ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the July 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] redsixwing, Deacon of [personal profile] antisocialite_forum, [personal profile] curiosity, [personal profile] alatefeline, [personal profile] kengr, [personal profile] sweet_sparrow, [personal profile] technoshaman, [personal profile] callibr8, [personal profile] mdlbear, [personal profile] chanter_greenie, and [personal profile] helgatwb. It also fills the "homelessness" square in my 7-1-17 card for the Winter Fest in July bingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Iron Horses thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. Posting this means that the sequel "Come Out of the Darkness" can be posted as soon as it gets sponsored.

Warning: This poem contains a few touchy tidbits. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features partial helplessness, awkward gender dynamics, help with personal care, dramatic scars, unannounced arrivals, insecurity, low self-worth, emotional overload, confusion, and other challenges. Mostly it's fluff, though. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before moving onward.

"Come Closer in Kinship"

The second day after
Kenzie's impromptu Sun Dance
dawned bright and clear.

Ben brought breakfast, which
turned out to be acorn mush
with real maple syrup and
slices of venison sausage.

"You're a really good cook,"
Kenzie said as Ben helped him
cut the fourth piece of sausage
into bite-sized portions.

Ben blushed.

"What did I say?"
Kenzie asked. "Did I
say something wrong?"

"Not wrong, it's just that
cooking is usually a skill for
women, and we say a good cook
makes a good wife," Ron explained.
"Ben makes great pemmican, too,
and everyone wants a wife
who can do that."

"Oh," said Kenzie, who
had a hard time imagining
big bearded Ben as anyone's wife.

"It's okay, Kenzie," said Ben. "I'm
a little embarrassed when people
talk about my hearth skills, but I'm not
ashamed of them. Some folks have
just a bit of skill from the other side of
the hearth, but not a whole second spirit."

"That's an interesting way to look at it,"
Kenzie said. "I think I may have met
some people who are like that too."

After breakfast, Ron and Ben
helped Kenzie into the ribbon shirt
and skirt that he'd chosen yesterday.

They looked good together, even if
he felt a little strange in unfamiliar clothes.

"How do you want me to do your hair?"
Ron asked, holding up a brush. "If I put it
in two braids, it'll be easier to pull over
your shoulders when you're lying down."

"Sure, let's try that," Kenzie said.
He often wore it loose, but that was
completely unmanageable in bed.

The braids turned out well, and
Kenzie decided that he liked them.

Then Joseph stopped by talk about
their plans. "Can we move Kenzie
today, or should we wait longer?"

"How's your balance?" Ben asked,
turning to Kenzie. "Could you ride?"

"It's better than it was," Kenzie said.
"I think I could ride, if I had someone
to hold onto and steer the bike."

"I can take you," Ben said.
"My bike has two seats."

"Then let's get ready
to ride," Joseph said.

Ron helped Kenzie return
most of the things he'd borrowed.
When they got to the last buffalo robe,
however, James Distant Thunder
declined to take it back.

"Keep it," the old man said.
"You need something to hold onto."

"But aren't these things valuable?"
Kenzie said, stroking the coarse fur.
It was hard enough to be homeless
without people giving him gifts
that he could never repay.

"Yes," said James. "So are you."

"I guess," Kenzie said. They kept
saying things like that, but it didn't
match what he'd heard all his life.

"Besides, it's nice to meet someone else
who has had an unusual Sun Dance,"
James said, opening his shirt.

There on his chest were
the ragged scars that Kenzie
had come to recognize from
the Sun Dance, but they were
framed by strange, pale marks
that fanned out like wings.

"What happened?" Kenzie breathed.
"Nobody else has marks like that!"

"As a young man, I performed the Sun Dance.
Out of the clear blue sky, a lightning bolt struck
the pole and traveled down the leather thongs,
knocking me back hard enough to tear loose,"
James said. "I was left with these scars, and this."
He pointed to a pale line across his left eye.

"Why did it happen?" Kenzie said.

"Thunderbird chose me," James said.
"When I woke up, a medicine man explained
what had happened. I believe that the Sun Dance
of today is something that people learned to do,
inspired by chance encounters, and sometimes
the spirits still take things into their own hands."

"That sounds right, but it's still kind of
scary," Kenzie said, shaking his head.

"Spirits often are," James agreed.
"Keep the robe, Kenzie, and
wear it in good health."

"Thank you," Kenzie said.
"It's good to know that I'm not
the only person whose Sun Dance
was out of the ordinary, too."

