Skillbuilding in Verse #2: Second Hour of Waking

8 AM — a dull
sky oozing through glass,
storms forecast — a lull
of stillness must pass,

one more hollow hour
before work should start —
rushing to shower,
to speak prayers (by heart

memorized, rooted
and constituted
of tisane and sounds) —
while incense surrounds
and each moment moves
on a clock’s fine grooves.

This morning, I decided to write a poem about the quotidian to solidify some rhyme scheme elements I learned about while working through The Poem’s Heartbeat by Corn. There are other types of rhyming things that I would like to experiment with that were addressed in an earlier chapter, but inspiration is inspiration, and this is the poem that I wrote.

There are some elements of this poem that I like, some that I don’t — but it was fun, especially since I worked from 9 AM – 10 PM today and didn’t manage to get in more than some quick breaks for making and eating meals (and sheltering in my bedroom closet during a 30-minute tornado warning while soothing an agitated cat, which is the exact opposite of relaxing despite technically being a screen break) between answering emails, participating in a Zoom-based half-day training, and combing through Excel and Sharepoint files. Doing creative things is important to me and fills up my self-care tank even when things at work are hectic.

Skillbuilding in Verse (#1)

Most of my poems either go by syllable count, (more or less) iambic pentameter, or a combination. This has been true since I started writing poetry as a child. Iambic pentameter is like a well-loved pair of jeans that you can dress up to go out or dress down to stay in.

For a while now, I’ve been planning to do drills in more formal verse to sharpen my skills — the book The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody by Alfred Corn has been staring out at me from my bookshelf.

My poetic education consisted of a unit on poetry in fifth grade and, later on, an English major. (I unintentionally specialized in pre-1850s British literature.) I absorbed poetic concepts by subconscious osmosis via analyzing poets like Milton — while analyzing poems, I cared much more about analyzing the imagery and shapes of the sounds, only dabbling into meter when it suited. The fifth-grade unit was enough to get me to a point in my small town where I once won a local poetry competition for my childhood age cohort. College-level lit analysis got me to the point where I can write poems that stand a decent chance of acceptance in literary markets, depending on what the publication needs during the open call. Over the past two years, I have restlessly experimented with new things while putting off drills and exercises as something I would just get around to later.

This week, I started to work through the book, and it’s exciting to get back to formal poetic study after a long while of pushing forward without consulting maps. I’d like to share some of the verses that I’ve composed as practice pieces, rough around the edges and a tad formulaic as a result. I’ve had quite a few ideas for real poems while reading, too, and those notes are being compiled elsewhere.

Please note that The Poem’s Heartbeat doesn’t actually have exercises in it — I’m just composing my own verses as concepts come up as a way of reinforcing them.

Anapestic verse

In the cosmic web dancing out life,
each new journey yet hidden from now,
these hard jumps between worlds every birth
tied to lots spun out deftly by Fates,
give me truth: grant its beauty and love.
These libations I bring in turn back to the Gods,
reciprocity rooting me down,
this devotion unfolding a path
up beyond the line marked by tall trees
where the nymphai wait, showing the way.

Trochaic verse

I don’t actually like composing with trochees on their own. However, for the purposes of study ……

Yoyo stares at me and sweetly purrs,
eyes closing, lounging comfy,
half between awake and knocked out.

Zeus casts lightning down like
breath illumined, angled,
forging icons within
soil like hundred-handers —
fulgurite formations,
fertile nitrate rainfall —
rumbling thunder, shaking
glass, my heart unsteady.

Dactylic verse

Call to the God of the lyre and bow,
swift-moving song rising, greeting him here.
Mark out each rhythm and cut the tune.
Weave all together like francincense
permeates air; Apollon receives.
Each of us holds the enchanting vine
cut and divided, still here in time.
Measure retunes us, intact like strings,
ready receivers of love’s blessings.

Old English-inspired

Halfway through,    hearken to the king,
lightning-rushing    bright and sharp,
the beginning the end    reborn through Zeus.
He ingested all,    filling fecund,
only to disgorge    in opaline wonder.
Fitting to plunge    first and final,
here — the fulcrum    upon the father
of the not-yet,    the never-now
son of ivy,    prince of the winepress.

Beyond these, the book covered two types of feet that are not usually seen on their own in English — spondaic (two strong) and pyrrhic (two weak). I didn’t create any practice verses for those because they are rarely encountered on their own.

We then moved into a chapter on metrical variation.

Metrical variation

(mostly anapestic, a stress variation in the first line)
An offering to Hekate well-placed,
her wood icon alight and alive,
gives retreating old months their farewells.

(mostly iambic, with anapests in lines 1 and 4 and a few trochees and spondees)
In the quiet evening, crickets murmur songs.
How sweet it feels to open windows now
after high summer baked pavement and clung
like eversummer ghosts of winters to come.

One of my lingering questions about syllable counts is whether I should go by the dictionary or by my voice. I know, for instance, that I have tended to treat mirror, error, and prayer as two syllables because the dictionary says that they are. However, in my dialect’s pronunciation, all of them are one syllable (albeit a held one). This first came up when I was editing my poetry for Acts of Speech, which is coming out on October 29, and I decided to leave the verses as they were. Moving forward, I think I will treat words like this as one-syllable, but confine them to stress positions.

I’m Doing a Poetry Book

For many months, I have been working on a poetry collection.

