Saturday, April 24, 2010

ELEGY by Edna St. Vincent Millay

(Edna St. Vincent Millay passport photo, 1920)

When I was fourteen, I read this in my English text during class and to my intense embarrassment, I burst into tears. I knew already my mother's death would mean missing hearing her speak.

ELEGY

by Edna St Vincent Millay

Let them bury your big eyes
In the secret earth securely,
Your thin fingers, and your fair,
Soft, indefinite-colored hair,—
All of these in some way, surely,
From the secret earth shall rise;
Not for these I sit and stare,
Broken and bereft completely;
Your young flesh that sat so neatly
On your little bones will sweetly
Blossom in the air.

But your voice,—never the rushing
Of a river underground,
Not the rising of the wind
In the trees before the rain,
Not the woodcock's watery call,
Not the note the white-throat utters,
Not the feet of children pushing
Yellow leaves along the gutters
In the blue and bitter fall,
Shall content my musing mind
For the beauty of that sound
That in no new way at all
Ever will be heard again.

Sweetly through the sappy stalk
Of the vigorous weed,
Holding all it held before,
Cherished by the faithful sun,
On and on eternally
Shall your altered fluid run,
Bud and bloom and go to seed;
But your singing days are done;
But the music of your talk
Never shall the chemistry
Of the secret earth restore.
All your lovely words are spoken.
Once the ivory box is broken,
Beats the golden bird no more.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

PYA: CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)

CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE

The next morning a tenative knock came at the door. Pyosz was dozing and Prl had gone to the privy. Maar had just changed Qux’s diaper and called out softly “Come in”. Thleen poked in her head, wide-eyed and still in her schmatta.

“Come on, come meet your sibu” said Maar. She sat down on the bed and motioned Thleen to sit between her and Pyosz, who was sitting up with a wince. “Don’t jostle Pyosz, she’s very sore.”

“Where?” said Thleen, diverted.

“Lean back and you can hold her.” Thleen took the bundle into her arms nervously. Her eyebrows shot up her forehead at she looked down into Qux’s face.


“Hey” she said. Prl returned and sat in her chair, watching. Thleen said “Can she open her eyes?”

“Say her name softly and get your face close to hers, she can’t see very far yet” said Pyosz. Thleen complied and Qux’s eyes fluttered open, trying to focus.

“Hey” Thleen said again, a smile spreading across her face. “Look, her chin is like mine!”

“She has part of you in her” said Maar. Thleen hardly seemed to be breathing. Pyosz said “Tell her your name, who you are, she’s wondering.”

“Oh. Hey, I’m Thleen. I’m, uh, your siba. And your sibiya, but I want to be your siba first.” Qux made a tiny exhalation and Thleen jerked, saying “Is she trying to talk?”

“Not talking yet, but she’s showing she heard you” said Maar, tears spilling down her cheeks.

“She’s so tiny” said Thleen.

“Tell it to my ginny” Pyosz murmured to herself.

Thleen and Qux kept staring at each other. After a minute, Thleen said “It kinda hurts my chest to look at her.”

“That’s because your heart is growing, bursting with new love” said Maar, fighting back a sob. Thleen looked at her and said “This is what it was like when you got me, huh.”

“Yes” said Maar.

“How long til she talks?” asked Thleen, looking back at Qux.

“A year or more” said Prl. “Although Pyosz said her first words at 9 months.”

“You’re pretty” Th;een said to Qux. She looked back at Maar. “The abbas are making breakfast and said I could carry a tray up here for Pyosz.”

“Bring enough for us all, you can eat with us” said Maar.

“Okay” said Thleen, handing off Qux with a casualness that made Pyosz gasp. Thleen scrambled from the room, shouting down the stairs “We need a big tray!”

That afternoon visitors began arriving with gifts and endless advice. Pyosz put on her gold silk schmatta and received them all with radiant fatigue. Maar had arranged to take a week off work. Despite the phalanx of abba and habibis, she claimed first rights for baby-holding and never left the bedroom, either. Thleen returned from school with the Heaps children in tow, pushing into the room to announce “That’s her, that’s my sibu. See, she can’t talk yet but she can hear us -- “

“I know” said Ziri arrogantly. “I know more about babies and sibus than you. You said she looks like you, but her hair isn’t red or anything,”

Thleen was stung. She shouted “She’s got my chin, you shu-head!”

Maar began shusshing. Ziri snorted “Chin?!!” Aleri got an arm around her at that point, mouthing in her ear, and Prl’s gimlet blue gaze quelled Thleen.

Aside from occasionally noticing a bit of hubbub like this, Maar was in her own universe where the only real inhabitants were her, Pyosz, and Qux. Qux was suddenly among them and already she loved her like nothing else on Skene. She couldn’t stop watching her. She felt a little disloyal to Thleen and even to Pyosz, except Pyosz was just as enraptured as she was. Qux was very quiet, didn’t cry like Prl said Pyosz had, and in her limited waking hours she simply stared back at them with an air of equal fascination. Producing her was the neatest trick that had ever been pulled off by anyone.

The work of the Manage went on without them for several days. Then one summy morning, Pyosz announced she wanted to go outside, to take Qux outside, maybe meet Killer, certainly go in the greenhouse and walk around this end of Saya.

Maar felt an alarm she couldn’t justify. “I’m going with you” she said, taking out the yameen they had not yet used and starting to adjust it for her shoulder.

“No, I want to carry her” said Pyosz.

“But -- you still have stitches, what if you trip?” said Maar.

“I’m walking back and forth to the privy and around the Manage just fine, Maar, I’m safe on my feet.” Pyosz looked irritated. “Don’t hover, walk beside me like you normally do.”

“Okay, but no goats, not yet” pleaded Maar.

“We’ll stand this side of the kissing gate, how’s that, they can smell her without being able to reach her.” Pyosz caught some of Maar’s fear, imagining Qux’s miniature hands as possibly irresistible to the grinding upper plate of cartilage in goat mouths.

They sat on the porch after their stroll, a little overwhelmed by the enormity of what had arrived. The abbas and Prl joined them, snapping beans and tying heads of garlic into strands. Pyosz nursed Qux, an action that always produced a tug in Maar’s own breasts and made her check at least once a day to see if she was somehow sympathetically making milk.

They heard the radio buzz inside, and Prl set down the quilted fabric she was cutting into ever more diapers to go answer. When she returned, she said to Halling “Naki is done printing the training manuals for flight school. I can pick them up later, I’m having lunch with Nioma today,”

“Just bring a handful home, have the rest delivered to the Lofthall” said Halling.

“Two weeks and a couple of days from now” said Yoj, patting Halling’s hand. “You happy with the trainees Mill chose?”

“Can’t completely tell yet. What do you think, Maar?”

Maar tore her eyes away from Qux. “I just wish we could have said yes to all of them. Two of the ones we turned down applied to Skene, and one got accepted. She says she’ll come back home as soon as we have a job opening.”

“Better not let Danaan hear that” said Halling. “I’m impressed with how much of Pya School graduating class applied. Means you had a lot of wanna-be pilots who couldn’t bear going to Skene even for a summer, seems to me.”

“I think you’re right” said Maar. A pair of buntings had built their nest in the redbud tree, which seemed absurdly exposed to Maar, but so far they had all survived. She watched a bejeweled emma arrive to push beetle parts down gaping throats, and felt the need to cry well up in her again at the miracle of it all. Frank had remarked Maar’s hormones were as turbulent right now as Pyosz’s and recommended she drink the same afterbirth tea.

Qala said “Mrebbe promised the parachute tower would be ready by the start of training. Are you going to take a few refresher jumps?” Maar realized, belatedly, this was being asked of her.

“No she is not” said Pyosz with an edge to her voice. All eyes were now on Maar.

“If I’m to fly at all...it’s better if all my skills are sharp” said Maar reluctantly. Pyosz’s eyes had small blue blazes in them. “I need to pee” she announced, scooting gingerly forward. Maar was instantly on her feet, saying “I’ll take her” as she reached for Qux. Prl said smoothly “And I’ll walk inside with you, child, I need to check on what’s in the aga.”