After James left, Kenzie
went back to getting ready
for the road trip ahead.

Then Blair came in, visibly ruffled
for some mysterious reason.

"What's wrong, Blair?" said Kenzie.
"You look kind of upset about something."

"My parents are my parents," she said dryly.
"I'm not upset, just a bit bemused. After I
told them that you'd like to come visit them,
they decided that the appropriate thing to do
would be climb in the camper and drive here."

"They're here? Now?" Kenzie squeaked.
"I thought they lived in Montana!"

"They do," Blair said. "We live
on the Rocky Boy's Reservation.
They drove all night to get here."

"Why would they go to all that trouble
just for me?" Kenzie said. "I mean,
they don't even know me."

"You're my friend, you're two-spirit,
and you're in a spot of trouble," Blair said.
"So do you still want to meet my parents, or
should I tell them that they scared you off?"

"Of course I want to meet them,"
Kenzie said. He couldn't imagine
turning away people who cared
that much for a total stranger.

Blair opened the door, and two people
came in. The woman was short and round,
and the man tall and sturdy. Both of them
had dark hair and eyes. Kenzie could see
the family resemblance with Blair.

"Kenzie, these are my parents
Ida and Tomson Starblanket," said Blair.
"Folks, this is my friend Kenzie Two Foxes."

"We are honored to meet you,"
Ida and Tomson chorused.

"Pleased to meet you too,"
Kenzie said. "It's just ... why
would you come all this way for me?"

"Blair told us about you," Ida said.
"She mentioned that you haven't
decided exactly what to do next."

"She told us your birth parents aren't
worth the sweat on a burro's butt,"
Tomson said bluntly.

"Daddy!" Blair protested.

"Well you did," Tomson said.
"From the look of him, I think
that it's the truth, too."

Kenzie giggled. "I haven't
heard it put quite that way
before, but the sentiment
is quite correct," he said.

"We wanted to help you
feel better, and we thought
you'd be more comfortable
traveling in a bed than on
the back of a bike," said Ida.

"That sounds wonderful,"
Kenzie agreed. He hadn't
been looking forward to the trip,
but neither did he want to stay here.

"Come take a look at our camper and
see what you think," Tomson invited.

"Okay," Kenzie said as he got up.

They didn't hover over him, quite,
but they made him feel very welcome,
like they wanted to come closer in kinship.

The camper was gorgeous. The body
was black, painted with a desertscape
and a blazing star, and it had a bed
over the cab of the truck.

The inside was decorated
in soft shades of tan and sage.
It had a couch and a dining table
behind the cab, a nice little kitchen,
a bathroom, and a bed in the back.

"Normally we'd offer you the space
over the cab, which is pretty popular,
but we don't know if you're up to that,"
Tomson said, waving at the alcove.

Kenzie thought about climbing into it
and realized that would probably involve
bending over the edge, which his back
would not appreciate right now.

"Not for this trip," he decided.

"In that case, you can crash on
the couch or the bed," Tomson said.

"Isn't the bed yours?" Kenzie said,
although it looked very tempting.

"Yes, but we can be flexible,"
Tomson said. "If you need it, take it."

"Just for today, then," Kenzie said,
and stretched out on the queen-sized bed
that filled the back of the camper.

"I brought a gift to keep you warm,"
Ida said. She shook out a quilt that
had a similar whirlwind star pattern as
the one Kenzie had borrowed, but
with a border of paired feathers.

"That's a two-spirit symbol,"
Blair said, pointing to the feathers.

"You can't have made this for me,"
Kenzie said, looking at Ida. "You
didn't even know I was coming!"

"I made it for a two-spirit who
would need it," she said serenely.
"That happens to be you."

"Thank you," Kenzie said as
Ida tucked the quilt around him.
"I think that it's beautiful."

"You're welcome," she said.
"Get some rest if you can."

Kenzie napped on and off
during the long drive.

Whenever he was awake,
someone sat beside him
to talk and tell stories.

He heard about how the tribe
had traveled to the reservation,
not by force, but following a vision,
and then the place was named
after the leader, Rocky Boy.

If Kenzie looked out the window,
then he could see the Iron Horses
flanking the camper like a herd
of foals chasing a broodmare.

Those things made the trip
as enjoyable as it could be
with his body still twinging
from the recent injuries.

They arrived in Montana late,
but Kenzie was alert enough
to sit up and watch the ride
into Rocky Boy's Reservation.

Even at night he could see
that it was a beautiful place.