If you have ever asked, “What is a modern Western polytheist response to modern social disintegration and social media?” or if you want to read poems from someone who grew up in Neopaganism and polytheism that range from hymns to reflections on growing up to devotional poetry, you will like this book.

See? The book exists! I am partway through fixing some of the whitespace.

This is my first time doing something like this, and I’m very excited. By the time I’m done, I expect to have learned many lessons about what to do (or not) when I self-publish a few novellas in the coming years. I already know that formatting text is hypnotic, and I love it.

Here is a blurb!

Acts of Speech explores performative, public, and private religious speech and how they construct identity and difference. It blends praise poetry in honor of various Gods, including Apollon, the Mousai, and Mnemosyne, with more private poems in a tense dance of parasociality and intimacy. Above all, it is a time capsule of experiences mediated by words, both the opportunities and the risks they bring.

October 29 is the date selected for its release.

Closer to the date, I’ll make a few more updates about things like cover art. I am also considering an event like reading some of the poems in a livestream on the release day.

Finally, since this is a publication update, if you’re interested in other things I’ve done, please visit my publication page.

Poem in Reckoning 4

General writing update: Yesterday, January 1, Reckoning 4 was released. The literary journal features speculative writing on environmental justice. #4 focuses on challenges with the built environment.

You can look at the Table of Contents and find the links to purchase it here — the ebook is available from Amazon or from Weightless Books ($7), which is a great company that provides ebook transaction and download infrastructure for many small publishers. Here is the link to Weightless Books.

The journal will post one piece per week online (free to read) for the first half of the year, and the print edition will be released in the summer. If you can, I encourage you to buy it to support Reckoning’s mission.

My poem, “After Erysichthon,” will be posted online on April 8, 2020.

The poem was very fun to write, and I can’t wait for you all to read it. So. Go forth! The listing of writers, poets, and essayists is fabulous, and you’re in for a treat. 😁

Lexember 2019: December 25-31

December 25

Heneån /ˈhɛ.nə͡ɔn/, n. Class D. Dampener, as in something that reduces noise. Plural heneåmuaHeneåni, dampenedAheneånit, to dampen, to reduce noisinessHeneånịfua, earplugs.

Ịf /ɪf/, n. Class N. Ear.

Mė nihata miha ćofi hėa vo mėis shassåham heneånịfua.
I had no mental clarity and wanted earplugs.

Ịfua mėi sėin rer gianit shitarasuo.
My ears rang due to the loud noise/clash.

December 26

Ålị /ˈɔ.lɪ/, n. Class N. MirrorÅli /ˈɔ.li/, mirroredAhålit /ʌ.ˈɦɔ.lit̪/, to reflect. Reflexive, to mirror

Sheihålịpool or other small reflective body of water
Hohålịstone with high reflectivity.

Vė vas ålaim. 
Le is likely mirroring me.

Go mėi pesuram ålị vo daiahem danėa khelesu.
My mother brought a mirror and placed it in the bag.

The phrase adaiahit danėa does not precisely mean placed in. It indicates that the item in question is at the most crucial point of the bag, likely the center and at the bottom. It means placed stonewise.

December 27

Today, I realized that I had an under-sampling of words ending in l in my lexicon, so for the remainder of December, you will see a lot of single- and dual-syllable words that attempt to ameliorate that.

Lual /lu͡ɑl/, n. Class N. SpiralLualispiral-likeintricateorderlyAlualaitto spiral, to move in a spiral pattern

Ailualcircuitry, class A. 
Holual, natural patterns that are like spirals. 
Aselualaitto commit, to promise, to submit to fate.

Ćå khutam ruhekouris nia kesh moluoniem thionna luali mokhanami.
You went to the embroiderer and you (pl.) discussed an intricate spiraling pattern.

December 28

Tail /t̪a͡ɪl/, n. Class D. A sense of nervousnessTailinervous

Amịtalitto shudder
Hotail, an atmosphere of foreboding or like something bad has happened. 
Aitail, biofeedback tech that help with anxiety and nervousness. 
Åihetail, a sense of ease after a time of turbulence. 
Ahåihetailit, to set/put at ease.

Kesh theniem amodahit kein ouvi helai Peimes Åihauthuyivanuafi sheirauptu taileyu ñir.
You (pl.) practiced fearless speaking because the Reclaimed Zone always saturates everyone with nervousness.

December 29

Håćajua /ɦɔ.ˈt͡ʃɑ.ʒuɑ/, n. Class A. RationHåćajuayirationedAhåćajuayit, to ration

Håćajua mėish haovala ossuet.
/ɦɔ.ˈt͡ʃɑ.ʒuɑ ˈmɛʔ.iʃ ɦɑ͡o.ˈvɑ.lʌ ˈo͡ʊʂ.u͡ɛt̪/
Our ration includes cooking oil.

December 30

Juapålon /ʒu͡ɑ.ˈpɔ.loʊn/, n. Class N. Century, lit. 144 years due to base 12. Colloquial word for hundred is påloh /ˈpɔ.loʊx/.
Ajait /ˈɑ.ʒaɪt̪/, v. To stand.
Peosė /ˈpɛ͡o.sə/, n. Class D. Street.
Kapti /ˈkʼɑ.pti/, adj. Necessary.
Sioh /si͡ox/, n. Class N. SweatSiohisweaty, laboriousAsiohait, to labor, to sweat.

