Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "For Want of a Shoe"

This poem is spillover from the May 5, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] shadowdreamer and [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "Ub-Tambourine" square in my 5-1-20 card for the Sumerian Me Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Shiv and Dr. Infanta threads of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"For Want of a Shoe"

[Saturday, July 25, 2015]

Tolli enjoyed working at Pennsic,
making racks for weapons or armor
(he sold a lot of those), candlesticks,
campfire grills, and other things.

This year he had a good site
for his portable forge, next to
a set of Sumerian performers
who presented various types
of ancient dance and music.

The three sisters played
all three kinds of tambourine --
ub, meze, and ala -- tapping
them against hands and hips.

Two men played the drums,
lilis and tigi, to keep the beat.

The last performer was actually
a galatur, who played papa-sticks
and had utterly fascinated Halley.

Not wanting to cause a conflict,
Tolli had asked if his hammering
at the anvil would detract from
their music or their dancing.

They had laughed and
assured him it would not,
that they could incorporate it
just as historic performers
would have adapted to
the sounds of their city.

So he got to enjoy
the performances, and
even made a holder for
their historic information.

Tolli was finishing a ladle
when he heard hoofbeats.

Looking up, he saw a little girl
in resplendent silks riding
a big black horse with
magnificent jeweled tack.

The horse was ...
not quite limping,
but not walking
normally either.

They were trailed
by an entourage
of assorted courtiers.

Then Tolli realized this
was the Empress, who had
been in the park on the day when
the Society for Creative Anachronism
had been invented years ago, now
accompanied by her Noble Steed.

She rarely attended events
these days, but she still held
her original rank and everyone
respected that when she did.

Tolli set aside the ladle, saying,
"How may I be of service,
Your Imperial Majesty?"

"Oh, just call me Alicia,
I'm a family friend by now,"
she said. "Judd threw a shoe.
Our regular farrier was sick, and
the new fellow was no good."

"May I see?" Tolli asked.

"Yeah," Judd said, lifting
a hoof the size of a plate.

Several big chips were
missing where the nails
had torn out of the rim.

"That's not good," Tolli said.
"I can file this smooth and work
around it, but I'd need to make
the horseshoe from scratch."

That way he could put the holes
where they wouldn't aim nails
through the weakened areas.

"Price isn't a problem," Alicia said.

"All right," said Tolli. "Judd, do you
prefer hot or cold shoeing? Hot
I can make to suit, cold I'd
have to drill new holes."

Judd's ears pricked.
"Better hot," he said.

"Yeah, the last farrier
put them on cold, and
that's probably why Judd
lost a shoe," Alicia said.

Tolli nodded. "They never
set quite as well like that,"
he said. "All right, let me
just put some barstock in
the forge and get started."

"Excellent," Alicia said.
She slid off the sidesaddle
into the arms of her groom,
who set her on a camp throne
unfolded by another servant,
followed by a footstool.

"If you like, you could browse
more of the faire while you're
waiting," Tolli suggested.

Her laughter tinkled in
the summer air. "I can't
walk in these, silly," she said,
wiggling a slippered foot at him.

Tolli looked at her shoe. The sole
was completely covered in seed pearls.

In fact, the whole outfit was designed
to advertise that she didn't have
to do anything for herself.

"Impressive," Tolli said.
"So what made you pick me?"
You could go anywhere in
the world that you wanted."

"Aside from the fact that you're
a Finn and connected with
Soup to Nuts?" said Alicia.
"Shiv won't shut up about
you and the rescue horses."

Tolli chuckled. "Fair enough,"
he said. "He should be back
any minute now -- I sent him
to fetch us some cold drinks."

"Oh, lovely," said Alicia.
"I haven't seen him for
most of the summer."

"All right, Judd, put
your foot here and I'll
clean it up before I start
making a shoe," said Tolli.

Judd obligingly presented
his huge hoof so Tolli could
smooth the edge and pick out
the dirt caked in the sole.

"And don't slobber in my hair,"
Tolli said, gently pushing
Judd's face out of the way.

Just then Shiv came back with
his arms full of mint tea in steins.
"Oh, hi, you must be Judd," he said.

The horse whuffled a greeting, and
Shiv actually sniffed noses with him.

Alicia flicked her silk fan. "You
really do know horses," she said.

"Nah, just what Tolli and Simon
taught me," Shiv said, shrugging.

Tolli took his stein and said, "Why
don't you sit down and entertain
Her Imperial Majesty while I work?"

"Okay," Shiv said, crouching down.
Silver flashed over his fingers
and then disappeared again.

Alicia squealed. "Where'd it go?"

"I dunno, it's a mystery,"
Shiv said with a wink,
then pulled the coin
from behind her fan.

He did a few more tricks
as Tolli started working on
the barstock to make a shoe.

"See, this is why my fair name
is Hugo Lightfingers," said Shiv.

Then the Sumerians came
to the end of their current dance.

"They're quite good," Alicia said.
"I haven't seen anything like it."

"That's probably because they're
from Penn State," said Tolli. "They
study Sumerian, but some of them are
also in music or drama, so they come
here to recreate old entertainment."

"Fancy that," Alicia murmured,
then flicked her hand at Shiv.
"Command performance. Go
tell them We want to see what
they can do up close. They
needn't disrupt their schedule
entirely, though -- sending part
of their troupe will suffice."