Maar sat down in Qux world again, whispering to her about the bunting, how pilots fly like birds, her very own emma soared above the clouds. When Pyosz returned she had a bowl of warm custard and an orange, which she ate quickly before demanding Qux back.

At the end of her week, Maar returned to half-shift with piercing agony in her heart. Pyosz cried so much Qux finally bawled for the first time and Prl took the baby downstairs as Halling comforted Pyosz. Maar had to constantly remind herself, while sinning, to stay only in the present moment. She was spent when she got home and wanted simply to sleep with Qux in the bumper against her side, Pyosz within reach. But leaving got easier, and they celebrated Qux’s two week birthday with apple cake and a family party in the great room. Pyosz resumed morning milking, to not lose the muscles in her hands, and found doing it with Qux strapped against her chest in the yameen awakened almost premordial contentment within her.

It had turned out for structural reasons to be as economical to build the greenhouse pyramid entirely of aluminum and glass as to do part of it in wood, but the middle third was of aqua-colored glass which diffused ultraviolet rays in a particular way. Naki's arresting photograph of the building had been made into a postcard which Gitta sold through her store. All earnings from sale of the postcard were funneled into the Pya Polytechnic fund.

The vents and airflow had to be checked throughout the day, and this was a task Qala requested as hers. She welcomed any excuse to weed or gather flowers from the fecund strip around the inside perimeter. She loved turning on the overhead misters and sitting on the bench as the air filled with gentle moisture. Thleen had gotten into the habit of poking her head into the greenhouse on her way home from the ferry, and more often than not she'd find Qala there, ready for a chat.

As she did today. Qala was sitting on a plastic pad, separating lavender to plant between daffodils. Thleen heaved herself down on the small path, using her bookbag as a pillow. Qala let the ancients nap in the greenhouse most afternoons. Starchy now stirred herself stiffly and came to sit with bony lightness on Thleen's belly. She rumbled loudly when Thleen began rubbing her head.

"Why don't old katts wash themselves as much as kittens do?" asked Thleen. "Her fur feels gummy.”

“Too hard to stretch, maybe” said Qala. “Or they’re tired of it all. I’l glad I don’t rely on my own tongue for cleanliness.”

Thleen giggled at the image this conjured. “How was school?” asked Qala.

“Okay. Only one more day, and then kickball camp next week” said Thleen with anticipation. “And Pank promised me and Ziri can be stiltwalkers in the Mchele Fair parade if we practice a lot. Not high stilts but our arms will be -- oh, I’m not supposed to say.”

“Pyosz also wants to build a planked ramp from the kissing gate down to the pasture, and put in a spring-fed shower at the hot springs. You and Ziri can ask for helper jobs with that, earn some coin” said Qala.

“And fishing every morning. And siba says I’m old enough to ride my bike with Ziri anywhere on Dvareka, as long as it’s daylight. We’re going to explore every secret corner.”

“Except Puaa Woods” reminded Qala. “Even a pair is not safe there, you need an older third.”

Thleen was silent a minute. “Maybe when Su comes to visit, she’ll go with us” she ventured.

“Could be. Except she’ll want to do things with Pava, too, when Pava isn’t working. And I’m not sure how Pava feels about going into Puaa, let’s ask Vants about that. Privately” added Qala.

“It smells so good in here, not just the lavender” observed Thleen. “And certainly not the ancients” she said with a sniff of her hands.

“There’s a pong outside from the chicken run, it’s overdue for a mucking” said Qala. Thleen groaned and flailed her legs once, causing Starchy to dig in claws for traction. Cleaning the chicken house was now Thleen’s chore.

“Soon as I’m done here, I’ll help you” offered Qala. “Get it out of the way before vacation starts.”

“They’ll just shit more and it’ll need raking again fast” said Thleen resignedly. “All they do is shit and eat.”

“And make eggs with double yolks” said Qala. Double-yolked eggs made Thleen think of Pyosz, for whom those extra-rich treats were saved right now. Thleen stood abruptly, sliding Starchy into the dirt with a sharp complaint. “I wanna go see emma and the baby.”

“Go, grab a snack. But be back here in ten to do the chicken run. Don’t make me come looking for you.”

Thleen cantered off, leaving her bookbag which Starchy claimed as a new napping perch.

It was 20 minutes but Thleen did return to the greenhouse, calling from the door “Can you get a new bale of straw, habibi?”

“Yep” said Qala. standing with a small groan and stepping over the bookbag. At the door, she called the ancients, who followed her to the barn where Vants was starting preparations for milking. Qala poured a few drizzles of milk into the katt saucer and left the ancients to duke it out, starting up to the mow.

“What are you after, s’bemma?” asked Vants. “Here, let me carry that.” Vants hefted a bale to the chicken run and left. Thleen was already raking, her scarf tied around her nose and mouth. Chickens were dodging her tines nimbly, refusing to retreat because tidbits got turned up during cleaning. Clicker sat outside the run, watching the action with longing.

When they were done, they walked to the outdoor kitchen to rinse and dry their tools. Vants was at the sink, stripped to the waist and washing up. She said “I know Molars never bites Pyosz any more, actually comes to her for treats and petting, but she’s still a menace to me”, showing them a half-moon bruise on the back of her arm.

“Shitter” commiserated Qala.

Thleen tugged off her own shati and gilet, joining Vants at the sink, blowing water after splashing her face exactly as Vants did. They heard Yoj calling the katts in to dinner from the front porch. Thleen said “I know we got lotsa katts, but Clicker would really like another kitten around.”

“I like that idea” said Qala. “Maybe we should wait, though, and give Qux her a kitten for her first birthday.” At the expression on Thleen’s face, she added “She won’t be old enough to know how to pick the best one, you can help her with that. And teach her how to play with katts, and hold them the right way,”

“That’s still a whole year off, nearly” said Thleen.

“Well, we’ll see who turns up with kittens needing homes” said Qala. Thleen was doing a better than usual job of scrubbing her hands, emulating Vants. After a minute, she observed “Qux is an X.”

“Yep” said Qala.

“You think emma and siba will ever have a Y?” asked Thleen, focused on her hands. Vants, now drying, exchanged a glance with Qala. Qala said “Decent chance, if they have enough kids.”

There was another long silence. Vants handed a towel to Thleen and resumed her shati, getting ready to walk to the Manage. Thleen said, looking out toward Dvareka, “Sometimes my ginny gets hard.”

Vants sat down on a battered chair, and Qala said “Yeah, mine too. That’s natural.” Thleen cut a sideways look at Vants, who nodded.

“How come it does?”

Vants said “Well, it means there’s extra blood flow inside right then, under the skin. Like when you blush and your face turns red? Same thing. If your cheek wasn’t smooth, when you blush your cheek would stick out a little.”

Thleen smiled at that. “But why does more blood flow?”

Qala took over. “Lots of reasons. Maybe you need to pee, or maybe you just took off your knickers and cool air hit the skin. Or maybe something touched your ginny. It’s nerve endings responding to a stimulus from somewhere. Happens to me at least once a day, often more.”

“What about Xs, does their ginny do that too?”

“Yes” said Qala. “Every human responds that way. And every human ginny is a different shape, like their face, so it looks different on them.”

Thleen was rejecting the idea of resuming her shati, instead wadding it in her fist. Almost in a whisper she said “Sometimes it happens when I...think about somebody.”

Qala said softly “Yes, our minds are the best source of stimulation of all. Perfectly normal, we all do it. When you grow up, thinking will be the most important part of your sex life.”

Thleen looked amazed and a little pleased with herself. She handed her shati to Qala and gently picked up the three additional eggs they had gathered, now cradled in her cap. “I’m so hungry, I hope there’s potatoes” she announced, heading for the house.

Near the end of the meal, Pyosz forked two chunks of mutton from the casserole onto her plate, cutting them in half to eat between bites of buttered bread. When she reached for a third piece, Thleen said “Why does she get all the meat?”

“She just made a new person out of her body, and she’s low on some important nutrients. And now she’s feeding that new person from her body as well” said Prl.

“I want more meat, too” said Thleen. “Can I have some if I skip fruit for afters?”