The reservation spread across
miles of open plains, rolling hills,
and mountains dotted with lakes.

"Hey, what's that smell, like vanilla?
Is someone baking?" Kenzie wondered.

Blair grinned at him. "That's sweetgrass,"
she said. "It means we're home."

There were buildings here and there,
and a small town nestled in a valley.
They passed the rustic wooden sign for
Stone Child College and its campus.

They also saw clusters of roundhouses
set into rows or circles, each one
painted in a different color.

"I've never seen so many of those
in one place before," Kenzie said.
"Where I come from, some people
like them because they're so good at
resisting storms, but that's just a few,
not a whole neighborhood of them."

"We like them because they're round,"
Blair said. "Our ancestors lived in tipis or
wigwams. You can take the floor plan from
those and put it right into one of these."

"Or you can do something different,"
Ida said. "Just wait until you see
our roundhouse -- it's a bit bigger."

That was an understatement.

The Starblanket family home
was several times the size of
the little cottages in clusters,
and it had a roof of live grass
rising above the cob walls.

Never in his life had Kenzie
seen anything that looked
more like a faery mound.

When he mentioned this aloud,
Ida smiled and said, "We would be
honored if the Memekwesiw found
our home welcoming. Then they
may be less likely to tip our canoes!"

That led to a fascinating introduction to
the "little people" of the Cree as Tomson
pulled carefully up the driveway and
parked on the concrete pad.

Ida took Kenzie to the main entrance
in the laundry room. "See, the kitchen
lies in the center just like the hearth
would be in a tipi or wigwam," she said.

"Wow," Kenzie said. "It really does match."
He was impressed at how they had managed
to adapt traditional ideas to new materials.

"The place of honor is opposite the entry --
our great room and the master bedroom,"
Ida continued. "To the right of the entry are
the playroom and the sitting room. To the left
are the guest rooms and the common bathroom."

"Bathroom first?" Kenzie said hopefully.
He had taken advantage of the one in
the camper, but then he had gotten
distracted by the scenery.

"Right this way," Ida said as she
led the way through her home.

It was a stunning display of
craftsmanship, with turquoise tiles
decorating the buff-colored walls,
all done in gentle curves of cob.

In several places, flowers grew in
niches worked right into the walls, and
steps led up to a deep bathtub. The toilet
was hidden inside its own little alcove.

When Kenzie emerged, Ida showed him
to a guest bedroom. "We have this one
with a single bed, and then a bunkroom
for the children," she explained.

The bedroom was even more magnificent
than the bathroom. The bed was covered
with a blue-and-purple crazy quilt, and behind
the headboard there lay a study space with
a desk and chair under a bright mural.

The outside wall held a giant planter,
bigger than a bathtub, full of cacti and
houseplants and even a banana tree.
More plants sat in pots on ledges
scattered around the room.

"Whose room is this?"
Kenzie asked, eyes wide.

"Yours, if you like it," Ida said.
"You can stay as long as you want."

"This is ... too much," Kenzie said,
starting to freak out a little.

"This is what you deserve,"
Ida said. "If it makes you feel
uncomfortable, though, you could
sleep on a couch in the great room
or the sitting room. I'm afraid you're
too tall for the one in the playroom."

Kenzie's heart twinged at the thought
of giving up the beautiful room, even
if it was more than he was worth.

Despite his awkward family background,
he wanted to come closer in kinship.

"I could maybe try sleeping here
for tonight, and see how it works?"
Kenzie said tentatively.

"That's an excellent plan,"
Ida said. "Let me tuck you in."

"Okay," Kenzie said.

He let Ida and Blair help him
out of his clothes and then into
a calico nightgown of dark blue
sprinkled with white stars.

They tucked him into the soft bed
and spread the star quilt over him.

"Want me to find Ben?" asked Blair.
"He's got your pain pills if you need them."

"Nah, I'm good," Kenzie said. "Ron has
been teaching me all kinds of mental tricks
for pain control, and I want to practice those.
Besides, most of it's down to a dull ache now."

"All right," Blair said. "Ben and Ron will be
in the great room in case you change your mind.
Joseph and I have the sitting room. I think
Mick and Kyle plan to pitch outside."

"Scouts," Ida said with a fond chuckle.
"You just can't pin them down."

"I picked up my lotion, if you want to try
the lavender and blue chamomile in jojoba,"
Blair said, showing Kenzie the bottle. "We
could do your hands and feet without
needing to unwrap you all the way."

"Yes, please," Kenzie said. Maybe
it was selfish of him, but he was
starting to enjoy the pampering.

