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 and sponsored by Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "backstory" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] fanbingo fest. This poem belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"Spectres of the Past"


Spring brought flowers to the mountainside,
meadows dusted blue with forget-me-nots
and flecked with the pink of alpine bells.

Victor and Igor had managed to clear
one of the many gardens around their castle,
a small sanctuary of flagstones bounded
by raised beds blooming with crocus and
walls of espaliered Para de Zahar pear trees.

From the gate, a wide arbor festooned with
Coarna Neagra grapes and Dacia apricots
led to the lower gardens that still ran wild.

Adam crawled across the paved yard,
moving briskly to explore the space.
Sometimes he tried to pull himself up
using the low walls of the flowerbeds.

Victor and Igor watched him play,
happy but a little nervous
given their own family backgrounds.

"My parents kept me indoors a lot,"
Igor confided as he watched Adam
chasing an early butterfly
from flower to flower.

"Is that why you bring Adam
outdoors so often?" Victor asked.

"Yes," Igor said. "They meant well,
sort of, not wanting me to get
mocked or beaten for being deformed,
but ... it made me uneasy about open spaces
and that took a long time to get over.
I still feel uncomfortable in large crowds."
He watched the baby trying to pry up a stone.
"I don't want that to happen to Adam."

"It won't," Victor said. "We won't make
the same mistakes our parents did with us."

"No, we'll make all new ones," Igor said
with a wry quirk of his mouth.
"We have no idea what we're doing."

"We're learning," Victor said.
Adam crawled over to him
and Victor picked him up.

"You can hardly see the scars anymore,"
Igor said quietly, tracing a gentle finger
along the fading lines.

"Babies heal well," Victor said.
"With luck, they'll disappear by the time
he starts looking at girls, and maybe
he won't have our problems
finding someone to settle down with."

"Trip to the city didn't go well?"
Igor asked, voice thick with sympathy.

"Not by half," Victor said.
"I got slapped again. One would think
that ladies of negotiable virtue
would be more willing to negotiate."

"If only," Igor said. "One of them
broke a lamp over my head,
just for asking an hour of her time."
He fingered the scar at his temple.

Victor glowered, lifting his hand
to cover Igor's fingers.
"They don't deserve you,"
he muttered.

"Nor that horrid fiancée of yours,"
Igor said. "What was her name?"

"Isabelle," Victor said.
She'd left him after learning
that his body was shaped
in the manner of a woman,
squalling that she intended
to find herself a real man.

As if the lack of a penis and testes
made Victor any less real.
There were men who'd lost theirs
in accidents and were still
accounted as men.

Victor bit his lip and kept
the uncharitable thoughts to himself.

"She would have made a wretched wife,"
Igor said. "Shock of discovery notwithstanding,
she didn't have to be so cruel about it."

"I meant to tell her," Victor said.
"I would have said something
before our wedding night.
I just ... didn't know how."

Nobody had ever explained to him
how best to handle such disclosures.
Even Igor's discovery had been an accident,
though at least that one had gone better.
The lack of family support had left them both
awkward at intimate conversations,
a lingering dysfunction.

"We need more practice," Igor agreed.
"Otherwise we're going to run into problems
with Adam once he starts talking."

Victor winced. "True."

"I tried my luck with a man, once,"
Igor admitted. "I was getting desperate,
and no woman would have me.
It ... didn't work out.
I hadn't the taste for it."

"After I left my parents, before I met you,
a man discovered my secret," Victor said.
"He tried to force himself on me.
I broke his collarbone and ran."

"That time I pushed you against the wall,
trying to squeeze into the pantry,
and you yelled at me," Igor said.
"Is that why ...?"

Victor nodded. "Even now,
sometimes memories rise up
like spectres of the past."

Adam chose that moment
to squirm around in Victor's lap
and show interest in the garden again.

"We've a morbid history, don't we?"
Igor said. "But a better present."
He stood up and held out a hand.
"Come on, let's take a walk and
choose the next garden to reclaim."