Shiv gave her a dubious look.

"Don't worry about it, Shiv, they'll
mind you," Tolli said. "You're using
Her Imperial Majesty's authority,
not your own. Just repeat what she
told you, like any other message."

"Okay, that I can do," Shiv said,
and trotted over to the Sumerians.

Tolli took the opportunity to bang on
the developing horseshoe, so it
wouldn't interrupt the performance.

He stuck it back into the forge
just as two Sumerians arrived.

Halley abandoned thon's project
to come watch the dance.

It was actually silent,
as the woman who played
the ub-tambourine held up
her instrument to symbolize
the moon, while the galatur
danced a prayer to Inanna
that Tolli only recognized from
the pictures on their signboard.

Their movements were willowy
and beautiful, reviving a dance
that hadn't been popular
in thousands of years.

When they finished,
the Empress handed
each performer a bag of
largesse -- which could hold
anything from a Greenbucks card
to old artifacts to a full scholarship,
judging from rumors Tolli had heard.

By then, Judd was getting restless,
swishing his long tail at the flies,
and Tolli was only almost done
making the horseshoe for him.

Discreetly Tolli pointed at
a nearby vendor of cold fruit.

Shiv hustled off to the cart,
then came back lugging
a whole watermelon.

With expert moves, he
sliced it, then separated
the red flesh from the rind.

Shiv piled the flesh on a platter
that he passed to a servant,
and put the rind on a plate
which he held for Judd.

"Here, stop fidgeting and
eat something," Shiv said.
"Tolli should have your shoe
done any minute now."

Judd eagerly munched
his share of the treat, and
then Shiv sat down to eat
the watermelon chunks that
Alicia had saved for him.

Tolli finished roughing out
the shoe and said, "Judd,
pick up your foot, I need
to check the exact sizing."

Measuring the shoe against
the hoof, Tolli saw that the heels
needed to widen just a little,
so he put it back in the forge.

A few more taps made it
a perfect fit, and Tolli said,
"Ready for me to put it on?"

"Yeah, please," Judd said,
offering his hoof again.

Tolli tucked the hoof
between his knees and
set the horseshoe in place,
sending up a cloud of smoke.

With careful taps of the hammer,
he applied the nails, then trimmed
the long ends and knocked them flat.

"Test that," Tolli said. "Comfortable?"

Judd gave the ground a delicate tap,
then stomped several times. "Good,"
he said, looking at Alicia. "Give tip?"

"Of course," she said, waving
her fan at one of her servants.
"Thank you for your service."

The bag was so heavy, Tolli
almost dropped it in surprise.

Suddenly he wondered if
the Empress had given him
a literal bag of gold.

From the look on
Shiv's face, she
might have done so.

"Any time, Master Judd,
Your Imperial Majesty,"
Tolli said with a bow.

"Calendar," Alicia said,
snapping her fingers.

A maid stepped up with
a leatherbound book in hand.

"We would like to schedule
a replacement for the other shoes
at the usual time," Alicia said, and
Judd nibbled Tolli's hair in agreement,
making Shiv snicker at them both.

"Despite appearances, my hair is
not actually a haystack," Tolli said dryly.
He stepped away to make an appointment.

"We'll stop by the jousting field next, so
Judd can have a real meal," Alicia said.

"Yeah, there are some things you really
don't want to do without," Shiv said.
"For want of a shoe, and all that."

Everyone laughed.

* * *

Notes:

Pennsic 44
Jul 24 - Aug 9 2015 Ragnvaldr & Arabella (M)
Omega & Etheldreda (E)
Magnus & Etain (Æ) Mayor:
Illiam Uaine 10,556 East-Middle Alliance 19,
Æthelmearc Alliance 18
(declared a tie)
Pennsic 2015 Medallion

Hot shoeing vs. cold shoeing is a horse care debate, along with how often to schedule a farrier. In this case, Tolli can simply ask Judd which is preferred.

Three types of tambourine are listed among the Me: the ub-tambourine, the meze-tambourine, and the ala-tambourine. One possibility is that they had different shapes (e.g. round vs. crescent), covered with a drumhead or uncovered, with or without cymbals in the rim. But those are pairs. When three things are mentioned, very often they are large, medium, and small. So some interpretations suggest the ub as a small tambourine, the meze as a medium tambourine, and the ala as a large tambourine. Meze can also mean a sistrum, meaning that this version likely included cymbals. Because these instruments can be described as drums or tambourines, likely they had skin heads. Musical ensembles and terminology changed over time in Sumerian artifacts of different ages. So if you're doing historical re-creation, you can just grab your favorite reference and use that; it will be plausible.

Inanna: "I bring the placing of the garment on the ground.
I bring allure.
I bring the art of women.
I bring the perfect execution of the me.
I bring the tigi- and lilis-drums.
I bring the ub-, the meze-, and the ala-tambourines."

The percussion instruments found again are ala “big drum”, šim/ub “small drum” and zamzam, a percussion instrument, but, meze “sistrum” or “rattle”, papa “pair of clapping sticks” (?), and lilis “timpani” are new. adab, originally a percussion instrument, perhaps “cymbals”, is now used exclusively to indicate a type of song.

Pennsylvania State University teaches Sumerian.

Largesse is a general term for royal gifts.

Watermelon rind is a favorite treat for some horses, and less bad for them than sugary things.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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