ysabetwordsmith: Victor Frankenstein in his fancy clothes (Frankenstein)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the September 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] helgatwb, [personal profile] lynnoconnacht, [personal profile] technoshaman, [personal profile] ellenmillion, and LJ user Laffingkat. It also fills the "humiliation" square for my 7-31-14 card in the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Frankenstein's Family series.

WARNING: This poem contains topics that some readers may find unappealing. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. There are embarrassing situations, menstrual issues, gender dysphoria, difficult negotiation of body boundaries, an abandoned child, and other touchy stuff. Consider your tastes before clicking through.


"Because of the Moon"


Igor was just about to make breakfast
when Victor limped into the kitchen,
not favoring either leg, but rather walking
as if it hurt to move below the waist at all.

"What's wrong?" Igor asked him.

"Nothing. I'm fine," Victor said,
stretching his lips in a smile
that did not reach his eyes.

"Please be honest with me,"
Igor said softly as he moved
the buttered pan off the heat.
"I can see that you're not well."

"It's not your concern," Victor said.

It was then Igor noticed
a few dark red spots on the
pale stone of the kitchen floor.

For a moment he nearly panicked,
wondering if Victor had cut himself --
and then remembered that,
while Victor might be masculine,
his body was still female.

"You're bleeding on the floor,"
Igor murmured, pointing.

Victor whirled to look behind himself.
"Oh, God damn it all to hell," he moaned.

"Don't worry about the floor,"
Igor said as he sidled over to Victor.
"I can clean it up later."

Victor was skittish as a colt,
shying away from Igor's hands.
"Just leave me alone," he said. "This is
humiliating enough without an audience."

"You must feel awful," Igor said,
taking in the tense muscles
and slightly hunched posture.
Victor had left off the corset,
Igor realized, probably because
it hurt too much to wear now.
"Let me see if I can help."

"You can't do anything about it,"
Victor snapped. "I'm sick
because of the moon, not of
some illness you can actually treat."

"As a matter of fact, this is my field,"
Igor said. "I study the human body
and its cycles, the hormones and
pheromones that govern it.
I can't stop the tide from running,
but I can probably make you
feel a little more comfortable."

"I don't want to talk about it,"
Victor said. He hunched further.

"I know, but it's harder for me
to figure out what will help
if you don't talk to me," Igor said.
"Does this happen often -- the heavy flow,
what I assume are dreadful cramps,
and whatever else is bothering you?"

Victor shook his head. "Not often,
once or twice a year maybe," he said.
"Usually it's unpleasant, not crippling,
easier to hide the symptoms.
I don't see why you're making
such an issue of it now. It's not new."

"I know you better now," Igor said.
"I notice when you're hurting.
We've been together long enough
that we care about each other.
It's not as easy to hide things
as it used to be, when we first met.
You found out about my back,
and I thought I hid that well, too."

Victor snorted. "There were days
when you could barely get out of bed."

"That's true, and eventually I learned
not to argue with you all the time," Igor said.
"You're more than just my employer now.
We're family. You have a right to know
what's going on with me. I may not
like discussing it, but I know it's necessary."

"This is different," Victor said
with a miserable, defeated look.

"Yes, of course it is," Igor said.
"Different problems, but I think we have
a lot of the same feelings about them."

"Maybe so," Victor admitted.

"Come on," Igor said,
putting an arm around him.
"Let's get you back to bed
You'll feel better if you lie down."

Igor walked with Victor
as the other man hobbled along.
When they reached their suite, Igor said,
"You go get cleaned up and changed.
I'll get the bed ready for you."

There were always bricks warming
beside the fire, for Igor's back.
He wrapped some of those in cloth
to heat up the bed, wishing that
he had a proper brick cozy like
the village women knitted or
quilted out of colorful scraps.

Next Igor put towels on the mattress
to catch any spilled blood, because
towels were easier to swap out
than whole sheets would be.

Victor came back in his nightclothes,
and grudgingly allowed Igor
to tuck him into bed.

Igor pressed a gentle hand
over Victor's belly, feeling
muscles tight with cramps.

Victor whimpered and pushed him away.
"I hate this," he said. "This isn't me."

"I know," Igor said. "I may have
the right parts, but believe me,
I understand what it's like to feel
that your body has betrayed you."

"I wish I didn't have to be reminded
that I'm really a woman," Victor said,
his voice almost inaudible.

"You're not," Igor said firmly.
"Victor, this doesn't make me
think of you as less than a man.
It's just an aggravating thing
that your body does. It's not you."

Victor gave him a look of such naked longing
that Igor reached out to stroke his cheek.
"Really?" Victor whispered.