So they walked through the ramble
of weeds and stones until they found
a dry fountain and a cloverleaf of beds
that might once have held herbs.

Diligent searching turned up
a few stubborn sprigs of mint
and the remains of a thyme hedge.
Milk thistle had seeded itself
into the cracks of the walk.

For some reason,
that made Victor smile.
"No matter how mistreated,
life finds a way to survive,"
he said, his careful hands
trailing over sprouts of green
in the ruined garden.

"I think a little love will perk it up,"
Igor said as he reached down
to start pulling out the chickweed.

Victor set Adam on a bare section
of the stone path and knelt
to help Igor with the weeding.
"I think you're right," he said.

* * *

Notes:

Transylvania is known for its many wildflowers such as forget-me-nots and alpine bells.

Historically, castles were surrounded by a variety of gardens for growing food and medicines. A survey has been done of Transylvanian castle gardens with some lovely photos.

Espaliers are fruit trees trained flat against a wall, such as these. Learn how to grow them. See pictures of pear espaliers, apricot espaliers, and a grape arbor edged by apricot espaliers.

Romania features many types of fruit. Pears include Para de Zahar. Grapes include Coarna Neagra. Apricots include Dacia.

Adam is ten months old in mid-April. At this age he's exploring more and trying to pull himself upright.

Historically -- and sometimes even today -- parents have hidden handicapped children out of shame or a misguided sense of protection. There are better ways to cope.

Agoraphobia spans a variety of fears including open spaces and crowds. Igor's feeling isn't as severe as phobia, but has made him uncomfortable in the past and still sometimes raises issues. Anchoring and other techniques can help overcome it.

New parents often fear making mistakes. Accept it as a natural part of parenting.

People get into some very ugly debates about how transmen are "not real men." But then what makes a man? Falling in love with a transman or finding out that your boyfriend is transgender can make people respond well or poorly. Victor has fewer options for transition than modern transfolk but has managed pretty well given the circumstances. There are ways to know if you are trans. Also consider how to tell your family, friends, and lovers about your gender identity.

Disclosing intimate secrets can improve romantic relationships. There are exercises in progressive disclosure. Victor and Igor are still clumsy with this, but they sure are trying.

Igor turns out to be Kinsey 0, purely heterosexual and unable to engage in homosexual activity.  However, he greatly enjoys homosocial connections and has a strong queerplatonic relationship with Victor.

The collarbone is a vulnerable target, favored in dirty fighting to stop sexual assault. It's not a good idea to pick on someone who knows human anatomy this well.  At least one study indicates that physical violence stops attempted rape 86% of the time, while armed resistance works 99% of the time.  Combinations are more effective than single tactics.

Romanian spices and herbs including thyme and milk thistle give a distinctive flavor to the cuisine and appearance to local gardens. Chickweed is a common weed.

Abandoned gardens run to rocks and weeds but they can be reclaimed.

a good read

Date: 2014-06-20 06:23 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
but I doubt it's only in Mauritania that there is still a stigma against handicapped people, after all, this was national news on the 16th, just three days ago:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/kfc-probes-scarred-girl-asked-leave-24148091

All in all, hopeful and world-building

Date: 2014-06-20 07:50 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I like their voices being different, and they speak differently enough that I've mentally assigned different timbres and intonations, even though they're "speaking" the same language.

I like that the process of /doing so/ was unnoticed until it kind of stood up and yelled for my attention; it means I've been focusing on the poetry and not on nitpicky details.

Thanks for posting this.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-20 05:49 am (UTC)
kelkyag: eye-shaped patterns on birch trunk (birch eyes)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
Thyme ... hedge? Huh. Apparently so. I guess I've only met creeping varieties.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-20 08:00 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Yay. They're getting it. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-17 12:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before but I really enjoy reading the notes you include with each of your poems. I enjoy learning new things.
:^}

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