Maar and Pyosz exchanged a look. Thleen was lithe as ever, but her sleeves were once again not quite covering her wrists. Maar put three spoons of mutton on Thleen’s plate and refilled her milk glass, saying “Thanks for letting us know. Keep telling me when you want a specific thing to eat, okay? And you can still have stewed apricots for afters.”

During clean-up, Yoj said to Thleen “I’m presuming there’s no homework tonight, tomorrow being school’s end.”

“No more homework!” said Thleen happily. “But, oh, I gotta get my slip signed for kickball camp -- where’s my bookbag?” She looked around at the kitchen counters as if it would materialize there.

Yoj said “Did you bring it home?”

“Yeah, because on the ferry I -- I just had it on the ferry, I know. And then I came here -- no, wait, the greenhouse?” She wheeled on Qala. “Did you leave it in the greenhouse?”

“I think the question is ‘Did YOU leave it in the greenhouse?’” said Qala.

Muttering, Thleen ran out the front door, yelling “NO, Clicker, how many levvin’ times do I have to tell you?” and slamming it behind her. Qux, in Maar’s arms. awoke with a jerk. She tried to focus on Halling nearby with wide eyes.

When Thleen returned, she wailed “The misters were on and it’s all wet!” She dropped her bag on the kitchen floor, looking at Qala accusingly. Lawa said “Bring it to the hearth, we’ll set out everything to dry.”

“But my permission slip. I gotta have it signed by tomorrow!” said Thleen, fumbling at the bag.

“It’ll be dry by the morning, I’ll sign it before I leave for work” said Maar. Pyosz added “And set out your oldest clothes to wear tomorrow, don’t forget.” Thleen’s face brightened as she went into the great room.

It was the custom at Pya School that the final hour of the term was spent outside in a mudfight free-for-all. A wallow was created in the middle of the playground the night before, covered with a tarp until classes were let out early. The melee was segregated into qaudrants based on age and size, and overseen by leraars who weren’t above getting dirty themselves. The culmination was when Dodd strolled nonchalantly outside. She would be mobbed by third and fourth-graders determined to drag her into the wallow and push her face down into it. Her struggle was mighty, and it took all of them to bring her down, screaming in glee. She would emerge from the muck with a roar, mud cascading from her beard, to beat her chest and vow vengeance next year.

Halling said quietly to Qala “Lawa still planning to go?” Lawa had borrowed one of Tu’s wooden masks and Pyosz’s slaughter apron, and planned to sneak upon the fracas from cover of nearby trees, carrying her own bucket of mud. Lawa’s throwing aim was dead-on. Qala nodded with a wide grin and said “I’m taking the video camera but I plan to stay inside the cover of the schoolhouse.”

When they all walked up the path from the ferry the following day, Thleen was almost unrecognizable from mud caked all over her, penetrating her scalp and even her ear canals, Prl reported after her bath. Lawa’s apron and mask had spared her somewhat, although violet bruises covered her forearms once she disrobed. Qala had been peppered all over her back, the result of an ambush by Thleen and the Kacang children who waited on the other side of the schoolhouse door. They did a first rinse under the outdoor shower, but Thleen required two refillings of the tub inside to finally be declared clean. After dinner they watched the video Qala had made using Halling’s trainer equipment, laughing so hard they had to rewind over and over to catch parts they were missing. Qux stayed awake and wriggled a great deal in excitement about the hilarity around her.

That weekend Yoj was the guest speaker at Pya School graduation, and the following Moja, Maar flew Halling and her scooter to Koldok for the day, to begin pilot training. Instruction was being held in the Lofthall because Mrebbe had said she could get the Polytechnic’s main building plus the parachute tower done by summer’s end, but not the Polytechnic’s dorms,cafeteria, or the Lofthall’s other buildings, they had to prioritize. For the first term, college students could eat at the canteem or cafe and still live at home. But lecture halls, labs, offices, and Yoj’s library of books would be finished by Pyosz’s birthday.

Yoj had declined being dean in favor of heading up the history department. She said she wanted to teach and study, not glad-hand and play with budgets. The dean position was not offered to Prl, but she did receive an proposal to teach two classes in human biology, which she graciously accepted. Nioma was also offered two courses in animal biology, and she asked to share a corner office with Prl. The curriculum was heavy on pragmatic training for the time being. Skene University was still denying accreditation to Pya, but everyone knew they’d eventually have to cave as the Polytechnic added departments and gakushas emigrated from Skene for the chance to pursue specialized interests.

Qux’s hair remained thick like a black bottle brush, and her eyes lost their cloudiness to reveal they were Maar’s brown. The second week of Mchele she smiled for the first time, an enchanting grin erupting across her face at Thleen’s antics. The whole Manage melted. They competed to make her smile, and she was happy to oblige. Her life was one marvelous kick after another, and as Thleen said, “Wait til sibu sees Mchele Fair.”


Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

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A DREAM DEFERRED by Langston Hughes


When I was 13, Scholastic offered a small poster with this poem on it, along with with "Dreams". It still astounds me what extraordinary, incendiary subversion gets unwittingly passed on to children by otherwise soulless adults because it's "poetry". I hung this poster on my closet door and read it several times a day throughout my adolescence. Explains a lot.

A DREAM DEFERRED

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

HUBBLE THURSDAY 22 APRIL 2010

(STIS records a black hole signature)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite, followed by poetry after the jump.


HARVEST

by Louise Gluck

It's autumn in the market—
not wise anymore to buy tomatoes.
They're beautiful still on the outside,
some perfectly round and red, the rare varieties
misshapen, individual, like human brains covered in red oilcloth—

Inside, they're gone. Black, moldy—
you can't take a bite without anxiety.
Here and there, among the tainted ones, a fruit
still perfect, picked before decay set in.

Instead of tomatoes, crops nobody really wants.
Pumpkins, a lot of pumpkins.
Gourds, ropes of dried chilies, braids of garlic.
The artisans weave dead flowers into wreaths;
they tie bits of colored yarn around dried lavender.
And people go on for a while buying these things
as though they thought the farmers would see to it
that things went back to normal:
the vines would go back to bearing new peas;
the first small lettuces, so fragile, so delicate, would begin
to poke out of the dirt.

Instead, it gets dark early.
And the rains get heavier; they carry
the weight of dead leaves.

At dusk, now, an atmosphere of threat, of foreboding.
And people feel this themselves; they give a name to the season,
harvest, to put a better face on these things.

The gourds are rotting on the ground, the sweet blue grapes are finished.
A few roots, maybe, but the ground's so hard the farmers think
it isn't worth the effort to dig them out. For what?
To stand in the marketplace under a thin umbrella, in the rain, in the cold,
no customers anymore?

And then the frost comes; there's no more question of harvest.
The snow begins; the pretense of life ends.
The earth is white now; the fields shine when the moon rises.

I sit at the bedroom window, watching the snow fall.
The earth is like a mirror:
calm meeting calm, detachment meeting detachment.

What lives, lives underground.
What dies, dies without struggle.

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MY PAPA'S WALTZ by Theodore Roethke & MILLWORKER by James Taylor

(Woman mill worker, Lowell, MA)

Two snapshots of working class reality, by consummate wordsmiths.


MY PAPA'S WALTZ

by Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.


MILLWORKER

by James Taylor

Now my grandfather was a sailor
He blew in off the water
My father was a farmer
And I his only daughter
Took up with a no good millworking man
From Massachusetts
Who dies from too much whiskey
And leaves me these three faces to feed

Millwork ain't easy
Millwork ain't hard
Millwork it ain't nothing
But an awful boring job
I'm waiting for a daydream
To take me through the morning
And put me in my coffee break
Where I can have a sandwich
And remember

Then it's me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
For the rest of the afternoon
And the rest of my life

Now my mind begins to wander
To the days back on the farm
I can see my father smiling at me
Swinging on his arm
I can hear my granddad's stories
Of the storms out on Lake Erie
Where vessels and cargos and fortunes
And sailors' lives were lost

But it's my life has been wasted
And I have been the fool
To let this manufacturer
Use my body for a tool
I'll ride home every evening
Staring at my hands
Swearing by my sorrow that a young girl
Ought to stand a better chance

So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
And never meet the man whose name is on the label

It be me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
For the rest of the afternoon
For the rest of my life

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

PYA: CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)

CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT

By the time Ngall and Ehuy arrived to move into their bright purple Manage on Dou, with Omill already pulling herself up on furniture and Ehall transferring to first grade at Pya school, life on Saya had rearranged itself into a new schedule.

