ysabetwordsmith: (Fiorenza)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith posting in [community profile] poetree

I write a lot of serial poetry these days, as my audience enjoys revisiting favorite characters and settings. One of the more popular series is Fiorenza the Wisewoman; you can find links to all of its published poems on my Serial Poetry page. If you look there, you can see the people in my audience who have given prompts and donations to make this series happen.

This series, set in a small village in Italy, is historic fantasy about a clever young woman who deals with a wide range of mystical and social challenges. The poem posted below, "A Knot of Thyme," is chronologically the first in the series, although the first written was "Can She Bake a Scary Pie?" which is now second on the list.  "A Knot in Thyme" is written in free verse, but some of the other poems in this series use Italian forms.  For instance, "Fair Maiden Meets Fierce Villain" is a terza rima, and "The Daughters of Befana" is an Italian sonnet.

To see what Fiorenza looks like, check out the sketch that
[personal profile] meeks drew for a much later poem, "Husband by Hand." Fiorenza is in the back with the baking sheet. The icon on this post is by Tod Wills, from his Icon Day project, showing Fiorenza with a tomato.



A Knot of Thyme


Fiorenza was born
on the day of spring's first flower,
laid in her mother's arms
for the space of one hour, and then
laid in a cradle
while her mother was buried
in a grave marked with a single blossom.

Carmela the wisewoman
wept bitterly for her daughter Marietta.
Then she rebraided her greying hair
and planted a new twist of thyme
in the knotwork garden that marked their lineage.
Carmela watched and watched the road
for her daughter's husband,
but Giordano never returned from his sea voyage.

Fiorenza grew up in her grandmother's cottage
with its tidy orchard and rambling herb garden
leading down to the little house of leaded glass
that protected the most delicate plants during winter,
precious gift of a long-ago lord for saving his son's life.
Fiorenza chased the chickens down the gravel paths
and braided calendula blossoms into her wild black hair.

Carmela noted her granddaughter's quick wits
and deft hands and sharp tongue.
Fiorenza was not and never would be a mild maiden,
sought after as wife and mother.
So Carmela taught the girl how to garden,
how to harvest the herbs for medicines,
how to bake them into breads and pastries.
Carmela hoped that Fiorenza would show
some talent for one of these things --
but Fiorenza excelled at all of them.

Fiorenza walked through the village
with a basket of eggs on one hip
and a basket of herbs on the other.
She ran through the village
at her grandmother's heels,
carrying the wisewoman's supplies
wherever they were needed.
Heads turned and people whispered,
but Fiorenza didn't mind.

Carmela passed away
when Fiorenza was three years a woman.
Don Candido the priest said the service for her,
while high overhead the white doves
murmured in the eaves of the church.
Afterward he advised Fiorenza to marry.

Fiorenza looked at the young men of her village,
whose bloody noses she stanched after fights
and whom she had treated for hangovers all too often
and who asked impertinent, urgent questions about
how not to get a baby on a girl they wouldn't marry.
She sighed and shook her head,
then went home to her grandmother's garden
and tended the long twists of thyme.

The villagers came to her --
slowly, sometimes blushingly,
but they came.
There were bakers and gardeners aplenty,
but if they wanted an herbalist,
there was only Fiorenza,
who though young had learned her grandmother's craft
well enough to keep breath attached to body.

Fiorenza didn't mind.
There was time.
The people would learn to trust her,
just as the red hens had learned
as soon as she stopped chasing them.

Date: 2011-10-10 07:20 pm (UTC)
lizcommotion: Lily and Chance squished in a cat pile-up on top of a cat tree (buff tabby, black cat with red collar) (Default)
From: [personal profile] lizcommotion
That's lovely! Thanks for sharing. I especially enjoy the way you let bits of pieces of information float throughout the lines, without giving it all away at once. Makes me reread them to savor the meaning even further.

Date: 2011-10-11 04:35 am (UTC)
jjhunter: Watercolor of daisy with blue dots zooming around it like Bohr model electrons (Default)
From: [personal profile] jjhunter
Fiorenza looked at the young men of her village,
whose bloody noses she stanched after fights
and whom she had treated for hangovers all too often
and who asked impertinent, urgent questions about
how not to get a baby on a girl they wouldn't marry.


Ha! I love how much personality comes through here, how rooted we are in Fiorenza's perspective and her knowing judgements ('all too often', 'impertinent'). This is a lovely piece, and I'll definitely make the time at some point to go check out the rest of the cycle to date.

Quick admin note: when posting a poem longer than thirty lines, please pick a cutoff point (say, whichever stanza ends closest to the 30th line) and stick the rest under a cut tag. It helps with navigation when one is reading off a Reading Page or scrolling through comm back entries. Thanks!

Date: 2011-10-13 12:22 am (UTC)
syntaxofthings: A girl laughing? ([random] Laughing woman)
From: [personal profile] syntaxofthings
:) What a great way to tell a story about a person without some kind of plot, just sketches from a life. Thanks for sharing.

Date: 2014-03-03 12:33 am (UTC)
calissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calissa
I've just been reading through the archives and wanted to let you know that I enjoyed this. I particularly liked how the last stanza hearkened back to earlier parts and tied in nicely with the title.

It was a sweet poem--a little hopeful and a little melancholy.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-03-03 04:54 am (UTC)
calissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calissa
Thank you for the link. I look forward to taking a peek.

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