of seatweaving. Learn how to cane a seat.

Weaving is another way of making chair seats. Explore picture and text instructions for weaving a rush seat.
Tags: activism, crafts, cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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