Nioma spent weekends at Owl Manage, every other weekend bringing her grandchildren with her. Pyosz's old bed from the Genist Manage was put in one spare bedroom, the double from Prl's bedroom was put in the other, and Prl resuming her massive, ornately carved pewter bedstead from Skene in her room. Pyosz's small bed from her first year on Saya was returned to the cabin for overflow guests.

During the week, Nioma slept at Talaba, although she and Prl radioed every day and at least twice a week Prl met her for lunch in Pertama. Not sleeping together half the week gave added ardor to their weekend visits. Prl said there was no plan to change this arrangement for years to come, not until Nioma's grandchildren were old enough to not need her during the week. When Pyosz diffidently asked if they intended to partner, then, without residing together, Prl said "Not yet" and left it at that.

It didn't matter. She was deliriously happy, and unencumbered in a way Pyosz could never have imagined.


The main difficulty the newly blended Manage experienced was with their katts. Yoj had finally decided to leave most of the Archive katts there, taking with her only the ancients, as they called them, the trio most attached to her: Gakusha, Starchy, and Shima. These three had once lived in proximity to Cha and Curds, and it had been expected that they would all fall back into some version of their old familiarity. Instead, pitched battles over territory took place several times a day. Ember and Clicker were wise enough to not be drawn in. Curds and the ancients left ripped-out clumps of fur along floor moldings, and application of Ulcha's antiseptic ointment was frequently necessary. Yoj kept reminding everyone "Don't intervene, they'll sort it out eventually."

Halling got up early with Lawa and fished at the point for hours. Thleen joined them on weekends, and often Tu and Pank walked over to fish as well. Yoj spent her mornings with Qala in the tillage, joined by katts. Prl accompanied Pyosz to Koldok every morning, shopping and visiting around town where she was already popular. One day a week Prl returned to Koldok at noon to eat with Dodd at the school, having private time in Dodd's office.

Two afternoons a week Maar flew the ramp sinner at noon to pick up Moasi so she could come spend the afternoon on Saya. Tu would join her sibs and they'd sit on the porch or around the large table working on projects together, quilting, mending, cooking, making gifts, while music playing in the background and slow conversation never stopped.

During those afternoons, Yoj and Prl each retreated to research and writing, either sharing the study or at the desks in their rooms. Pyosz again found time to pot, and Qala began roaming Saya, doing what she called nature study. When Thleen came home from school, Yoj or Prl helped her with homework while dinner was made collaboratively. Vants, Lehen and Pava joined them for dinner often, staying for singing afterward.

Yoj and Halling stayed up til 11:00, working on Halling's Lofthall book. They had crafted two proposals that Mill, Dodd and Api were now going over before submitting it to the midwinter Vote. One was to create Pya's flight school, and the other was to establish Pya Polytechnic. Yoj and Halling were offering to fund much of the construction cost of these adjacent institutions, with the proviso that they be employed as instructor and gakusha once they were up and running. It would deplete their savings, but Pyosz insisted it would benefit furure generations of their family, and she was going to support her abbas in any event.

Everyone pitched in to help make jams, jellies, dried fruit and roasted nuts, vinegars and sauces. Yoj became a mainstay for Pyosz's baking, and the herd's milk yield remained high. Pyosz's ceramic sold quickly, especially her stoneware vinegar jugs and the cheese pots with the dancing goat etched into their sides. Even without future teaching salaries, Saya's home industry combined with Maar's income (minus her commitments to Adon and Su) and their shared allotment resulted in a small but growing savings for Owl Manage. Not to mention whatever Qala, Lawa and Prl had stashed away for children's educations.

Even so, when Pank made a proposal that Saya build a special greenhouse, Pyosz had doubts about its affordability. Pank outlined her idea at the dinner table one evening. "Remember that cake with the white flakes on it we had at the last tasting? And that sip of what was like sweet milk with a rich flavor like nothing else we know?"

"Yeah, it was called kelapa" said Lawa. "It's a tropical, only Pya is growing it."

"It is warm-loving" agreed Pank, "and even the dwarf versions can reach 50 feet in height. So you'd need a towering greenhouse. But it could be glass at the top and for the bottom ten feet, and wood walls in between. Likewise, there's another tree about as tall, another tropical, which produces vast clusters of fruit that's as sweet as maple syrup, called jari. Each tree makes over 200 pounds of fruit a year, and you just wait til you taste it. Plus the seeds have numerous medicinal and industrial uses. The kelapa fruits every month, all year long, and its nutritional content is through the roof. Even a couple of each of these trees would pay high eks."

"But the cost of building a greenhouse four stories high -- that's why only the ejida can afford it" argued Lawa.

"So far. Until folks start wanting the product." Pank was excited. "See, on the ground around it. you could plant cacao or that new tropical dye, indigo, which grows on bushes. The trees will take seven years to reach production, but tne ground crops will turn a profit the first year. Near as I can calculatem by the eighth year, the greenhouse would be paid off, and after that it's all extra. Heaps of coin extra."

"Well if it's such a great venture, why ain't you doing it?" asked Lawa.

"I can't find the space on Herne" said Pank. "Needs direct sun and not in the path of north winds. But you got that bare spot between the goat pen and the cliff, you could build a 30 by 20 greenhouse there at an angle, easy. You'll have to make soil, two feet I'd say, to root it all in 'cause that's just sand over fissured rock right now. But making soil is one of your industries here on Saya."

"We mentioned it to Vants, but her hands are gonna be full when her herd reaches full strength, her and Pava both. And Lehen has a job elsewhere" said Tu.

"See, what's great about it, harvest is light work compared to other crops" said Pank. "Cacao and indigo can be picked by somebody in a chair. The tall trees will take an agile climber in a harness shimmying up to cut and toss down" -- she grinned at Thleen, who was hanging on every word -- "but otherwise, everything has to be sent out for processing, 'cept what you eat pronto. So it;s the kind of crop made for retired folks who want a high return for an initial investment."

"I've always wanted my own greenhouse" mused Lawa.

"Will the ejida take kindly to such competition?" asked Prl pointedly.

"Their greenhouses are maxed out, they can't expand into this market without more expensive construction theyselves" said Pank. "They're only going to produce enough to whet an appetite. And I know for a fact they want to build for smaller trees with crops in established demand, mainly bananas, mangos, and limes. Don't head in that direction, those three, prices are only going to go down in the next decade."

Pank had good sources. Tu added "You'll have to pollinate with Y dust from the ejida. But you can get the botaniste's full assistance if you agree to use the habitat for some tropical butterflies, whatever variety won't prey on your trees. Plant a few flowers to take care of them and the botaniste will give you one of the moons on a platter."

They all laughed. Qala said "You know, in the bestiary there are rainbow-colored tropical birds with huge beaks. Yoj told me once they lived as long as people do and could acquire the ability to speak, is that true?"

"According to the oldest records, yes" said Yoj. "You want to hatch a pair and give them a protected paradise on Saya, Qala?"

"Think about it, on the coldest, wettest days, going into a warm, sweet-smelling outdoors room to converse with birds" said Qala. "What a way to spend your last years." She looked at Lawa.

Lawa said to Tu "You draw up a detailed plan, including every cost you can imagine, give it to us." Pank rapped on the table in agreement. Pyosz raised her eyebrows at Maar as Thleen said "Talk Skenish, you mean? The birds can understand Skenish?"

Paradise seemed completely out of reach two days later when Pyosz returned from Koldok to find Vants and Pank waiting beside the jichang, as slaughter sleds were lowered by Abbo. Lawa was putting a final edge on blades. Prl sat on the porch, holding Pyosz's leather apron.

"Do you want me to come watch?" said Prl.

"I really don't, emma. The fewer who actually know what this is like, the better, I think" said Pyosz. Her head was already starting to ache.

"Yoj asked what to make for lunch" said Prl.

