ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the February 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] daisiesrockalot, [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [livejournal.com profile] wyld_dandelyon, and Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "You've Got a Friend" square in my 2-1-17 Love Songs card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"To Feel Your Bare Feet"


Charles sat on a wooden bench
under the shade of a palm tree and
listened to the happy shrieks of children
as they played under the watchful eyes
of the playground nanny.

Here and there, parents dotted
the scene, most of them clad in
the traditional Maldivian dress of
a loose shirt over a sarong.

Charles was trying to blend in,
really he was -- he wiggled his feet
in their flip-flops to feel the soft white sand
that padded the ground -- but he wasn't
up to wearing a skirt yet.

He checked to make sure that Samuel
was still happily engaged in crawling
in and out and around the base of
the colorful plastic toddler slide.

His son blew a raspberry at him
and then went back to stacking
several seashells into a pile.

Charles returned to toiling over
the godawful Dhivehi grammar-dictionary
that he had found in a tourist shop. If
he was going to live here, then he
needed to learn the languages.

Samuel's sudden wail
jolted Charles out of his book.

Before he could make it across
the foot-sucking sand of the playground,
however, a Muslim man dressed all in
flowing white clothes had scooped up
the crying toddler and bounced him
gently and expertly on one hip, making
soothing sounds as he checked
Samuel for any injuries.

By the time Charles got there,
Samuel had quit crying and was
mouthing a plastic pen clipped
to the stranger's pocket.

As Charles watched in horror,
the blue plastic changed to pure gold.

"There now, nothing but a little bump,"
the stranger said to Samuel. "Here is
your bappa. Let him see that you are fine."
He held out the toddler toward Charles,
who took him and clung to him.

"Your first?" the older man said gently.
There was silver in his dark hair, and
the indigo trim on his clothes winked
with gold thread, giving him an air
of dignity despite his easy manner.

That openness startled Charles,
because from what he had seen,
Muslims tended to be reserved.
It left him embarrassed by
the unexpected intimacy.

"Yes," he admitted. "We just
moved here too. Please forgive
any offenses we may make."

"He is a toddler and you are
new here," the man said. "You will
both discover that tumbles are part of
learning, and nothing to fuss over."

"Thank you," Charles said, trying
to slow down his galloping heartbeat.
"I'm Charles, and this is Samuel."

"I am Feyru," the man said. "There,
my son Ahi --" He pointed to a toddler
near Samuel's age. "-- and my daughter Nika."
The girl, who looked around seven or eight,
was shinnying up the trunk of a tree.
"They are the light of my life."

"Yeah," Charles said, tucking
his chin over his son's head.
"Samuel is mine too."

"I hope that we will see you
again at the playground," said Feyru.

"Maybe," Charles hedged. It was
dangerous to take Samuel out of
the house, in ways he couldn't explain;
but on the other hand, he knew that
keeping the boy shut up indoors
was not only cruel but crippling.

With a sigh, Charles lowered
Samuel to the ground, but the boy
had turned skittish and clingy after
whatever accident he'd had.

Great. Charles was lonely,
cut adrift from his old friends,
and now it was beginning
to rub off on his kid, too.

"It's hard to make friends in
a new place, isn't it?" said Feyru.
"Let's see if I can help a little."
He raised his voice and called,
"Ahi, come over here."

The little boy ran to hug
his father, getting beige dust
all over the pristine white clothes.

"Ahi, this is Samuel," said Feyru.
"He just moved in to our neighborhood.
Can you show him our playground and
toys so he'll feel more welcome here?"

Ahi nodded, then promptly dashed away
to return lugging a basket of driftwood.
He lilted something in Dhivehi that
Charles could not even begin
to follow, let alone reply to.

How the language could sound
so sweet in the ears, but then
turn to marbles in the mouth,
Charles had no idea, and
it was driving him nuts.

The children didn't seem
to care, though. They just
dumped the driftwood out of
the basket like so many blocks.

Samuel toddled under the slide
and brought out the seashells
that he'd been playing with earlier.

Nika slid down from the tree
in a shower of bark chips and
came to join them. She held out
two dolls, both clad in blue dresses,
the boy doll only distinguished from
the girl doll by his hat and her headscarf.

Neither had any facial features, which
Charles found creepy, but their owner
didn't seem to care about that.

"This is Aliyah," Nika said,
pointing to the girl doll, "and
this is Omar. You can play
with him if you want to."

Samuel took the offered doll,
cuddled him for a moment, then
plonked him on the sand and began
building a beach house for him.

"That looks like fun," said Feyru.
"Could I play too?"

Samuel patted the sand.

Without hesitation, Feyru
kicked off his leather sandals
and sat down in the sand
beside the children.

The soft coral sand was
barely a few shades darker
than the snow-white fabric.
Charles surreptitiously slipped
a foot out of his shoe to play in it.

"And forget not that the earth delights
to feel your bare feet and the winds
long to play with your hair," Feyru said,
sounding like he was quoting something.
"Won't you sit down and join us?"

