Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Because Her Darkness Burns So Brightly"

This poem came out of the April 21, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It also fills the "Tame" square in my 4-1-20 card for the Spring Fest Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred. It belongs to the Big One thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Because Her Darkness Burns So Brightly"

[Friday, October 14, 2016]

It was full dark by the time
they made it back home.

Griselle went into the little cabin
that she had restored after
the earthquake in spring,
her long skirts swishing and
practical boots clomping.

Nightfain sauntered
across the porch and
hopped onto his chair.

If it rained -- which it might,
for the weather was cooler
now and the rains returning --
he could go under the porch
where it always stayed dry.

A faint sound made his ears
flick toward the forest, and
then another cat climbed onto
the rough boards of the porch.

She was only half visible, the white
of her underside showing pale while
the brown brindled back disappeared
into the shadows of the forest night.

Smudgepaw, he said happily.
I have not seen you in a long time.

There is good eating on the beach,
Smudgepaw replied. Storms wash up
the fish, and the humans no longer
hurry to clean them away

There are many fewer humans
here now,
he said with a sigh.
I have found an interesting one,
though -- together we can do magic!

What is magic? asked Smudgepaw.

It is like moonlight, but we can
touch it and make it into things,

Nightfain explained. Mostly
we make it into new leaves,
helping the forest to recover.

But with a human, said Smudgepaw.
You never cared for them before.

I never could do magic before,
and now the world needs it,

Nightfain said. Look at the trees,
they are still tattered from the quake.

The fur on her shoulder rippled a shrug,
brindle-and-white moving together.
They are still standing, she said.

More of them will live if we
care for them than if we do not,

said Nightfain. Those that die,
we shape to become new homes for
the creatures who live in rotting wood,
birds and bats above, mice underfoot.

Well and good for the trees and
the creatures of the trees, then, but
what about yourself?
said Smudgepaw.
Why do you stay with this human?

Because her darkness burns so brightly,
he said. Because she is a flame in
the walking shadows of the dusk.
Because she is the moon, too,
hiding behind the clouds. Because
it is a cat's nature to follow the moon.

And the real reason? she said,
licking the knives of her paw.

Because all places are
no longer alike to me,

Nightfain whispered.

Once you were
the wildest of the cats
who walk by themselves,

said Smudgepaw, but
now you are tame

I am not tame,
said Nightfain.
I am loved.

* * *


Griselle (Gina Nakaya) -- She has golden-pale skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight hair of light brown. Her heritage is American and Japanese. She speaks English, Japanese, and Spanish. Gina's mother Mari has had only intermittent interest in her, so Gina stayed with her aunt Momoe much of the time but wasn't strongly attached to either of them. Gina was 15 at the time of the Big One and is 16 in mid-October of 2016. She lived with her aunt in Trinidad, California and they were camping in Humboldt Lagoons State Park when the earthquake hit. A redwood branch fell on their camp, killing Momoe and pinning Gina until she managed to wriggle free. After that, Gina spent some time in a refugee camp, but she hated it. She often slipped out of the camp to wander the beaches or forests alone. When her Mori gifts emerged, she took the name Griselle and gained a familiar, a black cat called Nightfain. Together they left the refugee camp for good.
Currently Griselle lives in Humboldt County, California where she works to restore the redwood forest after the earthquake. She has fixed up a cabin and lives near others of her kind in a cluster now called Mori no Mura. She hopes to attend the College of the Redwoods and earn a degree in Forestry and Natural Resources, but it's not currently running due to a general loss of services in the earthquake. Griselle gets by making clothes, tools, and crafts to sell or trade. She enjoys dancing in the Common Lodge. She is no stranger to strange things, not easily startled or dismayed. However, she has a hard time tracking rigid things like math and logic with only one right answer. Griselle is the kind of girl who looks at an obvious question and comes up with three different answers that nobody thought of before.
Origin: She manifested superpowers after the Big One, becoming a Moriko or Forest Girl.
Uniform: Griselle typically dresses in layers of black, gray, and white. She loves loose, flowing robes and skirts, often with lace, but she always wears practical boots underneath.
Qualities: Good (+2) Crafty, Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Introvert, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Strange
Poor (-2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
Powers: Good (+2) Moriko
Motivation: To restore the forests.

