ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the January 6, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] janetmiles, [personal profile] stardreamer, and [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "frenemy" square in my 12-30-14 card for the Rites of Passage fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics, and it's a direct sequel to "In Dublin's Fair City."

"Leaves from the Ashes"

In the murky light of Irish morning,
sober heads prevailed (partly because
the less-sober ones were too hungover
to raise any more hell) and people began
to clean up the mess left over from
celebrating (or protesting) the Reunification.

It was not, strictly speaking,
Backdraft's responsibility any more
now that Dublin was no longer
trying to burn itself to the ground.

He made the rounds anyhow,
because it had felt strangely satisfying
to pretend to be a hero for one night.

Backdraft made sure that the fires
were really out, or if they still smouldered,
he curled his power around them
to snuff out the last embers.

He checked the buildings
for the kind of structural damage
that he could sense, like brick or metal
heated too high to remain stable (especially
in buildings nearby those that had burned
but with no visible damage themselves)
and conveyed this information to
the relevant authorities.

He picked up loose blocks and stones
that had fallen from walls, returning them
to their proper places as if he could
build a future brick by brick.

There was nothing Backdraft could do,
though, for the gardens around
the buildings gutted by fires,
nor the median strips and corner plots
ravaged by flames from that one smash-up.

Sadly he touched the side of a stone church
which was mostly intact, black flakes falling away
from what had once been a thriving coat of ivy.

There was nothing he could do,
but he knew someone else
who might be enticed to help.

"Come on," Backdraft wheedled, dodging
another vine as it swiped at him. "Quit trying
to tie me up and just listen for once!
I'm not asking for a permanent truce,
just want you to come do what you do
and help the plants recover from some fires."

Green Man muttered and snarled at him.
"Want me to help the bloody Taigs," he said.

"Not the people, the plants," Backdraft said
for about the fifteenth time. "I've had
enough of the Irish myself, but well --
you'd weep to see the gardens so burned.
I nearly have myself."

He'd learned about the importance of
keeping it simple and repeating the main ideas.

It wasn't Green Man's fault that the mysterious stag
who had given him superpowers had more-or-less
broken his mind in the process. Now he had
good days and bad days (and this clearly
was not one of his better days).

"There was this old church covered in ivy,
only now all the leaves are burnt away,"
Backdraft said. "I think that the vines
might have survived, but I don't know
for sure or whether they need help
and I can't fix them myself."

"I will restore the ivy," Green Man declared.

"Oh, thank god," said Backdraft.

He guided the other supervillain to
the damaged church, where Green Man
laid his hands on the charred vines and
made them whole again, verdant leaves
slowly unfurling from the ashes.

From there they went to the site of the smash-up
(where Backdraft had to distract Green Man
from the mangled wreckage of the cars)
and worked to heal the trees and bushes
that grew beside the street.

There had been flowers, too, but
Green Man shook his head over those
and called the annuals a total loss.

Instead he replaced them with tough perennials:
swaths of red clover and yellow cowslip
dotted with yarrow and meadowsweet,
harebell and forget-me-nots.

When the work was done,
Green Man nodded in satisfaction
and patted Backdraft on the chest.
Then he stepped into a nearby oak
and disappeared.

Caught by a wink of color,
Backdraft looked downward
and was bemused to discover
a single green carnation in his buttonhole.

* * *


Know how to clean up after a fire by yourself or with help.

Ashes serve as fertilizer, hence the rejuvenating effects of wilderness fires which cause fresh growth.

Taig is an extremely rude term for Irish people.

Traumatic Brain Injury covers a wide range of damage from mild concussion to penetrating injuries. Its one of the conditions I use as a reference point for Green Man because the symptoms match, and there aren't resources in our world for metaphysical injuries. People with TBI often have behavioral impairment such as feeling overloaded or angry, plus difficulty getting organized. There are tips on what brain injury survivors want you to know and what they need to hear. For Backdraft, this is a lot like dealing with PTSD in the family, because the aftermath of trauma can affect a lot more than just the original victim. They may not get along great, but Backdraft interacts with Green Man a lot and knows him pretty well, so Backdraft is becoming one of the people who buffers for Green Man in dealing with strangers or outside issues.

Ivy is common in Dublin. People have mixed feelings about its practicality and aesthetics.

Many Irish wildflowers are suitable for roadside use. Learn more about cowslip, forget-me-not, harebell, meadowsweet, red clover, and yarrow. The clover is there explicitly because it's a nitrogen fixer, which will feed the other plants. He may be a bit kicked in the head, but Green Man is still pretty functional when it comes to green growing things. It may not be quite a guild that he laid down, but it is a tough, useful, and attractive little garden.

Restoring a yard or garden after a fire can be a challenge, due to things like compaction and chemical contamination.

A green carnation is an Irish symbol of homosexuality. One key difference between these guys is that Backdraft is serious about his identity, while Green Man tends to view homosexuality as a fling.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-13 11:40 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Ladybug, of Miraculous fame, with a rainbow Pride background (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
Garden sounds pretty.

I love this

Date: 2015-01-14 02:42 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It's an oddly gentle story, especially given the implied events which surround it (and the history between Backdraft and Green Man).

The green carnation is for me bittersweet... I think I'm reading into the interaction a bit more of Green Man trying to reach out and connect. It might have even been meant as an apology.

You've actually touched upon why the most-often invoked "nutcase" black cape is Haboob, rather than Green Man--even other villains understand more of the differences between zealot and brain damage. TBI means they say "crazy" for Green Man, but "effin outrageous lunatic" (or worse) for Haboob.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-14 07:26 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Now he had
good days and bad days (and this clearly
was not one of his better days).

Ouch. Reminds me of the roommate who went crazy. I'm glad Backdraft has the patience to deal with him in this mood.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-13 11:54 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (smiley)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
I love the last stanza. Especially.


Date: 2015-01-13 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm happy to hear that. It's one of the rare hints that Backdraft means more to Green Man than Green Man is usually capable of recognizing or expressing.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2015-01-14 02:18 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (taliesin)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Ooooooooh. Subtle!

Green Man the archetype is Saxon, not Celtic? (Obviously the soup is...)

Re: Yay!

Date: 2015-01-14 02:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Green Man the soup has relatives in Britain. Green Man the archetype is spread over much of Europe.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-15 04:02 am (UTC)
callibr8: Mount Adams from Trout Lake Abbey (TroutLake)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
Sneaky Backdraft! Well played, sir.

Especially liked the replacement plant choices, and the carnation. :-)


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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