Ahi was trying to make a pavilion
from his father's shirttail. Feyru
chuckled and handed him a hankie.

Charles looked at the little family
and realized that maybe the Muslims
weren't so stuffy after all. Maybe he
just hadn't gotten to know them yet.

Besides, that sand looked so inviting.

"Okay," he said. He set aside
his sandals so they wouldn't poke him
in the butt, then crossed his legs
and sat down in the sand.

It was more fun than he remembered
from playing in sandboxes as a boy.
The driftwood was silky in his hands,
polished free of splinters, the seashells
rough on the outside and slippery inside.

He remembered one thing, though.

Holding a conch shell to Samuel's ear,
he said, "Listen, and you can hear the sea."

Samuel's boyish squeal of delight
completely drowned out the surf.

A large leaf drifted down,
and Ahi blithely crawled over
Charles in pursuit of it.

The faint, warm pressure
was more contact than Charles
had gotten from anyone except
Samuel in weeks. He missed
being able to flop on the couch
with his buddies and watch
bad movies all evening long.

Feyru took out his pen to provide
the pole for a beach umbrella,
only to pause and frown over it.

Charles fought down an urge
to snatch Samuel and run like hell.

"Hm. I thought I had the blue pen
today," Feyru said. "I must've
picked up the wrong one."

Charles heaved a sigh of relief.

Maybe Samuel's ability would be
easier to conceal than he thought.
Just let people make up explanations
of their own, then smile and nod.

They couldn't last forever without
making friends, Charles realized, and
something about Feyru made him
want to trust the older man.

If nothing else, a father was
unlikely to kidnap and sell a boy
the same age as his own son.

They played until a bell rang, marking
the sun's progress past the zenith point.

"It is time for us to pray," Feyru said,
"and for you, perhaps time for lunch?"

"Hungry," Samuel said to
Charles, right on cue.

"Lunch it is," Charles said.

"Will you come back?" Nika asked
as she picked up her dolls.

Feyru gave him a hopeful look,
but did not press Charles further.

Charles thought about how nice it was
to feel your bare feet in the sand
and to relax with friends.

"Inshull,"
Charles said, because he
had learned that Muslims never spoke
about plans without saying that first,
"we will come again tomorrow."

"Insha'Allah, we will see you then,"
Feyru replied, clasping his hand warmly.

* * *

Notes:

Huraagey Feyru Gadahamaanthi -- He has toffee skin, brown eyes, and dark hair starting to turn silver. He has a round face and slightly padded body. Huraagey is his surname, Feyru is his personal name, and Gadahamaanthi is an ancient title. His children include an older girl, Nika; and a toddler boy, Ahi. Feyru loves his family, but sometimes they make it difficult for him to sleep. He is a professor of Maldivian culture who has a growing interest in social exchanges with other cultures. He makes friends with Charles and Samuel.
Qualities: Master (+6) Professor of Maldivian Culture, Expert (+4) Interpersonal Intelligence, Expert (+4) Trustworthy, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Insomnia

Huraagey Nika -- She has toffee skin, brown eyes, and black hair past her shoulders. She is seven years old. Her surname is Huraagey and her personal name is Nika. She is the daughter of Huraagey Feyru Gadahamaanthi and older sister of Ahi. Rambunctious and gregarious, she makes friends easily but isn't as good at ladylike manners. Nika makes friends with Charles and Samuel.
Qualities: Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Friendly, Good (+2) Generous
Poor (-2) Decorum

Huraagey Ahi -- He has toffee skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He is two years old. His surname is Huraagey and his personal name is Ahi. He is the son of Huraagey Feyru Gadahamaanthi and younger brother of Nika. Biddable and pleasant, Ahi already shows a stong affinity for Muslim life. While he loves to play, he doesn't have much dexterity yet, thus prefers toys which can be grasped with the whole hand. He makes friends with Charles and Samuel.
Qualities: Good (+2) Obedient, Good (+2) Moslem
Poor (-2) Dexterity

* * *

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
-- Kahlil Gibran

The above quote comes from the book The Prophet, which you can read online for free. It has also been turned into a gorgeous movie.

This is the neighborhood playground where Charles and Samuel live.

Loose parts can be any bunch of objects small enough for children to carry around and play with. Playgrounds in Terramagne-America often have blocks or other toys for rent. In T-Maldives, the loose parts usually consist of natural stuff that someone picked up on the beach. When you go shelling, you wind up with a collection like the basket of shells that Samuel plays with. Similarly, collecting driftwood leads to a set of "beach blocks" like the basket of driftwood which Ahi shares. Seashells and driftwood also make fantastic materials for beach crafts that many children enjoy. The process of gathering fun items, playing with them for a while, and then using them in craft projects will ensure an ever-changing array of options so that children don't get bored with a static toybox.

