ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was commissioned by [personal profile] rebelsheart to fill the "dragons" square in my 1-1-16 card for the Dark Fantasy bingo fest. It belongs to the series A Conflagration of Dragons. It is the fourth of the Six Poems of the Fall.

Warning: Mass destruction and mayhem.


"the chain of cicada shells"


hot days and short nights
come to the city Kamo
the jewel of the swamp,
its pens full of cows and ducks,
its markets full of merchants

the Hachi go out
to plant rice in flooded fields
tireless workers
breathing the muddy water
tough scales proof against sharp reeds

it is harder now
with the city of Demas
fallen and trade slowed
but they still carry water
and chop green bamboo for blinds

then a shadow falls
over the green rice paddies
and Hachi scatter
dropping their tools and snatching
their small children as they run

Utsusemi comes
her hide dark as hematite
scales clattering like
a chain of cicada shells
bringing a song of sorrow

her black spit sizzles
as her great maw belches clouds
of dark choking smoke
lit by ferocious white flames
like thunderheads without rain

Kamo, the swamp's pride,
is burning like the summer
orange sparks rising
as the dragon gorges on
fat cows and chains of silver

the boiling water
bubbles in the black hen's wake
oil from shattered lamps
spreads over the swamp's surface
and makes a thousand rainbows

Hachi limp away
the river deer run croaking
through the raucous marsh
ducks and geese darken the air
broken flowers float downstream

through the burnt evening
the refugees make their way
those that can still move
streaming from ruined Kamo
under the black wings of night

Hachi don't get cold,
not much, but now they shiver
their thin clothes no match
for savage mountain weather
as they seek their old allies

the stronghold opens
but Hildeburh already
holds far too many
Hachi lie on their straw mats
giving soft thanks for their lives

* * *

Notes:

Tanka is a form of poetry often written with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables per line, but characterized by many other features as well. These may be chained together as verses within a longer poem. Traditional, this form focuses on lovely topics and avoids violence. As a result, it's less graphic than most of the other poems of the Fall, and filled with odd moments of beauty amidst the mayhem. Learn how to write tanka.

Kigo are words with seasonal connotations. They often appear in the tanka form. Here is a list of kigo sorted by the seasons. This poem uses kigo from summer. An interesting technical point is that kigo should progress in chronological order: once a time is marked, kigo from earlier times may not be used in subsequent verses. This poem progresses from mid summer to late summer.

short night (mijikayo, all summer).
hot (atsushi, all summer).
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

rice planting (taue, mid summer).
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

green bamboo blind (aosudare, all summer).
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

green paddy (aota, late summer).
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

cicada (semi): late summer (July) — known for their cries
-- Kigo

The dragon's name, Utsusemi, means "cicada shell." Cicadas are important in Japanese culture, representing death and rebirth.

thunder (kaminari, all summer).
-- Kigo

burning [hot] (yakuru, late summer).
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

rainbow (niji, all summer).
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

river frog (kajika, all summer). Lit. 'river deer'.
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

In this setting, a river deer is an amphibian resembling a musk deer. It grows up to two feet tall, with long legs for running and jumping. It has green skin dappled with black and white, and a malodorous musk gland. Long venomous fangs protrude from the mouth, but these are used primarily for defense, as the river deer feeds on plants, snails, slugs, insects, and crustaceans. Both the musk gland and the venom are harvested by the Hachi for use in various products. Male river deer have a throat pouch with which they sing to attract mates, and it also inflates for alarm calls.

afterglow (yuuyake, late summer). Lit. 'burnt evening'.
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

thin clothes (usumono, late summer).
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

straw mats (takamushiro, all summer). Thin, woven mat.
-- The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words

The Hachi territory consists primarily of wetlands, including marsh (dominated by soft plants) and swamp (dominated by woody plants) areas. Wetlands are often classified by their geologic origin and/or plant communities. Among the plants mentioned in this poem are rice, reeds, bamboo, and straw. Many animals live in wetlands. Featured here are ducks and geese. Know how to navigate a swamp.

Most Hachi cattle resemble the Brahman, a tough breed known for its high tolerance of heat and mud. They also have some water buffalo and a few milk cows.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-03 02:24 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Ooooooh. Interesting style.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-03 05:10 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
*thumbs up*

I like the moments of beauty interspersed in this one. It makes an interesting contrast of mood to some of the others.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-04 03:45 am (UTC)
thnidu: plus sign (plus)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Yes. This captures my reaction too.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-04 01:27 am (UTC)
rebelsheart: Original Concept  by Me (Default)
From: [personal profile] rebelsheart
Excellent

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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