"Salad. Potatoes or rice" said Pyosz, distracted by bleating from the goat pen. Prl came down the steps to kiss her. A few raindrops were already starting to fall.

Pank was assembling the A-frame drain rack as Pyosz joined them. "Oldest first?" asked Vants. Lawa handed a boning knife to Vants and Pyosz said "Abba, you don't have to do this -- "

"It'll go faster, better for all of us" said Lawa. Pyosz looked up at the sky, seeing droplets bead the frizz along her dreads like miniature jewels. She shook her head and walked to the barn.

All of the older goats sequestered there looked at her with rank fear. Except one: Molars. Molars seemed to have no expression at all. Patently past breeding and now producing no milk, it had been simple to put her on the slaughter list. Pyosz approached her carefully, sure that Molars would look for one last opportunity to exact her retribution on humans.

But Molars didn't so much as flick an ear as Pyosz clipped a tether around her neck. "Come on then" said Pyosz, backing toward the door. With an audible breath, Molars followed unresistingly. They stepped out into a downpour and still Molars didn't pause, walking beside Pyosz with a stoic gait.

When they reached the killing field, Vants said "You want me to hold her?"

Pyosz said "No, if you don't mind, I think it should be who holds her against this final betrayal." She braced herself and reached her arms around Molars' neck from behind. But Molars offered no fight, made no move to bite. Pyosz stood bent over, in a close contact she'd never experienced with this doe, even when milking.

"Pyosz?" asked Vants, waiting for Pyosz to move so the top of Molars' head was clear for the punch to be applied.

"Wait" said Pyosz, straightening and stepping to the side so she could look into Molars' eyes. The odd pupils were dilated, but what Pyosz read was complete resignation. The day Molars always knew was imminent had finally arrived.

Pyosz looked away, facing east, watching sheets of grey blow over Puaa Woods. She was soaked to the skin already, her leather apron hanging heavily on her like sheet metal. "No" she said. She looked back at Vants. "I'm the capriste."

"Yes" said Vants. Pank looked at her quzzically.

"I can afford to have one goat who's in retirement" said Pyosz.

"But this one?" asked Lawa.

"She gave us Killer's emma" said Pyosz. She met Molars' eyes again. "I know you hate me, but I don't hate you. I don't like you much, but I don't hate you. And I refuse to be the one who fulfills your worst expectation. I'm your capriste. Come on, let's go to pasture.:

This time, Molars didn't follow immediately. She stared at Pyosz in confusion, moving only when Pyosz tugged firmly at the lead. She hesitated again when they bypassed the barn, heading for the kissing gate. Inside the gate, Pyosz unclipped the tether and said "Go. Live out your days." From 100 yards away, Boulder had stopped grazing and was watching them intently. Killer started in their direction, and Pyosz went swiftly back through the gate, unwilling to accept any goat love today. She went to the barn and tethered the next oldest doe.

When Maar came home for lunch, they were finished. Pyosz had stripped and scrubbed at the outdoor shower, wrapping herself in the robe Prl brought her and walking back to the Manage under a shared umbrella. Pyosz stayed in her robe at the table, rubbing her hair with a towel while Yoj and Qala carried in food. Maar sat down beside her and asked "You all right?"

"Scraped raw. But okay. Better than in the past." She took a sip of milky tea.

"Why better?"

"I didn't kill Molars. I don't know why I feel so good about that, of all the goats I've loved and done in, but I do." Pyosz spread her hand over her belly. "I feel terrible about the rest."

"But you have a small, unexpected gap in the guilt. I get it" said Maar. She filled a bowl with rice and asked Pyosz "What else?"

"Some of those butter beans on top. And the steamed squash. That'll do." Pyosz accepted the bowl and kissed Maar's cheek lightly.

"You are such a gift to Pya" murmured Maar.

"That you are" echoed Pank, ripping a roasted chicken leg from thigh with a crack. Pyosz didn't look her way but she smiled briefly.

That autumn, Thleen and Ziri learned to rock-climb under the tutelage of Pava and a forester friend of Ulcha's. Two days later, Thleen was walking across the great hall, tripped over her own feet and broke her wrist. Pyosz painted her cast with scenes from Lupanalom.

A vein of green marble was discovered in the quarry at Uscat that Mill said they could charge almost any amount for, it was so beautiful and rare, Frahe and Nk finished enough dining chairs to fully seat the table at Owl Manage, 22 people. A week before midwinter, Qoj returned to live with Dodd and Briel, Uli moving in with Dekkan's cheerful assistance.

At the mindwinter Vote, Pya overwhelmingly approved construction of the Polytechnic and flight school. A law was passed requiring the signed consent of "any living donor of reproductive material" before such material could be used for pregnancy. Genist salary was reduced by 10%. The proposal to fill in the lagoon between Verzin and Faar was defeated, and with it funding to create undersea probes. Nioma promised they would try again the next year.

The tallest building ever erected on Skene was constructed on Saya Island, a greenhouse that altered flight paths westward from the Lofthall. One-foot kelapa and jari trees were planted under the gleaming pyramid, surrounded by less ridiculous-looking bushes, a tiny pond and bench carved by Nk with designs of fantastic birds who had speech spirals issuing from their beaks. During that severe winter, all the elders found sanctuary for their aching bones inside that thermally-heated space, condensation dripping occasionally from the glass above.

Ulcha and Frank were partnered early in Jian, followed three weeks later by Uli and Qoj. Twice massive leviathans were detected by radar trying to infiltrate sinning nets, once each in Pya and Skene. After the attempted sabotage in Skene, a rattled pilot fired her mezi ray at a surfacing lev who may or may not have been the culprit. The leviathan was wounded and vanished, and condemnation from the public was so severe, Danaan had to ground the sinner indefinitely. Both Lofthalls were on edge for weeks.

Despite being over seven months pregnant, Pyosz insisted she participate in rice planting during Yaomur and a pair of waders was found to fit her. She kept having to leave the field, however, to visit the privy, laughing at how sloshing through water aggravated her already overactive bladder.

A week into Lamminsade, all the kids were born, the tillage fully planted, but nowhere was the year's renewal more evident than in Pyosz's bulbous form. She was cranky, complained about the heat even when it was cool, couldn't find a comfortable sleeping position, and went off certain foods in mid bite. Meals became a smorgasbord of various offerings to keep up with her ravenous but variable appetite.

The only person who never lost patience with Pyosz was Prl. Her previous risability at Pyosz's caustic turn of phrase had vanished. She kept saying "She doesn't mean it, I remember what it was like when I was carrying her." Qala would roll her eyes at Lawa and say "Yeah, we remember it, too." As her due date came and went, they were all offering Pyosz several cups a day of the tea Frank had mixed for her, urging shamsjooz sauce on her plate, and once Yoj had sent Maar into bright crimson mortification by gently suggesting that orgasms helped shake a baby loose.

"What's a orgasm?" Thleen had asked from the doorway. Maar had simply stood and walked out the back door into pouring rain. Qala had replied "It's part of sex, in a couple of years I'll tell you all about it." Yoj saw the expression on Thleen's face which indicated she didn't want to wait that long -- likely she and Ziri would launch their own investigation.

Frank was checking in every day, and this Roku morning she said "It's warm enough, Pyosz, wading at the oyster beach. Take someone with you, make sure you go at least waist deep and swish around for an hour."

Grumbling, Pyosz donned the waders Maar brought her and waddled out the front door. Thleen declined to accompany them, waiting until the door was shut before saying "She's so crabby." Frank finished her tea and left, saying "Call me if this works."

"If what works?" asked Thleen.

'We're trying to help her start having the baby" said Prl.

"Wading in the water makes you have a baby?" asked Thleen, startled and concerned. Prl explained as they all got ready to leave for Market.

When Pyosz returned, she complained about being fatigued, which eventually transmuted into the statement "I think I pulled a muscle in my back." Prl looked alert, placed her hands on Pyosz's low back, and said "Right about here?"

"That's it, rub there, emma" said Pyosz. "I think something was off with the eggs abba made at breakfast, I keep trying to go to the privy but nothing is passing." Prl grinned at Maar and said "You may want to send Thleen to get Frank. No urgency, but I think it's starting."