I did these words so I could translate the first sentence of The Raised Seal (as it stands right now) into Tveshi:

Centuries ago, in a grand, cavernous house on Haokaru Street, the man who ended the Blackout had a nightmare, as all great people who have done terrible, necessary things do, and surged awake with a scream.

This becomes:

Meshemui juapålomua, lepė jam Peosesu Haokaru so thaufoiyi olayi lepė jen porekouri otvi peakherapu vas aroem, onnė vo vasa aroia jinna otayi ler kouriagị sifuimua authuayi kapti, nia vė tam shitaranu vo sakinem.

Here is a literal translation:

Away from us centuries, there stood a house cavernous massive where ending-person man Blackout nightmared, in the way that nightmare people great that-who fashion terrible and necessary things, and awakened crashingly and screamed.

It’s good for me to do complex sentences because I find Tveshi dependent clauses challenging to logic out, and the opening sentence of The Raised Seal has a lot of them. It’s noteworthy that the way one says the man who ended the Blackout is the word porė with the -kouri (worker) suffix, followed by man in adjective form (otvi) and the word Blackout (peakhera) in genitive form. The verb to have a nightmare is the reflexive form of the verb aroit. The second time, the word for in the way that, onnė, is followed by the construction onnė vo vasa aroia jinna otayi to indicate in the way that great people have nightmares, where vo refers to jinna otayi (great people), not to the porekouri. The exercise was as useful as expected.

December 31

Vol /vo͡ʊl/, n. Class D. Closet, storage roomAvolit, to store, to put in storage. Reflexively, to stop thinking about

Enavol, storage room in a temple complex that houses offerings and other things belonging to the God. 
Vouvolstorage bin.

Fal /fɑl/, n. Class A. Band, tie. Falibanded, tiedAfalitto band, to tie

Mịfalepėbandage, wrap, from body-band-health. 
Aumịfal, a wrap for covering the dead before cremation. 

Sefal, restraints, cuffs
Asefalitto restrain, to cuff
Iafalreligious devotion, seen in the reflexive verb ayiafalait

Kesar vas iafalam Enashisha vo gaigat teishinu ianoñapuić aimehio.
Kesar was devoted to Enashisha and had habitually prayed to the God at small shrines.

And that’s Lexember.

Ending 2019

Number of poems written: ~35, most for Acts of Speech.

This can only ever be approximate because I often write verses that are not properly poems or poems in the margins of documents or planner pages without transferring them anywhere else.

Fiction words written: 119,000

  • Ossia: 117,000 words
  • The Seven Papers, Book 3: 2,000 words

I am so excited to revise Ossia. It’s going to be some beautiful hieropoeia, but for now, the dough must rest.

Project progress

  • Lexember 2019: Finished editing and revising the extant Tveshi lexicon and began adding new words again.
  • KALLISTI: 85 posts, likely 115,000 words once one removes all of the XML chatter from the file export.
  • The Seven Papers: Not much progress because I prioritized finishing Ossia, which may now actually be part of The Seven Papers proper.
  • I re-edited The Forest of Strong Branches and A Matter of Oracles, two novellas.


The Good

  • 106 hours spent in Scrivener
  • 100 hours spent in WordPress
  • 21 hours spent in Typora
  • 18 hours spent in TextMate

The Horrifying

  • 400 hours on social media, 338 of them on Twitter — the majority before the end of July, as I went on hiatus in August


I only set actionable goals. It’s readily apparent that, if I can write 119,000 words in Scrivener by spending about a hundred hours there, I can shift a lot of time from social media into writing. After going on hiatus — when the autumn semester started — a lot of my time was spent writing a paper on the 2019 Nobel prizewinners, not creative writing, so I can salvage that time to devote to my writing projects.

Managing my time via RescueTime — and looking at the feedback it gives me — provides a stark, concrete view of something we already know: People spend too much time on social media, and none of us have to be there. I’m closing out the year by reading Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts by Jaron Lanier, and while I disagree with how he’s presenting about 1-3% of his arguments, social media has a chilling effect on important human creativity because it distracts us with hyper-segmentation (my word for “tribalism” because one should not use the word tribalism to describe this — go with hypersegs and hypersegging if you really want something short and sweet) and horrific levels of divisiveness.

Everything, even the good things, eventually becomes miasmic there because the algorithms are designed to push our buttons and to hyperseg us so they can keep our eyeballs on device. Very occasionally, good interactions happen — I love the polytheist and conlang communities, and I love it when people post interesting cultural threads, but those moments of brightness are so overshadowed. I highly recommend reading this book alongside Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism and a focused listen to the episodes of Your Undivided Attention and The Happiness Lab.

I only want to spend my time doing things that are healing and important, like writing hieropoeia that blends polytheistic thought and theology with far-future science fiction to tell beautiful and edifying stories, or like writing blog posts on KALLISTI that help people feel less intimidated about difficult things like learning a new style of religious worship or reading philosophy, or writing poetry. When I consume media, I want it to be beautiful things that I can get excited about sharing with other people — things that bring cohesion and a sense of stability that buffers the mind against the horrors humanity has made of the twenty-first century.

Lanier writes:

[Algorithm-driven, hypersegging social media (BUMMER) companies want] you to think that without BUMMER there would be no devices, no Internet, no support groups to help you through hard times, but that is a lie. It is a lie you celebrate and reinforce when you use BUMMER, just as someone who attends a corrupt church is supporting its corruption.

Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, p. 139/185.