Blair took his hands, while Ida
put his feet in her lap to work.

The cool smooth lotion felt
wonderful on Kenzie's skin,
its fragrance floral and sweet
with a medicinal undertone.

Kenzie lolled in his new bed
and tried not to whimper from
the sheer overload of pleasure.

After Blair and Ida finished,
they slipped out of the room
and left Kenzie in peace, but he
could still hear the soft sounds of
conversation in the distance.

This, he thought, was what family
should be like, instead of the mess
that he had known growing up.

He didn't have to be homeless
anymore if he didn't want to be;
he could stay here instead.

Kenzie still felt confused and
a little uncomfortable, but not
in a bad way. He had people
who cared about him, and he
was learning to work with them.

Maybe he was getting a bit spoiled,
letting people take care of him like this,
but Kenzie just didn't care about that.

He was too busy enjoying his new family.

* * *


Ida Starblanket -- She has tinted skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight black hair. She is short and plump, with a round face. She wears glasses. Her heritage is primarily Cree and American. Ida is the wife of Tomson Starblanket and mother of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways. She works as a wilderness guide with her husband Tomson. They are both proud of their two-spirit child. They live on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Kind and thoughtful, Ida enjoys passing down her Cree culture to younger people.
Qualities: Master (+6) Kindness, Expert (+4) Cree Culture, Expert (+4) Wilderness Guide, Good (+2) Healthy as a Horse, Good (+2) QUILTBAG Ally,
Poor (-2) Nearsighted

Tomson Starblanket -- He has light copper skin, brown eyes, and long black hair with a little wave. He is tall and sturdy with a rectangular face. His heritage is primarily Cree and Ojibwe. He belongs to the Caribou clan. He is the husband of Ida Starblanket and the father of Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways. He works as a wilderness guide with his wife Ida. Both of them are proud of their two-spirit child Blair. They live on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana. Wise and strong, Tomson enjoys telling stories. However, he doesn't always act his age -- sometimes seeming much younger, other times older. In a culture that values protocol, this is disconcerting.
Qualities: Master (+6) Generosity, Expert (+4) Wilderness Guide, Expert (+4) Wisdom, Good (+2) QUILTBAG Ally, Good (+2) Storyteller, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Acting His Age

* * *

The Starblanket family RV is black with a desertscape painted along the sides. The floor plan includes a full kitchen, bathroom, overhead bed, sofa bed, dinette bed, and queen-size bed in back. This is the view looking toward the front of the RV with the curtains closed. This is the view looking toward the back with the bedroom door open. Here is the overhead bed above the cab. This is the interior of the cab. The living room-dining room includes a couch and a table. The couch folds out to make one bed, and the table drops down to make another. The kitchen includes a sink, rangetop, microwave oven, and refrigerator-freezer. The bathroom includes a toilet and sink on one side of the hall and a shower on the other. This is the queen-size bed in back.

Here is a wigwam cross-section. This is a typical floor plan for a tipi. Both types of traditional dwelling were in wide use.

The Starblanket family roundhouse is made of cob with a grass roof. It has three bedrooms and a den/playroom. In this floor plan, the main entrance comes through the laundry room. In a traditional home, the place of honor was opposite the entrance, in this case roughly the great room and the master bedroom. The kitchen occupies the central area where the hearth once resided. The library runs along the wall beside the back door and wraps around to the door of the master bedroom. The dining table tucks against a bench along the outer wall. The living room has a built-in couch and a woodstove. The sitting room has a built-in couch, chairs, and bookcases. The den / playroom has a fireplace, a built-in couch, and several pieces of loose furniture. There is also a niche with a desk and chair behind the fireplace. Toys are kept in baskets or shelves inset into the walls. The laundry room has a sink and cabinets in addition to the washer and dryer. The kitchen includes a refrigerator, chest freezer, stove, and sink. The back side of the kitchen facing the master bedroom has altar niches. The master bedroom has a queen-size bed. The master bathroom is decorated with tile mosaics of sea creatures. It has a wooden shelf unit attached to the wall. The guest bedroom has a full-size bed with a desk and chair behind the headboard. A huge planter lines the wall above the window, above which hangs a ceiling fan with grow lights. The planter and nearby shelves hold a variety of succulents, other houseplants, and even a banana tree. The bunkroom holds one pair of twin-size bunks along with a windowseat. The guest bathroom is decorated with turquoise tiles and small planters full of water-loving flowers. This is the porch of the Starblanket family roundhouse.

