ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the June 17, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [personal profile] janetmiles, and [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "skeletons in the closet" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"Sign of the Cross"


Spring freed the roads
from their icy prison,
and now travelers came
to the village occasionally.

Sometimes they brought
news or trade goods
or other useful things.
Sometimes they brought trouble.

Victor and Igor kept an eye out
because they, too, had once
been travelers and knew
what it could be like --
and that not everyone abroad
was as sensible as themselves.

The itinerant priest wore robes
a little too fine for his station
and a large silver crucifix set
with lumpy freshwater pearls.

He preached in the village square
instead of the church proper
where Kálmán presided, and
so long as he caused no problems
the people tolerated him even though
they preferred Kálmán's style.

Their patience began to wear thin
when the stranger frowned upon
Katalin and Ilona, speaking against
the sins of harlotry and arrogance.

It snapped like a dry twig
when the priest spied Victor and Igor
and began a sermon about
Sodom and Gomorrah.

"That will be enough of that,"
Kálmán said, striding through the crowd.

Victor winced and began backing away,
pulling Igor along with him.
He didn't want trouble, and he knew
from painful experience how bad
this sort of situation could get.

All he had to do to stop it,
of course, was reveal his body,
and then the priest would have
no grounds to keep yammering about
"If a man also lie with mankind,
as he lieth with a woman."

All he had to do was lie.

It didn't matter to Victor that
his body would do all the convincing;
to him it was falsehood made flesh
and he could not bear to have
people think of him as a woman.
For what man ever could?

Heartsick, he looked at Igor,
and found only love and acceptance.

"Respect the sign of the cross!"
the stranger said to Kálmán.

"I am the sign of the cross
in this village," Kálmán replied,
showing his own emblem
carved from plain rosewood.

"And you consort with
harlots and sodomites?"
the wanderer sneered.

"The Bible says that our Lord
consorted with thieves and lepers,"
Kálmán said. "I think that makes
His position on outcasts abundantly clear."

Backing up, Victor bumped into Dénes.
"Please stay," the brewer said to him.

Victor was shaking, and Adam
clinging to Igor's shoulder
started to fuss at all the tension.

Artúr, always a troublemaker,
threw a horse turd at the rude stranger,
smudging the fabric of his holy robes.

"Here now!" Kálmán barked.
"Stop acting like ruffians. Imre, come
and show our guest back to the road."

The crowd made a path
for the blacksmith as he
led the itinerant priest away,
with no more than a few shoves
and muttered curses on the way.

Dorottya was soothing
Katalin and Ilona,
the former in tears
and the latter furious.

Victor and Igor were clinging
to each other for comfort,
with Adam between them.

Dénes kept a supportive arm
around Victor's shoulders.
"Don't mind that fool," he said.
"We know who our friends are, and
we don't care how you keep your house."

"I don't like these dangerous strangers,"
Kálmán said. "Best keep an eye out
in case someone makes more trouble.
Something tells me that there is
more going on than we've seen yet."

Bálint brought the wagon around,
and Victor could see that
someone had loaded it
with the supplies they needed.

"You seemed upset, so I thought
you might want to head home early,"
Bálint said as he offered the reins.
"I know you're not much for crowds."

Victor tried to thank him,
but the words caught
like a bone in his throat.
His secret was safe,
but it left a deep ache inside
that no reassurance could salve.

"That's very kind of you,"
Igor said, taking the reins.
He passed Adam to Victor
and soon they were on their way.

Victor leaned against Igor
all the way home, and
Igor cuddled him close.

Awful as it was to have
a body that didn't fit him,
having friends and family
who would stand by him
made it a little more bearable.

* * *

Notes:

Religion in Romania favors the Romanian Orthodox Church, and here's a picture of one priest. This is a good example of central European practices.

Crosses and crucifixes may be simple or ornate. I couldn't find a good jeweled one, so imagine something like this but with freshwater pearls added at the ends where the leaves are. Pearls are among the precious gems mentioned in the Bible, and thus often used in sacred decorations.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often used in homophobic attacks.

Homophobia has deep roots and history. This is especially true within the Christian church, although some Christians push back. There are ways to stop being homophobic, fight homophobia, and be a straight ally.

"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
-- King James Bible, Leviticus 20:13

This article is vicious, but it exemplifies how some people believe that transgender people are lying when they express their gender identity. Actually transgender people feel they are lying when they pretend to be the gender of their body, not their gender identity; plus it is often a survival issue or even a legal obligation for them. Victor doesn't want anyone to know about his female body, because he hates the dishonesty of presenting or being treated as a woman.

Rosewood is a traditional material for crosses and other religious emblems. Kálmán wears a small, plain cross that matches the larger inlaid one in the church.

The Bible contains many examples of Jesus consorting with undesirable people. Some Christians use this as inspiration for befriending outcasts themselves.

Know how to help an upset friend.

Keeping secrets is a complex issue. Disclosure has benefits, but also risks which explain why people keep secrets in the first place. Secrets and lies have their own advantages, but can be hazardous to health. Understand whether to tell, when to tell, and how to tell a secret. It's also important to know how to keep a secret. For Victor, keeping the secret of his body is uncomfortable, but he's has some very painful experience in how dangerous it can be if other people find out how he looks under his clothes.

still beautiful

Date: 2014-06-21 04:36 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I'm so glad that Kalman is the one to confront the itinerant "preacher"-- and something is definitely off about his manner of dress and very, very expensive cross.

Re: still beautiful

Date: 2014-06-21 05:00 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Will we see more of him in this universe? (hint, hint, hinty-type hint!)

Re: still beautiful

Date: 2014-06-22 08:24 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Trying to live as Jesus did is /hard/. As a Christian, I'm trying my best. I know I'm not anywhere near where I need to be, but I'm taking it one day, sometimes one second, at a time. I know my flaws, and it was hard enough to admit to them, but now comes fixing them. I only hope God gives points for effort.

Re: still beautiful

Date: 2014-06-22 11:16 pm (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Yes.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-22 08:29 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
This was hard to read. I really felt for Victor. I'm very pleased with Kalman and the other villager's reactions, though. It gives me hope.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-30 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh.

I am so glad that Kalman stood up to his beliefs (and for his community) and that people were supportive (both of Victor and Igor, and of Katalin and Ilona). I also very much liked it that Kalman ensured that the itinerant was simply escorted out of the vilage. That could have been far, far messier...

~Anony-mouse

Oh the irony

Date: 2017-03-07 04:39 am (UTC)
bairnsidhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bairnsidhe
I always get a wry chuckle when Sodom and Gomorrah are brought up in the homosexuality arguments, because do you know what they were destroyed for?

Being bad hosts.

The towns did not offer adequate hospitality to people wandering in the desert, breaking the sacred duty of all people to help travelers. Every ancient faith in that area had that one, and Sodom and Gomorrah were smote down because they poked fun at other faiths by offering sex with their women (which increased their DNA pool and only benefitted them) before water or food. That was selfish and bad of them to do, xenophobia masked as fetishizing xenophillia, so they got slammed. This nut of a priest is quoting a story who's moral is "it makes God mad when you treat people like shit for being different" to justify... treating people like shit for being different.

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