And Cal Newport has written:

The techno-philosopher Jaron Lanier convincingly argues that the primacy of anger and outrage online is, in some sense, an unavoidable feature of the medium: In an open marketplace for attention, darker emotions attract more eyeballs than positive and constructive thoughts. For heavy Internet users, repeated interaction with this darkness can become a source of draining negativity — a steep price that many don’t even realize they’re paying to support their compulsive connectivity.

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism, p. 8-9/300

The best thing to do is to not use it and to find other places. This is challenging because many of the communities I am in are physically decentralized, but the crux is that one just cannot be online in this way — at least not for very long — if one wants to do mentally exhausting and rewarding creative work. While I won’t delete my account, I’m not going to be there that often, and I am actively looking for alternatives to that awful place.

I’m also closing out the year by reading a Platonic commentary on Plato’s Cratylus. It’s a much happier experience than reading social media backlash polemics.

Writing Goals for 2020

  • Write at a rate of 700 words per day, unless I write a poem — one poem will count for one day of writing. At maximum, since 2020 is a leap year, this will mean 256,200 prose-words. If I write 52 poems, it will be 219,800 prose-words. This is a sustainable, actionable goal, and I can hit it in about 200 Scrivener hours.
    • I will set aside time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to write. Mondays and Fridays are difficult because I usually do household things on those days, and I will get back into batch cooking on Monday nights and batch cleaning on Friday nights. The max of my goal range is only about 5,000 words/week.
  • Draft the story of Deisis. Deisis is the primary character in Books 3 and 7 of The Seven Papers, and I’ve just about brainstormed how to make these books happen from start to finish.
  • Outline and write half of House of the Naiades. This book is not related to The Seven Papers, but is a modern fantasy ode to growing up in Neopaganism. It’s kind of like Zanoni meets American Gods and From the Dust Returned set to the song “Hotel California.”
  • Publish Acts of Speech on June 17. This is the book of poetry I’ve been working on, and that is my birthday. I have dreaded my birthday since I was quite young (not due to getting older), but maybe if I turn it into a publishing day, those feelings will change or at least become less about my birthday.

I don’t have many publishing goals in 2020. While I will continue to submit poems for publication, I’ve decided that submitting short stories and novellas to the markets is not a productive use of my time. The only story I have gotten published was connected to Earth, and it was published after only a few rejections; I’m just not that interested in writing stories connected to Earth, so I have to make a choice between things I enjoy and things the markets take. House of the Naiades is an exception to this, and it could realistically be attractive to traditional markets.

In 2019, I posted The Waterfall Commune to this blog, which is a good example of the type of fiction I’m interested in writing. In 2020, I may revise and post a few other stories set on Ameisa to Pangrammatikê. In 2020 or 2021, I may self-publish my two novellas. Acts of Speech is a good test run because a poetry chapbook is less complicated and far less expensive to put out there.

So, that’s where I’m at right now. Happy New Year!

Lexember 2019: December 16-24

December 16

Today’s word showcases some stuff I talked about back in 2017 — namely, that the articles in Tveshi occasionally signify the difference between a general concept and a specific concept. In the opposite sense, something specific can become a general concept by adding the prefix si-, which is evident from many of the words I have worked on this year.

Ua /u͡ɑ/, n. Class D. Reason, cognitionOhua femị /ˈo͡ʊ.xu͡ɑ/, a reason.

Uayi /ˈu͡ɑ.ji/, reasoned
Oihua /ˈo͡i.xu͡ɑ/, motivation.
Mịhua /ˈmɪ.xu͡ɑ/, brain (Class A).

Thuyihua /θu.ˈji.xu͡ɑ/, maladaptive reasoning
Aiahua /ˈaɪ͡a.xu͡ɑ/, irrationality
Aiahuayi /aɪ͡a.ˈxu͡ɑ.ji/, irrational

And now for a sentence — we all know that sleep is important, and this is how you say so in Tveshi.

Mịhua shassåhauptu tofa helenai jen hat epena. 
/ˈmɪ.xu͡ɑ ʃʌ.ʂɔ.ˈha͡ʊ.ptu ˈt̪oʊ.fʌ hə.ˈlɛ.na͡ɪ ʒɛn hɑt̪ ə.ˈpɛ.nʌ/
The brain needs sleep to be healthy.

December 17

Uei /ue͡ɪ/, n. Class A. HarmonyUeihi /ˈue͡ɪ.xi/, harmoniousAu̇eit /ˈɑʔ.ue͡ɪt̪/, to harmonize, to bring into harmony. Reflexively, to reform the self, to self-correct.

Enau̇ei /ə.ˈnʌ.ʔue͡ɪ/, the harmony of the Gods. 
Iau̇ei /ˈiɑ.ʔue͡ɪ/, chordal sequences used in religious worship.

Kaiau̇ei /ˈkʼaɪ͡aʔ.ue͡ɪ/, harmony in love
Mịu̇ei /ˈmɪʔ.ue͡ɪ/, well-being
Aiau̇ei /ˈaɪ͡aʔ.ue͡ɪ/, discord
Aiau̇eiyi /aɪ͡aʔ.ˈue͡ɪ.ji/, discordant
Uhaiau̇ei /u.ˈɦaɪ͡aʔ.ue͡ɪ/, dissonance
Uhaiau̇eiyi /u.ɦaɪ͡aʔ.ˈue͡ɪ.ji/, dissonant

Mė mėis ueiem fuimua ukhịnni gịshịptis.
/mɛ ˈmɛ.ʔis ˈue͡ɪ.əm ˈfu͡͡ɑ u.ˈʀɪ̃.ði gɪ.ˈʃɪ.ptis./
I self-corrected my actions while studying.