See a map of Humboldt County with its cities and parks.

Nightfain -- He is a male shipcat who has become the familiar of Griselle, solid black. He is sturdy and stealthy. He had no attachment to humans or a home until he met Griselle. He still dislikes confinement and resists going indoors unless the weather is truly unbearable.
Origin: Nightfain was born a shipcat, and became a familiar after the Big One.
Uniform: None. He goes nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Independent, Good (+2) Stealthy, Good (+2) Sturdy
Poor (-2) Dislikes Confinement
Powers: Good (+2) Familiar, Good (+2) Shipcat
A shipcat in this context means a super-smart, telepathic cat. A few notable tomcats with these features have sailed on ships and left kittens in many ports, some of which inherit their abilities. A familiar is an animal soup who can share magic with a human witch.
Motivation: Love.

Smudgepaw -- She is a female shipcat, mostly white underneath, with a ragged blanket of brown tabby over her back and part of her legs. A talented huntress and skilled swimmer, she often hunts on the beaches. She tends to look down on housecats, and even outdoor cats who associate closely with humans.
Origin: She was born with her abilities.
Uniform: None. She goes nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Huntress, Good (+2) Independent, Good (+2) Swimming
Poor (-2) Snob
Powers: Good (+2) Shipcat
Motivation: Freedom.

* * *

San Francisco climate varies from warm and dry to cool and wet, rarely with extremes.

The Mori no Tami (森の民) or Forest Folk manifested in significant numbers after the Big One, using their naturalistic magic to repair the damaged ecosystem. Moriko means "forest girl," Morikun means "forest boy," and Morichan means "forest child." Now they are forming a community in what used to be a private campground called Humboldt Haven, restoring camp cabins damaged by the earthquake and building new ones. They call it Mori no Mura (森の村), literally Forest Village, or Village of Mori. Because the facilities were rustic to begin with, it was easy to repair the broken parts, then add off-grid amenities such as a generator or solar panels, hand pumps, and so forth. Within a matter of months, they have created a fully functional village out of what used to be a campground. The forest features mostly second-growth redwoods and tanoak, with a few pockets of old-growth redwoods in hard-to-reach areas. Thickets of huckleberries fill the understory in some places.

Mori no Tami (森の民) Forest Folk

Mori no Mura (森の村) Forest Village, or Village of Mori

Female names often end in -ko (子 "child"; e.g. "Keiko")

Kun (君【くん】) is generally used by people of senior status addressing or referring to those of junior status, by anyone addressing or it can be used when referring to men in general, male children or male teenagers, or among male friends.

Chan (ちゃん) is a diminutive suffix; it expresses that the speaker finds a person endearing. In general, -chan is used for babies, young children, close friends, grandparents and sometimes female adolescents.

Griselle's cabin has an open porch. The living area includes a cushioned banquette, a viewscreen, a DVD player, and a propane fireplace heater. The bathroom has a shower/tub, sink, and composting toilet. The kitchenette features a coffee maker, sink, microwave, and minifridge. The dinette has a tiny table with two chairs. The ladder leads up to the sleeping loft.

An elevated walkway leads to the treehouse, which is wired with lights and electrical outlets. The treehouse looks over a seasonal creek and has a sunrise view.

Fog often hides the road to the cabin.

The common lodge includes a dining hall and stage. The kitchen has a stove, refrigerator, and dishwashing sink.

The craft cabin offers shelves, tables, and chairs where people can work.

The village also includes a number of campsites, like this one with a bridge.

Read "The Cat That Walked by Himself" by Rudyard Kipling.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, magic, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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