"Oh don't be a shuwit, emma, you're leaping to conclusions!" burst out Pyosz. Maar wrote a quick note and sent it by Thleen to Herne. By the time Frank responded, trundling in with her bag an hour later, Pyosz had spotted her knickers with clear fluid and was walking back and forth in the upstairs hall, arm in arm with a pale-faced Maar.

Frank handed Prl a fitted sheet with a plastic liner and said "Remake her bed with this, lay in -- oh, good, you've already got towels and extra pillows in here." Pyosz had come to the doorway, and Frank said to her cheerfully "You're extrenely fit, you have a generous pelvis, you're young and the baby is in good position. She's large but we're hoping for a fast delivery. Keep walking while you can, I'm going to eat and scrub."

Back in the hall, Pyosz said to Maar "I'm not ready for this. Why didn't you ask us to wait a few years? Why am I having to go first?" Maar blinked at the injustice and said "I'm with you, darling, every step of the way." To which Pyosz made a rude sound.

Briel and Dodd came in late afternoon. Briel did an exam and confirmed Frank's assessment. She and Dodd stayed for dinner, and Dodd pulled Thleen into musical duets afterward. She offered to take Thleen home with her. The cries from overhead were regular and loud. Qala said to Thleen "It's up to you. She's in serious pain but it will go away, she's not being damaged. We won't let her be damaged. Does it matter most to you to be here in this Manage when your sibiya is born, or would you like a break from how hard a birth sounds?"

"It'll still be just as hard on Pyosz whether I'm here or not. right?" asked Thleen, squaring her shoulders in perfect mimicry of Maar. Qala nodded. "She's my emma now. I want to be here when she becomes another emma" said Thleen.

Qala hugged her and said "Then how about if you sleep in our bed tonight off the kitchen? I think Lawa plans to sit up, and you can keep me company." Relief flooded Thleen's face. "With Clicker?"

"We'll see what Cha has to say about it" offered Qala.

Halling stretched out on the settee in the upstairs hall, and Lawa took the easy chair next to her. Yoj decided to make bread and stews as the night and labor progressed. Maar was leaned against their nickel headboard, Pyosz arced back against her, yelling "Oh lev it's too MUCH, you have to find a way to stop this if you love me!" Frank was kneeling in front of Pyosz, coaching her patiently, while Prl reached from the bedside chair, wiping sweat from her child's face and chest with a cloth dipped in cool mint water.

Once Thleen dropped off, Qala got up to shut both katts from the room and returned to sleep while she could. At 2:00 Prl opened the bedroom door and said breathlessly into the hall "Soon now". Lawa went downstairs to get Yoj and Qala. They found Pyosz kneeling, held up by Maar, with Frank bent to catch the baby as she dropped into her hands. Prl held the newborn while Pyosz sobbed and Frank tied, then cut the cord. Pyosz collapsed onto Maar and the baby, wrapped once, was placed into her emmas' arms.

Pyosz was having trouble focusing on her, but she managed to say "She's got your hair!"

"It's pitch black" said Maar.

"Yes but look how it sticks straight out, even wet as she is, that's yours. And a tiny dimple in her tiny chin, oh she's perfect." Pyosz covered her face with kisses.

"Your mouth, she has your mouth and cheeks" said Maar, finding it hard to draw a full breath. Frank said "Here's the afterbirth, one more push, Pyosz." Pyosz grunted and shrieked, and Frank said "You're going to need stitches. Lie back more, let me clean you and numb you a little." Maar passed the baby to Prl with visibly shaking hands, saying "Here's your abba. Abba, meet Qux."

A gasp went up at the name. Pyosz's eyes remained on Qux and Prl as the damage of a 9 lb birth was deftly remedied. Prl's face was streaming with tears. She said "She smells exactly like you did at birth." Eventually clean sheets and pads were put down, Pyosz was sponged and wrapped in a cotton schmatta, and she fell asleep on Maar who was holding her and Qux both.

Yoj gave Maar sips of tea. Frank cleaned her materials and went to the empty bedroom next door for sleep. After half an hour, Pyosz woke again when Qux began fretting and Prl talked her through the first nursing. Pyosz stared down at the face pressed against her with a terrified expression and whispered "Maar, I've never needed anyone like I need you now. I've been loved well all my life, but this is a whole other world of dependence."

"I know. I'm here, I feel it too."

Pyosz continued "How did emma bear it, being on her own?" She didn't seem to remember others were still in the room.

"She's an extraordinary woman, and she has your family" said Maar.

"Plus I wasn't on my own, I had you" said Prl. "You told me immediately you'd be there for me in every way you could. And you have. She will too."

"How can she know to eat like that?" marveled Pyosz. Maar had just felt Qux's fist grasp her finger, and she was beyond words. Halling said "She's going to be a good eater, look at her. Like her aggie."

After another half hour, Pyosz drank a glass of water and went to sleep like a light was turned off. Maar curled protectively beside her, Qux swaddled atop them, and Prl stretched out in the easy chair next to the bed, turning off the lamp. Everyone else returned downstairs to sleep for what was left of the night.


Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

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XVII by Adrienne Rich


Portrait of a woman-loving generation.

‘XVII’

by Adrienne Rich

No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighbourhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan and Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No poison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder
should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could have instructed those after us:
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these were the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.


From Twenty-One Love Poems

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

PYA: CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)

CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN

Early the next week, Maar came home shortly before dinner and found Pyosz with Qala in the kitchen. "Where's Thleen?"

"At the point. She and Ziri stole my big kawali pan and used it to sled down the sandy slope by the oyster beach. Lawa has her trying to polish out the damage they did, see if we can avoid having it retinned" said Pyosz dourly.

"Those levvin' -- that slope is short, could easily dump them into the water. I mean, we have the riptide fence up, but still..." Maar glared in the direction of the point.


"That's what gave them away, they showed up here drenched. Plus Thleen has a bump on her face that I think will turn into a black eye." Pyosz handed Maar carrots to chop. Maar could make a very symmetrical dice of carrots.

"What consequences shall we dispense? Besides the buffing, and taking the cost of retinning from her allowance if need be?" asked Maar.

"I was pretty mad" admitted Pyosz. "I locked Opicha in the cupboard for a week." Thleen had begun sleeping each night with the knitted animal in her arms. Maar glanced at Qala, who was frowning as she coated sakana filets for browning.

"Just when I think she's reached a new level of maturity" said Maar.

"It'll yaw back and forth for the next five years" predicted Qala. "But adding a baby to the household will take some of the focus off Thleen."

Maar thought Thleen could easily remove some of the focus from herself by not stealing Pyosz's belongings. Or trying to dress the goats in Koben's clothes. Or secretly replacing all the eggs in the chicken roosts one morning with hard-boiled ones from the day before. Maar chuckled to herself, wishing she'd been there to see Pyosz's face as she tried to crack eggs to make pancakes for breakfast.

Pyosz said "Speaking of babies, I asked Frahe to build retracting gates for the top and bottom of our stairs." Maar's pulse shot up. She put down her knife and went to hug Pyosz from behind, cradling Pyosz's belly in her hands.

"Honey, I'm stirring hot broth here, need to move" said Pyosz crankily. Thleen came in the back door, covered in verdigris and grime. Maar went to examine her eye under the light. Qala said "I've got a poultice to put on that. Go bathe now, fast, before dinner." Thleen left, subdued. Pyosz looked over the kawali pan Lawa returned and finally allowed it was all right.

"I'll drive a nail in the wall of the dining room and hang it there, instead of putting it back under the stairs" said Lawa. They won't steal it again, they always come up with a new way to misbehave thought Maar tiredly.

"Wait" said Pyosz, abandoning her pot, "I want to decide where any nails are driven." After she dropped the carrots into a pan of water and pearl onions, Maar resumed Pyosz's stirring as well as tending her vegetables. Qala joined her at the aga to fry fish. "How was work?" she asked Maar.

'I had a free hour so I sat down with all the leviathan photos we have and organized them acording to the classification system Nioma suggested" said Maar, her voice abruptly losing its fatigue. "Then I did the same with what Skene has shared with us, and I compared the two."

