Writing Prompts

Word Prompt: Passion | Story Prompt: from the story “The Wise Woman”, from the book “Unlocking The Air” by Ursula K. Le Guin

‘It was early evening when I got there. I went across the stony yard to the door and knocked on it with my hand. All the voices the house was full of went still. I stood in terror and misery in that silence.

“Come in,” she said.

I had to push the door open. I had to go in. I held my breath because the smell of bones caught in my throat, tightening it like a band. I went in.

“Sit down,” that woman said.

She sat by her cold hearth. I did not want to sit on the backless stool by her dead fire, but I sat down on it, across the hearth from her.

“Nothing to offer you,” she said, without apology. I was glad of it, for my throat was still closed, and my breath came short, so that I could not have eaten or drunk.

“So,” she said.

I drew my breath as best I could. “I need your help,” I said.

“My help? But you’re the Wise Woman,” she said, without irony.

“So they call me.”

She repeated, still without irony, “So they call you.”

In all the voice I could make come out of my throat I said, “I don’t know what to do with them.”

“Ah,” she said. After a while she said, “Show me.”

I reached my lame arms round and took off my pack. I opened it and took out all my dead, one by one, the long mother, the step mother, the grand father, the hard father, the heavy, heavy baby, the broken friends, the bad meat of my love. I laid them on the hearthstones, there where there was no fire in the ashes. That woman looked at them. She clicked her tongue. “You wise folk,” she said. “What burdens you do carry! I don’t know how you can stand up.”

“I can’t,” I said. It is true. My back is bent over, hunched, and my head pushed forward by the weight of what I have carried so long and far.’


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