ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was commissioned by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "grief" square in my 7-31-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"My Tears in Your Bottle"


Well-fed at last, Csilla recovered rapidly from
the injuries she had suffered at the hands of Artúr.

"Today is Saturday," Victor said as he watched Adam
spread porridge on the kitchen table with his spoon.
"You should come with us to the village market, and
replace the belongings that you lost in the fire."

"I have nothing to repay your kindness, let alone more,"
Csilla said, shaking her head. "I do not wish to be in debt."

"Nonsense," Igor said. "Your saliva alone is better
than most of the drugs that we have in our pharmacy.
It cleans, numbs, and heals. Agree to help us at need,
and I will happily buy you new clothes and supplies."

"I had not thought of it that way," Csilla admitted.

"Well, I have," Igor said, mopping up Adam's porridge.
"My back prefers you to the laudanum."

So they all rode down to the village together,
the reins smooth and steady in Victor's hands.
Igor took Csilla to see the old lady who sold used clothes,
while Victor shopped around for things to eat and drink.

"What's this I hear about you brewing berries?"
Victor asked, clapping Dénes on the shoulder.
Dénes burbled happily about bilberries, brandy,
and summer wine that should be ready in a few months.
Victor resolved to buy a bottle as soon as it came out.

They were all shopping for household goods when
Victor realized that Csilla was weeping silently.
"Is something wrong?" he asked with a touch at her elbow.

"Józsua," she said, fingering the carved hilt of a knife.
"He made things like this. He died in the fire."

Kálmán came up on Victor's other side.
"I couldn't help noticing your friend's distress,"
the priest said. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"She lost her people in a fire recently," Victor explained.

Kálmán laid a gentle hand on Csilla's shoulder, saying,
"Come to the church. It's quiet today. You can rest there."

They put Csilla between them to keep her from the crowd,
while Igor followed with Adam balanced on his hip.
The church was silent inside, beams of colored light
falling from the stained-glass windows into the aisles.

Victor helped Csilla settle into one of the pews
while Kálmán went to fetch something from a cabinet,
coming back with a wooden box which he handed to Igor.

"Look, Adam, it's Baby Jesus and his family," Igor said.
"Do you remember the names of everyone else in that story?"

"Mary," said Adam, picking up a wooden figure in a blue robe.
"Joseph. Angel. Treewisemen. Camel. Sheep. Cow."
One at a time he put them in the stable, then took them out.

Victor was at a loss for what to do, but the priest was not.
Kálmán sat by the grieving vampire and held her, saying,
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding
is beyond measure. The Lord helps the afflicted but
brings the wicked to the ground. Sing unto the Lord
with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God."

Csilla leaned into Kálmán as he recited from memory.
Then she replied, "You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?"

"So they are," the priest agreed. "You may have lost
your people, but you need not be alone. You have us now."

It was strange for Victor to think of the church as a refuge,
but there was Csilla taking comfort from Kálmán,
while Adam and Igor played with a crèche on the carpet.
Victor could hardly believe that Kálmán kept one for children
to play with, along with the fancy ceramic one for display.

Igor had given Csilla his blood, and received empathy in return.
They cared for her injuries and grief, and she bound them closer.
Like Kálmán, she was a gold thread in an altar cloth, uniting everything.

* * *

Notes:

Emotional trauma often results from surviving a disaster such as Csilla did. Recovering from trauma tends to go through stages; we've seen her go through shock and fear in previous poems before reaching sadness in this one. Know how to cope with traumatic events or help someone after them.

Grief can be triggered by reminders of a lost person or home. There are ways to deal with your grief and to comfort a grieving friend.

Village churches tend to be small and simple, like this one in Romania. The interior may have nice furnishings, but not usually the ostentatious decorations of a big city church.

A crèche set features figures from the nativity story, most often used as Christmas decorations. This handmade set combines simple wooden shapes with vivid painting using central European motifs, safe for children to play with. Mary is traditionally portrayed in blue and white, so just imagine that the shepherdess is her.

Adam is 14 months old in August. He likes practicing his grip by picking things up and arranging them -- toddlers love sorting play, along with putting things in and out of containers. While he's still using single words, he has a bigger vocabulary than typical for his age. That's because his daddies talk all the time, from everyday things to science stuff, and they also read to Adam a lot. There are many ways to boost toddler vocabulary, including some fun activities.