December 18

Ueilė /ˈue͡i.lə/, n. Class D. VeilUeili /ˈue͡, veiledAhueilit /ˈʌ.xue͡i.lit̪/, to veil.

Iahueilė /i͡ɑ.ˈxue͡i.lə/, any veil worn in a religious context. Iahueilė ịgesahji /i͡ɑ.ˈxue͡i.lə ɪ.gə.ˈsɑ.ʝi/, Ịgzarhjenya veil, the veils that young women who are Ịgzarhjenya wear before marriage. I also conlanged the word for the Ịgzarhjenya ethnic group in Tveshi, which I hadn’t done before. Tveshi has very few consonant clusters and often simplifies Narahji loanwords.

Ahåihueilit /ˈʌ.ɦɔ͡i.xue͡i.lit̪/, to unveil, to bring to happy completion, to start anew. In Tveshi culture, since veils are used in some types of ceremonies related to milestones — and to the south by the Ịgzarhjenya to mark that an unmarried woman (or girl past menarche) is saving hair to offer for the marriage sacrifice — the mental associations with veiling tend to be related to pride, happiness, and completion.

Mė ueilem enasaupu.
/mɛ ˈue͡i.ləm ə.nʌ.ˈsa͡ʊ.pu/
I veiled during the procession.

December 19

The entry was short today because I had a lot going on. My girlfriend wound up in the hospital, and I was very scared and uncertain about things, so it was hard to focus.

Ulait /ˈ͡ɪt̪/, v. To wander, to roam. Akaiahulait /ʌ.kʼaɪ͡a.ˈ͡ɪt̪/, to avoid one’s feelings, especially intense ones, or the things that can make one happy.

December 20

I wrote this entry in the middle of the night after getting back from the hospital and before falling asleep. I was so fatigued that I didn’t even realize that I was at the finishing point for the dictionary/lexicon cleanup I’d started a few years ago — all of the words past December 20 are brand new, as in they aren’t being cleaned up from my ineffective notes. Most of the original conlang work on Tveshi that I’ve done is via derivative words using prefixes (and some suffixes) or creating new phrases and idioms based on the noun bases.

Yanna /ˈjɑ̃.ðʌ/, n. Class D. TruthOyanna /oʊ.ˈjɑ̃.ðʌ/, Truth, idealized form. Ayannit /ʌ.ˈjɑ̃.ðit̪/, to reveal, to uncover, to bring something to light

Nuayanna /nu͡ɑ.ˈjɑ̃.ðʌ/, uncomfortable truth. Siyanna /si.ˈjɑ̃.ðʌ/, truthfulnessYanni /ˈjɑ̃.ði/, truthful

Mesh yanniai oteishua fem opta keusi. 
We will uncover the best morning routines. 

Fuimua nothi rer yannit. 
Evil deeds were uncovered/brought to light.

December 21

The first of many new words. 🌅 Also, my girlfriend was released from the hospital and decided to come to my place.

Yiånnịñah /ji͡ɔ̃.ˈðɪ.ɲʌx/, n. Class N. Boundary between built-up areas and natural wild places. More recently applied to the parts of human-occupied space that are near planets to denote their liminal status.

December 22

Late Saturday night, my girlfriend was readmitted to the ER. I wrote this entry after a night of no sleep, and on Sunday, I decided to stay awake as long as possible to reset my circadian rhythm. She was released early Sunday evening.

I let out a lot of steam via conlanging and discovered that I had no word for hospital or for hospital ward, so I made two words. I also made a word for neurology and a new suffix for study of, based on gịsh, the word for study-(v)ịsh. Both of my sisters ended up in the hospital with pregnancy complications last year, so I figured out how to describe maternity sections, too.

Ịmes /ˈɪ.məs/, Class D. Area, sectionAyịmesitto section off. Reflexively, to be discreet about.

Ịmes mịhuayịsevịshi, neurology section
Ịmes iagafuinimaternity section, with the ia- prefix to denote that maternity hospitals are on temple grounds. 

Enayịmes, temple precinct. 
Heneyịmesi, an adjective to describe something that has broken boundaries. 
Uyịmes, labyrinth. 
Uyịmesi, labyrinthine. 

Mė mėis ịmesa ćovai thåtohi. 
I am discreet about my private thoughts.

Ćaiña /ˈt͡ʃa͡ɪ.ɲʌ/, n. Class D. HospitalAćaiñait /ʌ.ˈt͡ʃa͡ɪ.ɲa͡ɪt̪/, to be in the hospital; passively, something/someone located in the hospital

Åsseka ohepeni ćaiñañị.
Medical books are located in the hospital.

December 23

Khut /ʀut̪/, n. Class N. A walk, a promenadeKhuti /ˈʀu.t̪i/, walking, adj., as in iasau khutia walking pilgrimageAkhutait /ʌ.ˈʀu.t̪a͡ɪt̪/, to walk

Sikhutmobility; adj. sikhuti
Henesikhutnonmobility; adj. henekhuti.  
Ohenesikhutimmobility; adj. ohenesikhuti
Aoakhut, the movement of plants and blood-vining organisms. 
Ahaoakhutait poråsėato plant-move/grow towards the sun

Aovutua aoakhutamị poråsėa.
The ivies crept towards the sun.