"Really," Igor assured him.
"Do you mind if I go out for a while?
I'd like to make breakfast and then
consult with the village midwife.
I know some things that are good for
female complaints, but she'll know
more about what's available locally."

"Don't tell her who it's for,"
Victor insisted.

"I won't," Igor said.
"Will you be all right alone?"

"I'll be all right," Victor said,
snuggling deeper into the bed.

Igor went out to collect eggs,
and noticed that something
had gotten into the henhouse
and eaten one of the chickens.

They only kept a few, because
they didn't have time to take care
of very many animals, but this way
they could have eggs more often --
if they could keep the birds intact, that is.

Grumbling, Igor made hasty repairs
to the damaged henhouse and
then hurried back indoors
to scrub the spots off the floor.

Igor made breakfast,
fed Adam and ate his own,
then took a plate up to Victor.

Victor was curled around
one of the warm bricks,
and the laudanum bottle
on the beside table further
attested to his misery.

"Here, I brought you some food,"
Igor said as he set it down.
"Do you need anything else
before I leave?"

"I don't think so," Victor said.
"I'm sorry for being so horrible."

"It's all right," Igor said.
"You feel awful. I know
not to take it personally."

Next Igor bundled up Adam
against the October chill.
"Put your arms in your sweater,"
Igor said, and Adam obeyed.
He was getting better at
following simple instructions.
"We're going down to the village."

When they arrived, Igor went first
to Lóránt the woodcutter.
"Something got into our henhouse,"
Igor said. "I patched it up as best
I could, but I'm no expert at this.
Would you come fix it for real?"

"Yes, of course," Lóránt said.
"It may take me a few days, though --
you're not the only one losing chickens.
I've seen tracks, a little small for a wolf,
a little big for a fox, so we're not sure what."

"Whenever you can," Igor agreed.
"As long as I'm here, I may as well
pick up some cherry brandy from Dénes
to start making cough syrup for winter.
Swap you a bottle of that when it's done?"

"Deal," Lóránt said happily.
The sawdust often irritated his lungs.

At the brewer's shop, Adam pointed
to the bowl of fruit samples and said, "Sweet."

"He can have some," Dénes said.
"The late blackberries are good."

"Thank you," Igor said, giving Adam
a handful of the berries. "Have you got
any cherry brandy ready to sell?
I'm planning for cough syrup."

Dénes brought out a small wooden crate
with six bottles packed in straw. "Here you go,"
he said. "By the way, keep an eye out.
People are saying there's a thief around,
but no one's managed to catch him yet.
I wanted to warn you, because the last thing
we need is a bunch of hotheads getting
all fired up like they did back in August."

That fiasco had ended with Csilla
getting beaten nearly to death,
and a bunch of fools waving lit torches
over acres of summer-dry fields.

"I appreciate the warning," Igor said
as he paid for the box of brandy.

Jozefa the midwife and
her apprentice Katalin
were happy to listen as Igor
described the symptoms.
Adam sat beside the hearth
and scribbled on the bricks
with a piece of charcoal.

"For the bad days I recommend
yarrow, cranberry, juniper, valerian,
and cramp bark," said Jozefa.
"I've also got a bit of Jamaican dogwood,
but that's imported, it's expensive,
and it's potent enough to be tricky."

"I can afford it," Igor said,
and Jozefa brought out her
Woman's Book of Herbs so that
he could copy the reference
for the unfamiliar herb.

"Katalin, what would you say
for the milder days?" Jozefa prompted.

"Chamomile, raspberry leaf, willow,
ginger, and cinnamon," the girl replied.
"It will taste better than the other tea,
but don't put too much honey in it,
because sugar can make cramps worse."

"Go on and list the foods to avoid,"
Jozefa said. "You should know those too."

"Dairy, red meat, eggs for some people,"
Katalin said. "She should pay attention
to what makes her feel worse. It varies.
Oh, and don't use laudanum -- it can
slow down the body so much that
everything just takes longer to clear out."

"Eat more dark leafy greens, vegetables
and fruits in general, oily fish if she can get it,"
Jozefa said, picking up the counterpoint.
"Squash, peas and beans, nuts and seeds.
Cook with olive oil instead of butter.
Dark chocolate, of course -- not too sweet,
but chocolate is a woman's best friend."

"Vegetables should be no trouble for now,"
Igor said, regretting the butter and eggs
from this morning. They had olive oil,
and a brick of dark chocolate for baking.
He could pay some village boys
to fish for salmon or trout.

"Motherwort makes a good poultice,"
Katalin added. "That will work
even if she's too queasy for tea."

"Good thinking," Igor said.
Victor hadn't mentioned nausea,
but there had been times when
he'd claimed that 'something he ate
must have disagreed with him.'