"And?" said Qala, setting down her tongs.

"Well, I want to go over it with everybody I can, including Nioma. I think there's a subtle color shift not just at the baby to juvie demarcation but also in some later stages of age and size. Also, on the few shots we have of the really giant ones, who never much surface, they have one more eye in their row of eyes on each side than the smaller levs. Which I've never heard anyone mention, have you?" Maar's voice was now intense.

"I've not, and if Halling or Yoj knew about it, we'd have discussed it" said Qala, her own face animated. "You need to call them after dinner."

"Call them about what?" said Pyosz, returning to the kitchen.

"Maar's discovered a leviathan anatomical anomaly which may have to do with size or age" said Qala, exchanging a look with Lawa, also joining them.

"Or where they live. Or if they are some sort of X vs Y" speculated Maar.

"How did you discover this?" demanded Pyosz. "Qala, those filets are burning."

"Shit" said Qala, grabbing her tongs. Maar repeated her explanation, adding "That's not all, or even the most interesting. I absolutely confirmed that some of the levs who are skulking around Skene's sinning are allso appearing here. Again, it's the massive ones, who are also easier to positively identify, they accumulate markings over time."

Qala whistled. "That's one hell of a trip. Following fish?"

"We need to capture fish in each location, live catch, tag them with sensors, and release them" said Maar. "It will be extremely expensive but I am certain the information we'd gain would pay us back in the long run. If only in pilot lives."

Pyosz moved close to Maar and took the spoon from her. Thleen's voice floated from the bathroom: "Will somebody come wash my hair?"

After a long pause, Lawa said "I'll do it." As she left she said to Maar "Call Halling."

"Got it" said Maar, almost to herself.

As she and Pyosz were getting ready for bed that night, she said "I forgot to tell you, with everything else going on, I don't have a sinning shift tomorrow. If you'll let me sleep until 8, I could go to market with you all."

"Wonderful! And we could go to Pabo in the afternoon, I need -- :

"No" interrupted Maar, "I do have to work starting at noon. They're going to begin quarrying on Uscat and I'm initiating the excavation sites with the mezi. I won't be home until after dark."

"Oh. Does that mean you'll be hauling rock from Uscat any time soon?" Too low over lev-infested waters Pyosz didn't add.

"Yeah, probably the week after. Me and Abbo as a team again" said Maar. not looking at Pyosz. Pyosz silently put on her oldest schmatta, which was faded and twice repaired, but it had worn to a gauzy softness and she wanted the comfort. What she didn't know is that it was almost see-through now.

Maar said "I appreciate more than I can say how much you do to take care of Thleen."

Pyosz looked at her with surprise. "Well of course. Goes without saying."

Maar closed the door after making sure both katts were in the room and turned off the overhead light. "I wish your family didn't see me as a greenie whose every move needs to be checked with the immortal Halling. I mean, she is retired, and I'm the one out there working six days a week."

"Not just working but turning new soil" agreed Pyosz. "I think Qala knows better, she wants support for you from someone who can deliver it. As do I." She sat against the headboard, her schmatta hiked to her waist, and began rubbing oil into her knees. Maar lay down facing her and said softly "Since I don't have to get up early.."

"Yeah?" said Pyosz, with a slow smile. "But I still do, you know, goats at dawn."

"I can make it up to you" said Maar, dipping her thumbtip in the oil pot and running it lightly along Pyosz's thigh.

"Might as well put that thumb all the way in" said Pyosz, holding out the pot. Maar laughed wickedly and turned off the lamp.

There was a dance on Sju in Pertama and all the clan attended. On the ride there Lawa remarked it would be their last public appearance as a family before the directories were distributed on Moja via libraries and allotment centers, one per Manage. Once at the dance, at a cluster of shared tables, talk focused on the leviathan photo folder Maar had brought, now in the hands of Nioma who was theorizing to a fascinated audience.

"What would be the point in growing another set of eyes?" wondered Pank. "I mean, they got a dozen already."

"That's a question we need to answer" said Nioma appreciatively. "The advantage of having several sets seems obvious, because of enhanced visual acuity. The first pair are practically on top of their heads, but the succeeding rows slant not just backward but downward, giving them an almost 360 degree range of vision. They must have spectacular tracking ability."

"And the last extra pair are level with their blue spot on the side" pointed out Maar. "You can only even see them in these shots where the levi is banking and her side is revealed. So if we follow your theory that physical changes arise from need, what do they need to see that is below them? I mean, these giant ones spend most of their time very submerged. What is down there?"

Pyosz felt a shiver. She reached for Ura, who came to her happily, her brown fist reaching for the baubles at the ends of Pyosz's dreads.

"We really need to drop probes into our oceans that can transmit data to us" said Nioma fervidly. Uli was nodding vigorously. "I've been put in touch with the head gakusha of biology at the U, and we're drafting a proposal for the next election, a joint venture between Skene and Pya. Someone in engineering is collaborating as well." Pyosz was certain she knew who was making these connections for Nioma. Emma's retirement will keep her as busy as she's ever been in her life she thought. She realized she needed to pee again and handed off Ura to Qala.

"You'll have to link funding to more than just generic public good if you want it to pass right now" said Mill. "Contracts are not as contentious as they might be, but part of the reason why is because most Sheng Zhangs are opting for long-term growth instead of immediate eks."

Cousins all thought Maar, wondering again how that phrase would sit in the mouth once folks opened those green directories. She listened to the ensuing conversation about possible concrete benefits of ocean exploration. It was Pava who came up with "If you're going to build new reefs and fill in open water to make new land, you'll need to know how long it will take, how much material to collect from the lava flow, right? Plus what you might be covering up. So hitch the probes to that project, and once they're designed and buildable, it'll be easier to suggest other uses for them." Vants clapped Pava hard on her back in congratulation, but it was Nioma's soft "Sounds exactly like what Poth would have suggested" which brought joy to Pava's face.

After a while, Maar became aware Pyosz's visit to the privy seemed prolonged. She looked toward the door and saw Pyosz deep in conversation with Sey. They were standing very close -- well, the music is very loud right now, they'd have to speak into each other's ears almost to hear. But Pyosz's face was intently attentive. Sey's cheeks were flushed. Their height difference meant Pyosz had to bend a little to be on Sey's level, but she was bending from her hips, not her shoulders, as if to receive all of Sey's body. As if their bodies knew each other and fell into familiar intimacy automatically.

Maar looked away and closed her eyes, fighting back jealousy which rose as a lump in her throat. Qala saw this reaction, then turned to locate what had brought on such upset. She decided it wasn't her concern -- no concern at all, in fact -- and returned her attention to Ura.

Maar opened her eyes again to see Thax approaching her: Thax with an easy grin, asking "Can I have the next one, I think they're tuning up for a reel."

She'll never ask me to dance again thought Maar. Not after Moja. "Sure" she said, standing to accept Thax's hand.

It was a short though vigorous romp. Pyosz was just returning to the table as Maar sat down, breathing hard. "That was Thax, wasn't it?" said Pyosz, accusation in her tone. Maar sidestepped the several replies she wanted to make by pouring and drinking down a glass of tea. Finally she said "What were you and Sey discussing at such private length?" She couldn't help the chill in her tone. She heard Nk giggle nearby, and Pyosz's eyes went wide.

Qala unceremoniously plopped Ura back in Pyosz's lap and said "I'd like to hear about Sey as well." Pyosz said "Well, it actually was interesting. She flagged me over to nervously ask me if anybody in my family is planning to run for Ethicist in Skene. She was all apology if I didn't want to reveal any secrets. blah blah blah. I told her no, not to my knowledge, and asked why she wanted to know. Turns out, her sibemma is Sherr. And she does have ambitions to become Ethicist."

Everyone at the table within earshot now leaned avidly toward Pyosz. Ura assumed this sudden interest was in her, bursting into pleased burbles and lunging at Uli, who took her graciously and let Ura drool on the vividly-painted wooden beads she was wearing.

Pyosz continued in a whisper "So I chatted her up about her analysis of the political scene currently over there, who has power in what circles, all funneled to her via her kin. One funny thing, Sherr's sibemma was Wiaki, who was a friend of our family when you were children, right, Dodd?"