(Quoted phrases below are not counted for purposes of pricing.)


3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD helps the afflicted but brings the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:
-- The Bible, Psalm 147

"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?"
-- The Bible, Psalms 56:8

Throughout the world's spiritual traditions, it is the job of a priest to give comfort to grieving people. Kálmán has memorized the Bible well enough to quote or paraphrase it based on whatever is distressing someone. He is also good with contact comfort and other practical steps, like finding a private place for people to fall apart.

Grieving

Date: 2014-08-24 03:27 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
is a kind of comfort; I honestly wasn't expecting Kálmán to fall back on the ritualized, Biblical quotes which would apply-- but they're especially apropos, given what you've implied about Csilla. That she still connects /through/ those words, well, it says a lot about her own colony and their interactions with neighbors, at the very least, and could imply that they had their own priest as well.

Lastly-- Adam and his "treewisemen" is just /adorable/, a single note of sweet/cute/innocent that leavens the more serious parts of the poem.

I honestly love it. Thank you.

Re: Grieving

Date: 2014-08-24 04:00 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It reminded me of the deeper meaning of the phrase, "House of G-d"-- one of my favorite spiritual leaders made the parallels obvious, and asked if everyone was /comfortable/ visiting in the front "company" parlor, or if they'd feel closer if they sat in the kitchen, or the den, or maybe on the back porch looking out at the roses.

I just tried to picture Victor dealing with /any/ crying adult and.... It's so hard not to laugh at the stiff, straight posture and the barely-close-enough-to-touch hand patting once, very awkwardly, on someone's shoulder. The poor man would PROBABLY do better if one of the five- to eight-year-old kids ran to him crying, but BARELY. /HE/ is the guy who would distract a crying eight-year-old with a graphic description of the process of suturing their injured arm, complete with squicky details and completely unperturbed by how /fascinated/ kids that age are by the /gross/ or the /strange/, especially as defined by their adults and older siblings!

Yeah, some of that is his innate personality, but it also reflects and /unfamiliarity/ with meeting those needs, or in having them /met/. Remind me when I'm feeling grouchy, to give his birth family a very sharp virtual kick in the pants.

Re: Grieving

Date: 2014-08-24 05:49 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
YUP, nailed it!

Our car broke down today, long story short, I am frustrated and out of spoons. So what do I work on? A piece for your Frankenstein verse, which /determinedly/ became fiction rather than demifiction, and introduces the local grouchy-old-woman who snarks about /everything/.

It's not going up for tomorrow's demifiction-- it actually needs warnings for mentions of crappy-life-events and a 'this personality is all sharp edges; handle with caution' label!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-24 03:59 am (UTC)
thnidu: S P INFINITY N L E SECTION-SIGN; by me (spoonless)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Very fine. (I'm too tired now to write any original comments, but I agree completely with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-25 03:36 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
It occurs to me that the best priest characters I know are written by people who are not of their religion.... Don Candido and Kálmán, and Brother Theo Ankises and Rev. Will Dexter (JMS is a card-carrying atheist... which, interestingly, means that *all life* is sacred to him).

*frowns* It *also* occurs to me that there are probably books on the subject of counseling that are either written without too much theology involved, or are from something of a universalist perspective... and that you might know what they are?

Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-25 03:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> It occurs to me that the best priest characters I know are written by people who are not of their religion.... <<

Fascinating.

>> Don Candido and Kálmán, <<

I really am having fun contrasting these two. Both of them serve in small rustic villages, but their personalities are so different. Don Candido is a hothead, while Kálmán is very mellow.

>> and Brother Theo Ankises and Rev. Will Dexter (JMS is a card-carrying atheist... which, interestingly, means that *all life* is sacred to him). <<

Works for me.

>> *frowns* It *also* occurs to me that there are probably books on the subject of counseling that are either written without too much theology involved, or are from something of a universalist perspective... and that you might know what they are? <<

I can't think of any straight-up counseling books that I have found useful. What I know -- and people have repeatedly said my literature is better than what they've gotten from professional counselors -- has come from personal experience, observation, and reading a lot of different articles. My go-to communication book is The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. Best emotional care is Johnson's Emotional First Aid. I think some of my wedding handbooks have a little bit on prenuptial counseling but I don't remember which.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-22 04:51 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Beautiful.

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