ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the April 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [personal profile] corvi, and [personal profile] lynnoconnacht. It has been sponsored by LJ user Ng_moonmoth. This poem belongs to the Valor's Widow thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, after the introductory events of "Valor's Widow."


"The Color of Her Eyes"


Dylan loved Irish for its vocabulary
and English for its grammar.

If you wanted to say something straight,
you said it in English, but if you wanted
to say it slant then you used Irish.

That always made Professor O'Cuinn smile,
when they sat by the fire on a cold raw night
word-cracking like the bards of old.

Dylan had no aspirations of being a bard --
he was a better listener than a speaker --
but he did love the colors.

Oh, there were all the ordinary shades
from bán through liath to dubh,
and the rainbow of dearg to corcra,
but there were so many more beyond that.

You could say bán for plain white,
but irfind was very white and
sorcha meant bright.

You could say dubh and mean black --
or dismal or darkness or swarming with people
(who made you think of smothering shadows) --
and then there was dubhfhocal for enigma,
or dubhachas for depression, the Irish black
where everyone else was blue.

Dearg was red, but also raw, intense, real,
glowing as from a fire or a forge;
rua was not just red but rusty and wild,
while flann was the red-orange of fox fur.

Corcra was purple, shading through
bánchorca for mauve and
liathchorcra for lilac.

There were the colors of combination,
like mbracht for variegated and
alad for piebald.

There were the colors of texture,
like usgdha which meant resinous.

Others referred to quality,
such as sodath for fine-colored
and huath for terrible -- he'd
seen both of those, had Dylan,
hanging from a boy's shoulders
like a cloak of legend.

He hadn't said anything to Ticker,
though, just swept up the ammunition
with a broom and bounced out the hooligan
who'd dared to bring a bolt pistol into his bar,
nevermind how the rounds had just stopped
in midair and fallen to the floor, inert as acorns.

It made Dylan wonder if his ancestors
had seen anything like it, if all the stories
about the Second Sight were ... maybe ...
something more than mere stories.

He had no aspirations of that either;
he was a bartender and, he liked to think,
rather a good one.

Certainly he was good enough
for people to bring him their problems.

They knew, of course,
that Dylan had met Deirdre,
back before anyone ever started
calling her Valor's Widow, but
they didn't know that he had
told her the color of her eyes.

It had happened shortly after
the death of her husband, when
she had come to Ireland to visit
some of her relatives for comfort, and
her restless feet found their way to his bar.

She paid, and he poured, and she told him
the whole story. Presently Deirdre said,
"I think my eyes have changed color."

"That can happen," said Dylan, swiping
a damp cloth over the already-clean counter.
"I haven't seen you before, so it's hard to say."

"They used to be hazel," she said,
staring into an empty glass that
had started out holding whiskey
and after the fifth shot he had
gently but firmly switched to soda.

"They're glas now," Dylan said.

"What does that even mean?"
Deidre asked. "I've seen the color lists,
and it's supposed to be blue or maybe green,
only the dictionary talks about the sea
and it's all just a mess and a muddle."

"I suppose you could say sea-colored, in English,"
Dylan agreed. "It can mean blue or green,
grey or silver or even white, any color
the sea can be. But it's more than that.
It's youth and death and completion."

The lip of the glass chimed softly
as the bottle touched it, filling
the hollow with heather soda.
"It's the color of sorrow."

She gave him a sea-foam smile then,
tears clinging to her eyelashes
like spray at the edge of a wave.
"I suppose that suits."

"Just remember that the sea is
always changing, and may be quiet
but never completely still," Dylan said.

"Some people want me to be quiet,"
said Deirdre, one finger tracing
the rounded rim of the glass.
"Now that Val's gone, it's like ...
nobody wants to hear about him,
it hurts too much to remember.
But I don't want to forget."

"If you want to talk about him,
I'll listen," said Dylan. It was
a rainy Wednesday night, after all,
and the bar was nearly empty
except for Professor O'Cuinn
grading papers in the corner.

So Deidre wet her throat with
the heather soda and began
telling stories, paying them out
like skeins of yarn, soft and colorful.

Dylan listened, grateful for
his cousin Graham's gentle hints
about how to help people say their piece
and how to hear what wanted hearing.

At last the clock tolled midnight
during a lull after the latest tale.
Even the professor had long since
gathered up his papers and gone home.

"You're a good storyteller," Dylan said.

Deirdre yawned. "Thanks. I should
get back to my hotel," she said.
"One more for the road?"

"Meadowsweet and pear,"
Dylan said as he poured.
"Good as a goodnight kiss."

She drank, and she talked,
and he listened.

It was all that he could do
to lift the veil of her sorrow a bit,
but he thought as he watched her
that she seemed more settled now,
so perhaps this was what she had needed.

* * *

Notes:

The Irish language has a long history. Among its interesting features are kennings and a particularly rich color vocabulary.

Read about the Dathogam of colors.

Dubhachas refers to depression but can also be rendered as sadness or sorrow. Know how to help a depressed person or cope with depression of your own.

Celtic tradition speaks of hero-light, which is one form of glowing power. In Terramagne, many superpowers really do give off a visible aura, but it's not always easy to describe with ordinary color terms. Irish is a bit better equipped in this regard than English.

A good bartender is a good listener. Learn how to improve your listening skills.

Stopping bullets is one of the more useful applications of Time Powers.

Second Sight appears throughout Irish lore. This implies that the Celts have always had a higher percentage of superpowers compared to other ethnic groups.