Maldivian attire has changed considerably over time. Dhivehi dress, such as the mundu or sarong for men, is popular. (It is not a skirt, but to many western men, anything without a crotch seam is a skirt or a dress.) Islamic modesty varies across different branches of the faith.Modern Maldivian practice generally treats children tolerantly until puberty, when they are treated as young men or women. Very young children are not expected to understand modesty at all; parents typically begin teaching that around age seven, when children start understanding rules. So little girls cover their bodies but not their hair, and this distinguishes them from sexually mature females. (The local-Earth trend toward dressing young girls in hijab distresses many Muslims.) In T-Maldives, modest dress is expected in residential and other Muslim areas as well as formal spaces. Dress codes for tourist areas are more relaxed, and resorts vary widely because the rules for a private island are largely set by the owner(s). So Moslem-owned resorts require more modesty while others are looser and some foreign establishments can be downright licentious.

Learning Dhivehi requires studying the writing system, grammar, and vocabulary. This online phrasebook includes sound files. Bappa means "father" or "daddy."

Due to the custom of aniconism, which advises them to avoid making images of ensouled beings, some Muslims prefer dolls without faces such as this Muslim girl doll and Muslim boy doll. Inevitably some other people are going apeshit over this. Yet Waldorf or Steiner dolls are customarily made faceless (as in this baby bunting doll and mommy doll with babies) or with minimalist features (like these baby dolls and girl dolls) so as to encourage more imagination because they do not impose a static expression. Some people whine every time anyone else gets a doll, but really, it's important for children to have both dolls that look like them and dolls that don't. The same people usually freak when boys want to play with dolls, but that's how boys learn to become good fathers, same as girls practice being mothers.

Muslim prayer times are spaced throughout the day. Islamic nations or establishments often provide a signal to notify people of the turnover times. In T-Maldives, the signals tend to be audible yet discreet in most places, but the mosques still use the adhan or verbal call to prayer. T-Maldivian custom uses the line "Prayer is better than sleep" at Fajr (the dawn prayer) and "The time for the best of deeds has come" for subsequent prayers. "Prayer is better than sleep" is also the most popular verbal phrase used in alarm clocks or apps. If not occupied with business too urgent to set aside, most Muslims prefer to pray as soon as possible after the turnover time, unless delayed for excusable reasons. Read about teaching proper prayer habits to Muslim children.

Touch between Muslims varies by culture, age, and other aspects.

Insha'Allah is Arabic for "if God wills," and it is expected for Muslims to say this before stating any future intent. It carries over into many Muslim contexts even when Arabic is not the local language. Sometimes non-Muslims living among Muslims pick it up out of habit or courtesy to their hosts. To Charles, it's just a thing that everyone seems to say before using the future tense; he does it because they do it. This still helps him fit in.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-12 01:33 am (UTC)
mirrorofsmoke: The words "We are Groot" and a picture of Baby Groot on an icon with a swirly galaxy background. (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorofsmoke
This made me ridiculously happy. Thank you.

-Harley

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-12 01:43 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Yeah, I love it with the little kids, Feyru's welcoming openness, and Charles's gradual relaxing.

• Charles though about
-> thought

Edited Date: 2017-02-12 01:57 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-12 02:08 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Salaam! good happy-making story. Love the quote. Going to celebrate the 52nd Birthday of my favourite barefooter, [personal profile] satyrblade... :)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-12 02:35 am (UTC)
jeshyr: Blessed are the broken. Harry Potter. (Default)
From: [personal profile] jeshyr
I liked this a lot, thank you.

I love the idea that beaches and playgrounds have blocks and toys to borrow. One thing that makes me sad about L-Australia playgrounds is that everything has to be bolted down and made impervious to local teenagers who just want to wreck shit because it's fun :/

Something I keep forgetting to ask - what's the meaning of the word "Terramagne"? Google is reasonably unhelpful if I google "magne" so I thought asking the authority was appropriate here :)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-12 02:45 am (UTC)
across_space_and_time: A nebula shifting in rainbow hues from red to blue (Rainbow Galaxy)
From: [personal profile] across_space_and_time
>>I love the idea that beaches and playgrounds have blocks and toys to borrow. One thing that makes me sad about L-Australia playgrounds is that everything has to be bolted down and made impervious to local teenagers who just want to wreck shit because it's fun :/<<

That reminds me of some of the teenagers here. :/ When body was in high school some people tried to dress up the school mascot with garlands and stuff one year for holidays. The first couple times were okay and it was left alone, but then the props started getting stolen, and then the decorations started getting taken down before the afternoon lunch period (likely by the staff), so they stopped. And that was after getting permission for it.

I'm sure it wasn't a majority of people who were the problem, but the ones who *were* ruined it for everybody else.

- MC

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-12 02:48 am (UTC)
across_space_and_time: A nebula shifting in rainbow hues from red to blue (Rainbow Galaxy)
From: [personal profile] across_space_and_time
Yay! This was good to read. :) It's really nice to get introduced to different cultures through writing.

Did you introduce Charles and Samuel before? Body-memory doesn't have anything on them but we could've missed earlier poems.

- MC

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-12 03:37 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Beautiful. Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-13 03:46 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
This is a real delight.
I'm happy to see a positive depiction of a Muslim family, given local politics.

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