Dodd grinned, nodding and looking at Mill. "Tell us what you learned" urged Briel. Pyosz filled them in as the music started up again. When she was done, Nioma said with a wry smile "Sey will feel utterly exploited by you next week."

"Serves her right, she clearly intended the using to go the other way" replied Pyosz crisply.

Uli said "I cannot imagine you having wound up with her, you'd be so unhappy now!" She turned pink instantly and added "I'm sorry, I didn't think before I said that -- "

"S'all right" said Maar, beaming. "I quite agree."

Thleen and Ziri blew in to the table beside them. Ziri accosted Nezi, saying "Can we please have some ginger beer, we're ever so hot and thirsty?"

"Lots of cold water here" said Nezi, pointing to the table. But Lawa was digging in her pocket, saying "Buy the biggest pitcher they've got for us to share, and don't drop it." As the children plunged into the crowd, Maar said to Lawa "I noticed Thleen has been eating as many carrot sticks and spinach puffs from the snack tray here as she does pastries. What changed her?"

Lawa jerked her thumb toward Qala, who said "Oh, we had a talk about mining island heritage and how the failure of emmas doesn't have to mean a lifelong burden. She really does listen."

"Save us a glass of ginger beer" said Pyosz, grabbing Maar's hand as the music changed to a waltz. Once they were on the floor, she murmured "So did you dance with Thax to get back at me talking to Sey?"

"Not deliberately" said Maar, letting herself melt into Pyosz.

"I can't believe you even get jealous, much less of her, you silly" said Pyosz.

"Ah, well, I had no Qala to give me life lessons early on" said Maar. "I wasn't anybody's heart's desire until Thleen was born."

They danced very closely, barely moving, for a while. Then Pyosz whispered "Who did Api select to deliver the directories around Pya on Moja?"

"Me and Dekkan" said Maar. "Well, Oby asked us if we'd mind. I think Abbo had said no."

"Dekkan has a stout heart" said Pyosz. "Wish I'd been here your first year at the Lofthall."

"I'd have crashed my lighter from distraction" said Maar, kissing her. She hoped Sey was watching.

Shmona dinner the next day on Kacang was unusually quiet. Meko announced she was planning to become pregnant again as soon as they could manage it, and Oby said Ngall's family would be arriving in a month. Otherwise, talk was light and focused on harvests around Pya.

Prl told her apprentice about her action at breakfast, as the directories were being delivered everywhere. She later told Pyosz "Ever the Dullard, she wasn't even able to immediately grasp all the implications. I pointed out some of them and left her to puzzle the rest out for herself." Prl had arranged for a Sigrist radio broadcast at noon, a transmission which was satellite-skipped to Pya with only a few seconds' delay. They sat around the radio at Owl Manage together, letting Thleen fall asleep on the sofa because the broadcast was at 11 p.m. their time. They had decided it would be better for Thleen to go to school the next day instead of being conspicuously absent, trusting Dodd to handle the atmosphere there.

Prl was concise, regretful, and choked back tears when she got to her resignation, thanking all Skene for their trust in her. She emphasized that her apprentice had not known of her intention until that morning and was very much opposed to any change. This was intended not so much to shield the Dullard, Prl explained to Pyosz, as to keep the apprentice from feeling pressure to prove her own innocence by being the one who filed charges against her.

Yoj had gone to the broadcast with her and walked her home afterward, weathering silent, unreadable stares in the street. They called from Yoj and Halling's kitchen, with Speranz and Tlunu retired to the loft above in scandalized silence. Prl said "I have to wait at least a week before moving, to make sure it's not interpreted as flight. I'll spend the time transferring records, packing, and helping emma pack what she's taking from the Archives."

"Are you traveling together, then?" asked Pyosz hopefully.

"No, the huolon cargo limit for personal freight won't hold all our combined possessions" laughed Yoj. "Prl will come first, taking as much of our things in addition to hers as she can, and help set up our room, except for our bed. We'll come a week later."

"It's close to midnight there, isn't it?" said Prl suddenly. "I'm going to jump in and be the first to wish you happy birthday, my darling! Twenty-two years ago right now you were making it emphatically clear to me that you were on your way."

"Oh, emma, thank you so much for having me" said Pyosz.

"Sorry for the timing of this, dampening your celebration" said Prl.

"I think it's perfectly fitting, actually" said Pyosz. "After all, I was named after new worlds, and you keep birthing them for Skene. What our family does, I guess."

"I left my present for you in the chest in my room" said Prl. "But don't open it until tomorrow when I'm on the radio again to hear your reaction."

They went to bed after that, leaving Thleen covered with quilts on the sofa. Qala sent small cakes to school with Thleen the next day, to share with her class in honor of her emma's birthday, which was a common custom but had particular relevance at the moment. In the following week, outraged editorials appeared in both papers, along with an avalanche of citizen letters, but most of the letters were positive, pointing out in one form or another that Prl's actions diffused the genist's power rather than enhanced it and thus, it was believed, she must be striving for balance and the greater good of Skene.

By Roku, Pyosz felt their passage through the crowds at Market was not utterly accompanied by whispers. Thleen had reported one older child had called her a bad name, the meaning of which Thleen didn't comprehend, and it had been dealt with by Dodd. Thleen was more upset with Maar not telling her what the word meant than by its use in the first place.

Most of Sju was spent in canning. They had decided to use the new rock shelter as a root cellar, and the rows of gleaming jars filling the new shelves gave Pyosz a sense of security against the future. Shmona on Arta Island, Api was prodded into stating she felt no charges would be filed against Prl, neither in Skene or Pya, but new laws were already being formulated for the next election.

"She finessed this one" said Mill. "Again."

"A skill we all acquired with our aggie's milk" replied Dodd, and Mill didn't say more. Dodd asked Pyosz "She arrives next Roku, right?"

"Late afternoon" confirmed Pyosz happily. Abbo stood abruptly and said "It'll be cold but this may be our last chance to swim before the weather changes, who's up for it?" Thleen and the other children instantly began disrobing. Vants said "I'll go with them, you stay snug", grinning down at Pyosz. Pyosz pulled Maar's arm around her shoulders and watched them head for the pond.


Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

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LOLCATS WEEKLY ROUND-UP 20 APRIL 2010

Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.

















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ODE TO TOMATOES by Pablo Neruda

(Tomato by Ann Ranlett)

It's not too late to make the most of poetry month, so I'm going to start sharing daily some of my all-time favorites. Today's poem by Pablo Neruda is in both original (ecstatic) Spanish and an English translation by Margaret Sayers Peden. Feast away.


ODA AL TOMATE

by Pablo Neruda

La calle
se llenó de tomates,
mediodia,
verano,
la luz
se parte
en dos
mitades
de tomate,
corre
por las calles
el jugo.
En diciembre
se desata
el tomate,
invade
las cocinas,
entra por los almuerzos,
se sienta
reposado
en los aparadores,
entre los vasos,
las matequilleras,
los saleros azules.
Tiene
luz propia,
majestad benigna.
Devemos, por desgracia,
asesinarlo:
se hunde
el cuchillo
en su pulpa viviente,
es una roja
viscera,
un sol
fresco,
profundo,
inagotable,
llena las ensaladas
de Chile,
se casa alegremente
con la clara cebolla,
y para celebrarlo
se deja
caer
aceite,
hijo
esencial del olivo,
sobre sus hemisferios entreabiertos,
agrega
la pimienta
su fragancia,
la sal su magnetismo:
son las bodas
del día
el perejil
levanta
banderines,
las papas
hierven vigorosamente,
el asado
golpea
con su aroma
en la puerta,
es hora!
vamos!
y sobre
la mesa, en la cintura
del verano,
el tomate,
aastro de tierra,
estrella
repetida
y fecunda,
nos muestra
sus circunvoluciones,
sus canales,
la insigne plenitud
y la abundancia
sin hueso,
sin coraza,
sin escamas ni espinas,
nos entrega
el regalo
de su color fogoso
y la totalidad de su frescura.


ODE TO TOMATOES

The street
filled with tomatoes
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera,
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhausible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

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