ysabetwordsmith: Victor Frankenstein in his fancy clothes (Frankenstein)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the March 17, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and LJ user Laffingkat. It also fills the "prosperity" square of my 3-6-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] technoshaman. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


On the summer solstice,
the villagers celebrated Sânziene,
a festival to honor the good fairies.

Victor and Igor did not particularly believe
in that kind of superstition, but it was
still fun to join the celebration,
and even Kálmán the priest
turned a blind eye to
the pagan implications.

The beautiful maidens of the village
dressed in white and spent the day
picking wildflowers in the meadows
and weaving them into colorful crowns.

Chief among these was Lady's bedstraw,
used to wrap the horns of cows
so they would give more milk.

Girls wore garlands of flowers
in their flowing hair, and
tossed wreaths over houses
to bless them with prosperity.

More wreaths were floated on the water
where the river that ran down the valley
widened into a vivid blue lake.

Victor and Igor ambled through the square,
buying chocolate-covered plums for each other
and a bear hand-puppet for Adam
that was cleverly made from an old sweater.

A traveling alchemist came to the gate
with a handsome scarlet cart drawn by
a pair of mousy-colored Hucul ponies.
Borbála let the girls of the village crown her with
a wreath of yellow flowers over her black hair.

From the cart she brought out wonders:
felt flowers scented with rose oil for the maidens,
vials of colored liquids that turned to smoke,
twists of tissue paper that went pop!
when flung against the flagstones,
much to the delight of the little boys.

She had fireworks, too, but those
she would only sell to the adults,
no matter how much the boys
begged and pleaded and pestered.

"If those set anyone on fire,"
Victor said to the alchemist,
"I shall be quite vexed with you."

"Everything I sell is perfectly safe
so long as people follow the instructions,"
Borbála said. "Are you an apothecary, then?"

"Physician," Victor said.

"Sometimes surgeon," Igor added,
"various other sorts of science,
and I do a bit of apothecary work myself.
There aren't a lot of specialists around here,
so we have to double up a bit."

From her bodice Borbála brought out
a little silver key and unlocked
another panel on her cart, showing them
an assortment of fine chemicals.

"I don't sell these to uneducated people,"
she warned them, "so shop quickly
before someone decides these are fireworks."

Victor hadn't meant to spend
the little bit of gold he'd brought with him,
but he'd brought it just in case
the holiday attracted a merchant
with something exceptional to sell.

He knew what he had at home
and what he needed, so it only took
a few minutes to make his selections.

Borbála grinned as she put away the coins,
locked the panel back in place, and then
carefully wrapped his purchases in brown paper.

At dusk, several of the farmers made up
an enormous wheel of hay and twigs,
which they intended to light and
roll downhill into the river.

"Let me set it on fire," Borbála offered.
"I can make a real show out of this."

"But we've always done it this way,"
Gyuri protested, waving his torch.

"Then this will be a chance
for something new," Igor said.

"Go on, Gyuri, let her try it,"
Victor said. "If you don't like it,
next year you can do it the old way."

Grumbling a little, Gyuri stepped aside
and let Borbála have the wheel.
She fastened a dozen little tubes
to the sides of the structure,
then quickly lit them with a match.

"Heave away!" she cried,
and the men gave a great shove.

At first nothing seemed to happen,
and the grumbles of dissatisfaction
grew louder, but Borbála
just smirked at them.

Then the rockets went off,
fizzing and whistling as they
threw red and gold sparks
all across the wheel as it rolled.

The round of hay was engulfed
in riotous flames by the time
it reached the river and
snuffed itself in a cloud of steam.

A loud cheer went up from the villagers.

"That was worth a free beer,"
Dénes declared, handing
a large wooden mug to Borbála.

"Another here, please," Victor said,
raising a hand to Dénes.
Then he passed the mug
to a startled Gyuri, saying,
"Thank you for letting Borbála
try her hand on the firewheel."

"Welcome," Gyuri said.

"I want to be an alchemist!" piped Crina,
pulling on Borbála's embroidered skirt.
"I'll make the best fireworks ever!"