Acorn Breakfast is one of many native recipes. It is much easier to get ingredients for such things in Terramagne-America than in local-America. Enjoy a recipe for Rosemary Sage Venison Sausage.

Native Americans of most tribes really reveled in long lush hair for people of all genders. They often used hair oil to keep it shiny and supple. This Turquoise Sage Mountain Arnica body oil is similar, and this body lotion matches it. Here is the TRANQUIL Organic Clary Sage & Violet Leaf Shea Body Lotion that Blair carries. At home she also has Blue Chamomile Lavender Body Lotion.

Caregiving skills most often focus on infants or elders, but are useful for people of any age who are sick or injured. It's really hard to find a good, comprehensive guide to eldercare, but here's a helpful handbook.

Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana is one of many Federal Reservations. They are currently on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.

The driving time from Big Sandy, Montana to Mission, South Dakota is 11 hours, 40 minutes. Big Sandy is near the Rocky Boy's Reservation and Mission is inside the Rosebud Reservation.

See Kenzie's green ribbon shirt and the skirt he chose to go with it.

This is Kenzie's star blanket from Ida. The whirlwind star is one version of the popular star quilt.

Read about the foundation of Rocky Boy's Reservation. In T-America, Rocky Boy survived and continued leading his tribe when they reached the new reservation. Here is part of the town Rocky Boy's too. Stone Child College is a major institution on the reservation. See the sign and one of the main buildings.

This is a row of roundhouses.

A key difference between local-America and Terramagne-America lies in housing on tribal reservations. Both tend to be impoverished. L-America handles this with cheap crummy housing such as trailers. T-America has some of that, but they also use green building methods such as adobe, straw bale, cob, and cordwood. Like the traditional shelters used by different tribes, the emphasis falls on using locally available materials to suit the weather. These structures also tend to mimic the historic living arrangements such as single-family tipis or clan longhouses. They often place the kitchen or a woodstove in or near the center where the firepit would go in a historic home. This makes the tribal folks much happier. You can use the same floor plan for a roundhouse that you would in a tipi, and it supports either traditional (buffalo hide bedrolls, sitting mats) or conventional (beds, chairs) furnishings.

Small roundhouses can be left with an open floor plan for use as a family home, because you can fit more people that way if you're cozy. Alternatively, it can be subdivided in a more conventional fashion which better suits a single or couple who want privacy. Various roof styles are available.

Sweetgrass is an herb sacred to many tribes. In local-Rocky Boy's, it is dying out, but in Terramagne it is thriving.

Memekwesiw are the "little people" of Cree tradition.

Here is Kenzie's calico nightgown.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-10-15 09:51 am (UTC)
pantha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pantha
Eee! <3 That was fab.

And lovely to see echoes of Cassandra in this. It will be interesting to see how much commonality and how much difference there is between their responses to finding a family.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-10-15 03:12 pm (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
Very nice! I really liked seeing Kenzie, who hasn't had anything like it at any time in [his?] life, experiencing compassion and respect -- and wondering what he's done to deserve it. Understanding that the compassion arises from having been injured by others and the world, and that the respect, beyond the default level of respect that almost everyone deserves, is for who [he?] might become as [he?] walks the path that has become [his?].

[It doesn't appear Kenzie has thought about pronouns yet, or which ones to use. So I'm flagging them for now, to indicate uncertainty.]

You mentioned that "Come Out of the Darkness" is now publishable. Just in case "Said to the Four Winds" extends this sequence, how much is that one?
Edited Date: 2017-10-15 03:12 pm (UTC)


Date: 2017-10-15 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-10-15 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Oh, I *like* these people. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2017-10-16 02:14 am (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Mmmmm, round houses. :) I've never lived in one (& the one we're buying, while delightfully weird, does, alas, use straight lines) but I used to camp in a yurt pretty often, & it was the BEST.

Re: Yes ...

Date: 2017-10-16 09:33 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Language is FASCINATING. We know sparks were a problem because of a WORD. That's the best. :) (Sparks on the roof, on the other hand, not so much...)

Re: Yes ...

Date: 2017-10-16 09:41 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Yeah, given how similar the words are, as well. Although that _could_ be just the 'pole' element...

Re: Yes ...

Date: 2017-10-17 02:10 am (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Yeah, I could see that going either way.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-12 11:31 pm (UTC)
wispfox: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wispfox
This is wonderful. I love all the people in these stories and Kenzie's bemused acceptance of them all. :)


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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