December 24

Khassa /ˈʀɑ.ʂʌ/, n. Class D. Game. Khassi /ˈʀɑ.ʂi/, gamelike. Akhassit /ʌ.ˈʀɑ.ʂit̪/, to game, to play something structured with rules. 

Sikhassa /si.ˈʀɑ.ʂʌ/, gaming, when taken as a whole, adj. sikhassi /si.ˈʀɑ.ʂi/. 

Sikhassa kuaća ćuhị vo lịfa jinna vasa kouriagị othåtotei.
Gaming helps the yearning for human touch when people are isolated.

Utom /ˈ͡ʊm/, n. Class D. CardUtomi /u.ˈto͡ʊ.mi/, flat, card-likeUncertain, as in up to chance like a card game. Owned, but separable/unstableAhutomit /ʌx.u.ˈto͡ʊ.mit̪/, to cardto place faith in something unstable

Ćå utoma mefamoć, nia aratịkourić lopė nideohåria khaya hėi. 
You-formal-sing place faith in laws, and politicians here do not respect honor.

The Waterfall Commune

This is a short story — 6,200 words — about a group of young adults in their 20s who decide to go against tradition and get a house together. It is set in Tveshė, the place where Tveshi is the national language — the story takes place in West Shija, so Shiji (Mafediji) is spoken.

This story is a bit too long to be publishable. It does, however, showcase a few interesting things: (a), the use of conlangs in fiction and (b) far-future polytheistic worldbuilding. I have created an annotation layer to provide some conlang notes, so click here to see them.

We didn’t do a commune, a so mesahi, for political or individualist reasons. Tveshė just had no word for the concept back then. To us, it was a means to an end, where that end was leaving Karoumoyu, a North Coast city of three million.

Those of us who dreamed of moving away called it tịnnuå kossori, the City of Steady Habits. The rare times I went to the Karoumoyu Central Station, I watched other young people hover their enormous luggage bags and kiss close family goodbye, bound for Galasu — most, unlike us, upper class. The women and jomela had tight, double-bound hair and so much embroidery on their clothes that I wondered how they managed on the trains. Most of the men wore military uniforms.

My oath-friend Haruñi also wanted to leave, and le had the means: Le would have a law degree soon with prospects beyond Karoumoyu. Le’d been nursing ler younger son for a few years, which meant ler two-child obligation to the family was nearly over. As soon as the at-homes could manage the kids — and as soon as le had that degree — le’d be gone.

I relished the afternoons we spent together. My twins played with the other five-year-olds in ler household while we lounged on chaises and cushions in the wide, open reading room. Haruñi studied long hours. As an oath-friend, ler happiness was my responsibility. I nudged lim away from the overwhelming workload to toggle through VR sims of Galasu buildings. We had to tilt the viewers to evade the late afternoon sunlight, which made dust-creases in the air as it streamed in through the slat blinds. It washed out the colors, and we needed color. Our avatars roamed through opulent satellite houses with nearly as many reception rooms as bedrooms or posh apartment spaces that featured taps of scented oils in each floor’s communal bathroom, different blends for hair and skin. One of the houses had tile floors made of lapis lazuli and a house robot whose sole purpose was to recite poetry.

The day Haruñi asked me to leave Karoumoyu with lim, a sacrifice in the Temple of Likhera next door kept most of ler relatives out of the reading room. Incense perfumed the air for blocks, but the acoustics seemed to funnel all of the chants and fast-paced hymns directly into the room. Only a half dozen attempted to focus, Haruñi and me included. They all sat mostly towards the back, but Haruñi wanted to recline near the windows. The chanting made a thin, transparent veil between us and everyone else. Theoretically, we could say anything.

It took a while. Haruñi skimmed through legal codes on ler tablet and made notes, periodically glancing up at me. I gritted my teeth and tried to focus on forum chatter about a Maðzi serialized drama I was obsessed with at the time, Nut-Tree House — the village murder mystery starring Asr Cåm Emtaxes.

Haruñi cleared ler throat. I glanced up. When our eyes met, my heart pounded. I thought it would be the moment le said, I’ve found a job. I’m leaving once I file my coursework and defend. My wife Sahiti had spent hours talking me up about this anxiety. Both of Sahiti’s oath-friends had left a year earlier, and one had nearly fallen out of contact. I never wanted that to happen to me.

Haruñi shifted ler son and cleared ler throat again. Le tilted the tablet towards me. It was a legal document. “That’s strange.”

I propped myself up on my elbows, sending an ache through my shoulders. Ler cousins and older relatives across the room hardly looked up. 

“Le looks done,” I said.

“Yeah.” Haruñi separated the son from ler nipple and set lim down in the nest of blankets between us. “So, I’m looking at the housing regulation code. I’d always thought that you needed to all be from the same matriarchal family to apply for satellite homes. Apparently, that’s not true anymore.”

“Uh-huh.” I looked back down at the forum post and skimmed through five love poems. The episode criticism was so buried.

Haruñi pushed the legal code to my tablet. I looked up at lim and accepted the request. Haruñi’s eyes had become saucers — off-the-wall idea eyes. 

“Since when?”

“That ProMo legislation in the late 1890s.” 


Haruñi’s hunches about loopholes always sounded like the kinds of things that should be obvious, yet weren’t. That’s how le’d ended up taking an extra funded year of classes, which bolstered ler educational portfolio for job-hunting after graduation. 