"La, now you've done it," said her mother Évike.
"All spring she's wanted to be a scientist,
and now it's alchemy gone to her head."

Borbála just laughed. "When I was her age,
I still wanted to be a blacksmith," she said,
"and the year after that, a glassblower.
There's no telling what she'll decide."

"She'll be a wife and a mother,
like me," Évike said.

"That's what my mother said,"
Borbála reported, "and look
at where I am now."

"Enjoy Crina while you still can,"
Igor advised, bouncing Adam on his hip.
"They don't stay little forever, and she's
young yet to be tossing her garland on the roof
and wishing for a man to come courting."

"You're a wise man, Igor," said Évike,
petting her daughter's flowerless hair.
"I'll take that advice."

Victor and Igor appreciated
the way people would listen to them
and how it helped to smooth over
the inevitable riffles of temper.

That night they stayed with
Dénes and Dorottya, because
it was unlucky for men
to be out after dark on Sânziene
when the fairies might take offense
at being spied upon by them.

Victor thought it was a bit silly,
but he didn't object to the superstition
if it showed how much people
had come to care about them.

* * *


Sânziene is the Romanian Midsummer holiday. People celebrate with flaming wheels, lady's bedstraw, and other customs.

Chocolate-covered plums are a central European festival candy.

Here is a bear puppet made from an old sweater.

Hucul ponies are a Carpathian breed.

The history of fireworks goes back for many centuries.

Girls can be anything when they grow up, but some toys make them restrict their dreams.


Date: 2014-11-24 03:11 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I have to read things in chronological order. Again.

What a hardship.


I can actually imagine Denes and Dorottya talking about which of the pair to ask to stay over, and which of the couple should do the asking, in order to get a more likely agreement. Those two seem /very/ fond of "the physician and his assistant" (to focus on only one way to name their pairing).

I like your whole 'verse; it isn't overly idyllic, or gruesome, dark or romanticized. It's gothic, without being depressing.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-27 02:14 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
twists of tissue paper that went pop!
when flung against the flagstones,

Oh, so nitrogen triiodide is that old, is it? :GRIN:

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2014-12-27 06:50 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Sure it's got commercial value. They still sell Snap'n'Pops today. It's not good for much *more* than making kid-sized noise... but they do sell it.

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2015-01-08 08:44 pm (UTC)
mama_kestrel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mama_kestrel
A chemist friend of mine used it to paint his lab bench at night to train the cats not to jump up there. He said it took 2 nights; after that they left the lab work surfaces strictly alone.

He also had reagent jars labelled "Zn, granular", "Zn, mossy", and "Zn, kitchen". The last bottle contained a miniature kitchen sink. :)

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2017-06-05 11:41 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
I suspect they use something else for those. What, I'm not sure, but there's no trace of the rather distinctive coloring that nitrogen iodide would leave behind.

There are quite a lot of possible compounds. Silver or copper acetylide, for example.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-24 03:05 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (smiley)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
but he didn't object to the superstition
if it showed how much people
had come to care about them.

Oh, YES!

Thank you!

Date: 2014-11-24 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked this. There is some fun interplay between science and superstition in this series, and people nudging at each other's beliefs.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-24 04:02 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
*nods* cheers to both Kamlan for not raising a fuss and Victor for actually helping... and Igor has certainly learnt to speak his own mind, which is a happy thing.


Date: 2014-11-24 04:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
They're all growing together, each in their own way.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-25 04:28 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-22 04:02 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I love it when people are good to each other, and good for each other, if that makes sense.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 02:45 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] torc87
Oh interesting, the details and location in this one really made me think about the timing and era.

For some reason the journey priest, traveling merchants, and horses made me think of the setting as more 14-1600s. Small village, no city nearby.

Except then I saw chocolate covered plums and was - chocolate? Has it already reached common use? And then the details like Physician and cufflinks finally stood out and , yeah, it's way later than I was picturing it all.

Which makes sense since -Frankenstein - but funny how bc it's not set in a city w cars and electricity it feels older. Our modern way of life is such worlds apart from even 150 yrs ago. Just highlighted it for me a lot.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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