Jozefa and Katalin packed tins
with the herbs that Igor didn't have
growing in his castle gardens,
while Igor copied recipes that were
different than the ones he knew.

Igor handed over the coins and
collected his packages.
Then he picked up Adam.

The toddler screeched in protest,
wormed out of Igor's grip, and
flung himself to the floor where
he howled and kicked.

Igor flushed, humiliated
by his son's performance.
"I am so sorry about this," he said.

"Oh, just let him flail around
and don't give him any attention,"
Katalin advised. "He'll get tired soon.
Look on the bright side -- at least
he's exercising his legs."

"True," Igor said.

"Sit back down, dear, and have
a cup of tea. We've plenty of mint,"
said Jozefa, patting a chair.

"I'm a terrible parent," Igor muttered.

"Nonsense, you're just a new parent,"
Jozefa said. "This is your first baby, right?"

Igor nodded. "Sometimes I simply
have no idea what to do."

"Everyone feels that way," Jozefa said.
"Next time, try telling Adam before
you get ready to leave. Probably
he just wasn't done with his drawing."

Katalin was right; after a few minutes,
Adam quieted down to sniffles.
"Pick him up now," she suggested.

Igor scooped him up. Adam
hid his face in his father's vest.
Igor was able to finish his tea in peace.

The ride back to the castle was uneventful.
Igor put Adam in his crib for a nap,
then checked on Victor.

"That looks like a lot," Victor said
as Igor unpacked various tins
onto the bedside table.

Igor recited the ingredients
and their instructions. Then he
picked up the bottle of laudanum.
"... and quit taking this, I thought
it was a bad idea but I didn't want
to say anything until I was sure."

"But it helps," Victor whined.
"The only other thing that does is gin!"

Igor rattled the tin of juniper berries.
"Good, then these should work for you."

"Easy for you to say; your body
isn't tying itself into knots."
Victor continued to grumble at him
while Igor pulled the bricks out of bed and
replaced them with fresh hot ones.

Igor mashed up the motherwort
that he'd picked from the garden.
"Lift your shirt," he said gently, and
waited for Victor to bare his belly
so that Igor could place the poultice.
"How does that feel?"

"It's fine," Victor replied.

"I'm going to put the kettle on for tea,"
Igor said. "Which do you want to try first,
the chamomile blend or the yarrow one?"

"Yarrow," Victor said grudgingly.

Igor went downstairs and set up for tea.
Then he went outside to see if the hens
had laid any more eggs -- even if
Victor didn't eat them, Igor and Adam
still could, or they might be traded for fish.

In the henhouse Igor found a naked boy
eating the last shreds of a speckled hen.

He was scrawny, filthy, covered in
mud streaked with chicken blood,
a long cut down the left side of his face,
and he might have been any age
between roughly five and ten.

Igor got only a vague impression of
wild hazel eyes and blond hair
matted with leaves and twigs
before the boy darted past him
and disappeared into the barn.

Well, the barn was a great deal
sturdier than the henhouse.

Igor simply latched the door
from the outside to secure the boy.
There was no need to chase right after
and frighten him even worse.
The barn had apples and carrots,
along with water, and straw for sleeping.

Then Igor went back inside and said
to Victor, "We seem to have another stray."

Victor petted their parti-colored cat, who was
purring on his lap. "Has Woodsmoke
here found herself a husband?"

Igor told him about the naked boy in the barn.

"Thief in the village, hunter in the henhouse,
I think we have our culprit," Victor said.
"I've heard of such things -- a child lost
or abandoned, growing up wild -- sad stories."

"Well, I've no mind to let him go
running off into the woods again,"
Igor said. "Someone might hurt him."

"If we can convince him that there's
shelter and food available here,
he's likely to stick around," Victor said.



Next Igor made tea for Victor,
which made him feel drowsy
but less uncomfortable
and therefore less grouchy.

There was spinach for supper
alongside a fine platter of salmon
caught by one of the village boys,
the kind the locals called lostriţa.

Igor went outside as the full moon
was rising to light the way,
carrying the leftover fish.

He slipped into the barn,
lit the lantern and hung it
securely on its hook.

There was no boy in the barn.
Instead Igor found a half-grown wolf with
tawny fur and a scab on the left of his muzzle.

"Well, you're just full of surprises, aren't you?"
Igor murmured to the cringing cub.

The wolf whined and tried
to creep further under the wagon.
He'd found the pears, at least --
there were several stems and cores
scattered around the floor.

Igor set the fish out of reach,
on top of the grain bins.

Then he moved several bales of straw
into a spare stall, arranging them
to make a cozy little den which
he lined with a spare blanket.
Finally he filled a pan with water
and placed that in the stall.