One of my chief duties as ler oath-friend was to stop these insidious ideas before they became dangerous. 

“This code seems to indicate that if we had at least seven people all committed to living together in Galasu, we could apply for a standalone residence in competition with satelliters.” Le highlighted a paragraph of text on our screens and stared pointedly at me. Le whispered, “Tia, you could convince Sahiti. We’d have three.”

My heart thudded. I needed to stop this conversation. I didn’t. “What about our kids?” I wanted to say, Thank you.

“Mine will be weaned. Yours are up to you. Our obligations are done, right?”

If my mother had heard that I wanted to actually leave Karoumoyu, le would have rent ler hair and screamed. No one in our families had worked elsewhere for generations. This was the early 1900s, and Shiji — even families like ours that had given their members Tveshi names instead of Shiji ones out of aspiration and desperation — didn’t move without family. I couldn’t see my Takhịdeso matriarch reacting well. The ProMos had secured individuals the rights to apply to and accept jobs without matriarchal approval in 1891 SC, but these rights meant — and mean — nothing without the housing application signatures. 

Haruñi must have seen those fears in my face. “What are you thinking?”

“I have no marketable skills.”

My gut instinct sided with Haruñi even as my mind fought lim. One of my twins, Reyanatau, would have ler jomela gender paperwork processed any day now. We’d already scheduled the ritual and party. Raising a jomela-child in Karoumoyu meant perhaps having another ritual officiant or mid-level government official. If le relocated with me to an East Shiji city — or even to Galasu itself — le’d have access to schools where le’d learn the Galasuhi accent and way of speaking, not our regional Shiji one that lengthened and twisted our vowels and consonants. Le’d be well-positioned to bring the family prestige. My son Goitvei wasn’t as smart. Le’d be fine in Karoumoyu.

It wasn’t right for me to think strategically like a matriarch — I was only an at-home — and if anyone had heard these ideas, le’d have thought me haughty.

“The Coalition still uses human caterers. You could apply.” Haruñi highlighted more text in the legal code and made annotations.

“How would it look for young Coalitionist hjathomahi to defy our families like this? It’s against traditionalism. We might as well turncoat our families for the ProMos,” I murmured. “Someone must have tried this before.”

Haruñi said, “No one. We’d be the first. Although — you’re right about that.”

The singing from the temple grew louder. The smell of roasting meat wafted in through the windows. It almost made me want to be there. Sahiti worshipped Likhera extensively. Le couldn’t bring me meat from the sacrifice, and chasing after a deity for roasted meat was obscene. 

When I shut off my screen, Haruñi’s legal code and highlighting disappeared. I rested my head against the back of my hands and breathed deeply. 

“Hey,” Haruñi murmured. Le rubbed between my shoulders. “It’s okay, Tia.”

We curled up with ler toddler and relaxed. The three of us lay there half-asleep until my children rushed back inside from one of the courtyards and prodded me to go home. Their lips were dark indigo-purple from all of the fruit that they’d eaten. Reyanatau kissed my forehead and poked my chin. Goitvei held back, arm around the waist of another boy a few months younger than lim. Goitvei was very affectionate with other boys and very sensitive. It wouldn’t make sense to extract lim from ler friends. I beckoned lim closer. Goitvei kissed my hands instead of my forehead, as Karoumoyuhi sons do.

I was still anxious. I was certain that someone had overheard and would tell my mother. Perhaps, though, no one thought that we were serious.

Sahiti and I had no unusual conversations that night or the following morning. I went to bed about an hour earlier than lim and awoke two hours before dawn to prepare the family breakfast with our other at-homes. Sahiti slept in until the sound of the city foot and transit traffic outside started in earnest. Le came downstairs, kissed me, and went off to shower and give the morning offerings to Likhera in the temple. 

Sahiti usually didn’t come back until halfway through the morning meal, and le spent four to five hours each day teaching older children how to interpret Likhera’s myths. On this day, le rushed because the showers had high levels of competition. The ancestor rites on 42 Thaukol were nothing like the major memorial services on 43 Poråkol, but we still had a delegation to our family’s necropolis site consisting of about twenty or thirty of the family. All of them needed to ritually purify themselves. 

We at-home cooks had to make breakfast quickly and provide more mourning diet food than usual. I chopped vegetables alongside our robot while ruminating over the conversation with Haruñi. I’d have to bring it up to Sahiti delicately, but Sahiti wanted to go through priestess training somewhere.

This wouldn’t guarantee us moving to Galasu. There were many schools for priestesses, and le could always go on ler own. Haruñi’s plan would be involved. We’d have to apply for jobs, interview, receive offers — and even then, our matriarchs could push back. They might cut our allowances out of spite.

Haruñi would have a law degree. We could easily appeal in court. This firmed my resolve that we couldn’t leave Reyanatau at home. If my relationship with the family soured, le would not have the same opportunities as other clan youth just by association.

After we served breakfast, I skimmed a letter from Haruñi with links to satellite applications and job boards. I didn’t read it fully until a few hours later.

Sahiti came into our room just as I finished. Le wore a yellow temple stola and a headdress, which I have always found stunning on lim. Hesitatingly, I recounted my conversation with Haruñi. Le frowned, but didn’t interrupt. A pit slowly contracted in my stomach.

“Tia, you can’t just leave one of the twins here. What would Goitvei think if we took Reyanatau and left lim?” Sahiti folded the yellow stola and tucked it over the hanging rods.