Traumatic grief often includes survivor guilt. That was pretty much inevitable in this case, considering that poor Deirdre had to pull the emergency destruct trigger on her own husband. There are ways to overcome survivor guilt, cope with loss, and support a grieving person. Deirdre's response -- becoming more personally involved in super issues -- is pretty heatlhy.

Glas has a vast range of cultural connotations.

Artisan soda is easy to make at home or in a small brewery. Terramagne just has an awesome selection of soda flavors.

Heather ale is a legend of the Picts that people still talk about and discuss how to brew. Heather requires careful handling, and it has rich connotations of sorrow, solitude, protection, and good luck. Given Terramagne's fascination with brewing soda, it makes sense for them to make heather soda.

Meadowsweet is a marvelous herb whose flowers have a sweet, yeasty fragrance similar to pear blossoms. It can be made into a fizzy beverage or cordial.

Pear soda can be bought or made at home.

Even L-America has a few floral sodas, such as lavender, another herb good for lifting the mood. To me it tastes like soap, but some people like it. I'm more partial to ginger beer myself.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-29 09:46 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Prismatically lovely!

How?

Date: 2015-04-29 10:05 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Could I be homesick for a place I've never been?

Absolutely evocative,and powerful.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-30 03:31 am (UTC)
mdlbear: (rose)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Lovely.

Like you, I'm partial to ginger beer. One of the early SCA's champion brewers used to make an alcoholic one. Simply amazing.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-01 04:30 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
"Glas" = the color of sorrow... I like that. And it fits.

I have a friend who makes home-brewed ginger ale. It's excellent.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-30 03:41 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
I don't think I'd like lavender as a soda, but in a white chocolate mocha? Ohhhhh. One of the coffeehouses here makes a really good one; it's called a Polgara, after the hera of the Dave Eddings novels...

What's the diff in Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale?

I never understood the bit about "the sea is green" until I went to England and saw the Channel from the Brighton Beach... it's definitely *green*. The western Atlantic is the blue we're familiar with; the Caribbean, a lighter blue... and then there's the Gulf Stream. I hadn't believed the colour that registers on the satpic... then I went deep sea fishing, and one moment the water was blue, and the next it was PURPLE. I've no idea why.

Puget Sound is nearly black, not from pollution, but being as it's 900' deep and sharp-sided, which traps almost all the light going in...

Healing cannae be done all in one night, Eb Scrooge notwithstanding, but I think he's got a good start on it....

And of course Irish Gaelic shares roots with Scottish Gaelic... I remember eating at a place in Edinburgh called Dubh Prais (Doov Prash), the Black Pot... the haggis was... unremarkable. The venison, on the other hoof, was worth writing home about!

Thank you!

Date: 2015-04-30 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I don't think I'd like lavender as a soda, but in a white chocolate mocha? Ohhhhh. One of the coffeehouses here makes a really good one; it's called a Polgara, after the hera of the Dave Eddings novels... <<

Cool.

>> What's the diff in Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale? <<

Ginger Beer can be quite a lot stronger, and often has more complex flavors. As I like to put it: "Good ginger beer leaves a pleasant warmth in your mouth and a tingle on your tongue. Great ginger beer atomizes your gullet on the way down." :D We like to get the Jamaican kind that people try to not sell us because we look white.

>> I never understood the bit about "the sea is green" until I went to England and saw the Channel from the Brighton Beach... it's definitely *green*. The western Atlantic is the blue we're familiar with; the Caribbean, a lighter blue... and then there's the Gulf Stream. I hadn't believed the colour that registers on the satpic... then I went deep sea fishing, and one moment the water was blue, and the next it was PURPLE. I've no idea why. <<

It all has to do with how the water interacts with light, the clarity and chop and substrate and sun/angle/cloud cover etc. Complex interactions mean the sea can be a huge range of colors. Glas is a way of saying "as beautiful and treacherous as the sea" in one word. That is also a color.

>>Puget Sound is nearly black, not from pollution, but being as it's 900' deep and sharp-sided, which traps almost all the light going in... <<

Wow.

>> Healing cannae be done all in one night, Eb Scrooge notwithstanding, but I think he's got a good start on it.... <<

Sooth. I have a few poems in this series where a problem comes up and is solved all at once. Far more often, it's like this, each person has a small piece of the solution, and it requires a long time to develop. That's true even for some kinds of hands-on healing, especially with nerves, which are fussy little things to fix.

>> And of course Irish Gaelic shares roots with Scottish Gaelic... <<

So very true.

>> I remember eating at a place in Edinburgh called Dubh Prais (Doov Prash), the Black Pot... the haggis was... unremarkable. The venison, on the other hoof, was worth writing home about! <<

I love venison. I also really like haggis. We got to try some at a Celtic festival. It is a sausagey thing. I like sausagey things. Of course, that includes head cheese, so I'm not really in range of ordinary tastes to begin with.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-04-30 05:29 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
The texture of the haggis I had reminded me of liverwurst, but it wasn't as flavourful. :/

Ok, you like head cheese. White and black puddings?

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-04-30 09:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> The texture of the haggis I had reminded me of liverwurst, but it wasn't as flavourful. :/ <<

Bummer.

>> Ok, you like head cheese. White and black puddings? <<

Haven't had the chance to try those, but I would at least sample them if offered the opportunity.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-01 05:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westrider.livejournal.com
Puget Sound also gets some of that colour because it's cold enough that it doesn't have the kind of thermocline that blue water has keeping the deeper-living microorganisms from coming up to the surface. A lot of the green/grey shades of the water here are related to that.

Yes...

Date: 2015-05-01 06:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Good point about aquatic life.

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