"There's food here if you're hungry,"
Igor said softly, waving the plate
to waft the smell of salmon
toward the hidden wolf.

There came another whine,
followed by snuffling as
the cub scented the air.

Igor tossed a bit of fish toward him.
The wolf skittered back, then
slunk forward to snatch the morsel.

Igor's slowly growing empathy
gave him a vague sense of
fear and hope emanating
from his unlikely guest.

A few more pieces of salmon,
carefully aimed, helped coax the cub
out from under the wagon and
toward the den in the stall.

Igor set down the plate
and then stepped back
out of the way to wait.

It took a while for the wary wolf
to creep into the stall and
devour the remains of the fish.
He slurped at the water, too.

Then he disappeared into the den,
his presence revealed only by
the pale green gleam of his eyes
reflecting the lantern light.

Igor blew out the lantern
and let himself out of the barn,
latching the door behind him.

"How did it go?" Victor asked
when Igor came back indoors.

"As well as could be expected,"
Igor said. "I made him a bed
and I got him to eat the fish ...
but he's not a boy anymore,
he's a half-grown wolf cub."

"That's unexpected," Victor said.
"I wonder why that happened."

"Because of the moon, perhaps,"
Igor said. "I've heard stories
of werewolves, but I always
thought they were mythical ..."

"Like vampires?" Victor said dryly.
Csilla had been as much of a surprise.

"So it would seem," Igor said.
"I'm just glad he's up here with us,
where it's safer, not robbing the village."

"We can't just keep saying
'he' or 'wolf' forever,"
Victor pointed out.
"He needs a real name."

"Bertolf, there's a nice one,"
Igor suggested as he
tucked Adam in for the night.

"Agreed," Victor said. He still
moved slowly, but managed
to get himself ready for bed.

"You look a little less miserable,"
Igor said, changing his clothes.

"Thank you for taking care of me,"
Victor said quietly. "It's so hard ..."
He waved a hand at his middle.
"... for me to talk about this.
It's humiliating and I hate it."

"I hope we've come far enough
to trust each other with our bodies,
even the horrible bits," Igor said
as he climbed in beside Victor.

"So, what then ... if I let you
take care of this, then you'll let me
take care of your back, without arguing?"
Victor said. "Is that your bargain?"

"I think we could agree to try that,"
Igor said. "I doubt either of us
will be really good at it for a while.
I don't know about you, but I'm ...
getting tired of fighting with my body."

Victor sighed. "So am I," he said.
"Very well, we'll try your idea."

"How are you feeling, really?"
Igor asked, to test the premise.

"Better now," Victor said,
curling around Igor. "You help
more than the warm bricks."

"Whatever it takes," Igor said.
He snuggled against his partner,
grateful that he'd found some ways
of soothing the moon's misery.

* * *

Notes:

The moon time is considered sacred in various traditions. Some females appreciate this; others hate their cycle.

Dysmennorhea covers a range of miserable menstrual problems. There are ways to cope with a heavy or otherwise uncomfortable period.

Brick covers may be made with needlepoint, knitting, crochet, or quilting. Here are instructions and a pattern for making a decorative doorstop. To make a removable cover, I suggest using buttons or velcro.

Adam is 16 months old. At this age, babies can follow simple directions and indicate things by pointing. They enjoy stacking and drawing. They often throw tantrums when upset.

Herbal cough remedies include such things as elderberry, sage and thyme, and cherry.

There are many herbs for treating period problems such as cramps, irritability, and nausea. Raspberry leaf, cramp bark, valerian, Jamaican dogwood, and motherwort are some examples. Helpful nutrients include magnesium, thiamine, and vitamin E. Among the fish available in Romania are tinned sardines and fresh lostriţa.

Tantrums are a typical part of childhood. Know how to cope with them.

Chickens come in many breeds. People keep them in urban and rural settings.

Bertolf looks like this in human form and like this in wolf form.

Werewolves appear in mythology, especially in Transylvania. For this series, I'm drawing heavily on the biology and behavior of natural wolves, but you'll see human influences too.

This is a fancy straw bale doghouse. The shelter Igor built is simpler. Here is a video for building one.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-23 01:36 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Oh, wow! A lot going on in this one.

You absolutely nailed Victor's feelings.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-22 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhodielady-47.livejournal.com
Now that's a good poem.
:^)

Herbal remedies

Date: 2015-10-11 11:13 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
Commenting so I can find it later.

Hmm, so my chocolate chip cookies, made with white and whole wheat flour, chocolate nibs and dark chocolate may actually help. Nibs are high in magnesium! Sugar isn't a problem for me, as long as I don't eat the whole cookie jar full!

Also, fish tonight. :-)

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