“I thought you were going to say it’s an unachievable idea.”

Sahiti chuckled. “It is, but I know your friend. And you really want me to apply for seminary in Galasu?”

“How long would it take you to receive an answer?”

“That program is very competitive.” Sahiti turned towards me, breasts bare. “Are you looking to work in a restaurant?”

I shook my head. “I really don’t know.”

“Other cities have better provisions for at-homes who travel with spouses. What does Haruñi think you’ll even do?” Sahiti put on a house-weight summer shirt and switched into wide-legged pants.

I shrugged. “You’ve visited Galasu.”

“Yeah, ten years ago on a school trip.”

“It can’t have changed that much. Could you see us living there? We’re not talking about moving to another planet.”

Sahiti climbed onto the bed and sat down beside me. Le rested ler head against my shoulder and skimmed Haruñi’s letter, fingers brushing lazily against the touchscreen. “I’d prefer Auomo, actually.”

“Why Auomo?”

“It has better legal provisions for apartment tenants and satelliters.” Sahiti kissed my cheek. “Auomo would be better for the twins. They’d learn Khessi that close to the border. The temple consortium school is great, and people go there from all over.”

I turned my head to the side and kissed Sahiti’s crown. Ler skin and hair smelled like temple incense, and it warmed the back of my throat and cheeks as I breathed in. Le kneaded my forearm until I set the tablet down.

“My muscles are so tight,” I said.

“Surely we can get another robot.”

“The older at-homes think learning this is good for us,” I said. “What do you think about leaving, though? Galasu? Is Auomo important?”

Sahiti clicked ler tongue. “Galasu wouldn’t be a good place for us. It’s so insular with all of those upper-class political families. Auomo at least gives us some margin.”

Haruñi wanted Galasu. None of us knew Khessi well enough to navigate a border town because we knew Shiji at the breast and Tveshi by policy. We might even need Atarahi. Most in Karoumoyu took Mamltab or Iturji as a stretch language. Few took Sāqab languages like Atarahi because they were an exercise in embarrassment. One had to constantly inflect pronoun gender as if people needed a persistent reminder of the obvious. Iturji did pronoun gender a bit more politely, only employing it for clarification.

I’d sidestepped Atarahi entirely after the warnings from my jomela sibling who tried it. Instead, I learned Mamltab because Maðzi dramas made me happy, and I wanted to understand them and read the meaty stuff on the fan fora. Most of the Shiji and Tveshi posts were just about hot actors, not the dramas themselves.

“You could come with me as an at-home if we went to Auomo.” Sahiti kissed me again, this time on the lips. I kissed ler neck and rested my head against ler chest. Ler voice resonated in my skull when le said, “It’s close to the spaceport.”

We kissed again. During sex, I was still anxious, but I hid it well. The follow-up conversation with Haruñi — whenever we had it — wouldn’t go well if their desires were at odds with each other. To pull off a unified exit from Karoumoyu, we’d need a compromise that could satisfy both.

Haruñi knew Konnajo from cohort studies. Konnajo knew my wife because both had spent so much time at the Temple of Likhera — Sahiti volunteering, Konnajo as one among five tonal percussionists who performed during the chanted prayers. We were set to meet lim in a kuaićo between our neighborhoods, at the top of a hill that looked over the kilometers of flat intertidal zone to the north. It was high tide, so the ship canal was packed with freighters, fishing vessels, and small leisure craft that upper-class Karoumoyuhi took out to skim along the coasts.

Small shrines dotted our way up, most left to the God of the sea after tsunamis and drownings, but we only presented offerings at one three-quarters of the way up when we needed to catch our breath. The vending machine incense hardly started when I lit it.

I waited at a bench at the sacred precinct’s edge while Haruñi offered nut milk. When le approached me, I squeezed ler hand and said, “Let’s wait here for a few minutes.”

“We’ll be late.”

“No, it’s not so far.” I paused. “You should know that Sahiti is four-fifths yes, one-fifth no. We had a talk–”

“Why one-fifth no?”

“Well, didn’t you ask your husband? Why isn’t le involved in this?”

Haruñi shook ler head and rolled ler eyes. “We married for children, not because we love each other. Our obligations to each other are essentially over. Le’s on board with me leaving. I’ve mentioned it to lim for the past three years. One-fifth no, Tia?”

“Auomo. Le wants to live in Auomo. Why did you tell your husband that you were serious about leaving and not me?” I scowled through the hard sunlight. A shrine like this was the wrong place for a fight. “Let’s keep walking.”

Haruñi let air out, lips curled up to roughen the long khhhhhhhhh as much as possible. “Why fucking Auomo?” 

“We will bring my jomela-child and my son. Sahiti thinks that exposure to Khessi will be good for our family. Social climbing.” I stood and gestured towards the worn stone gate. “We can talk at the kuaićo.”

“No, there are Narahji nationalist bombings in Auomo.” Haruñi jutted ler chin towards the God’s icon in ler nook. 

The icon’s four interlocking circles made eye shapes where they connected. It made the hair on the back of my neck prickle. “They’re in Galasu, too. What’s the difference?”

“Auomo’s population is lower.” Haruñi shook ler head and looked up the road. “When does transit come by here? Can’t we just take a pod?”

“I don’t–”

Le khhhhhhhhhhed again, stood, and walked out of the gate. I had to struggle to keep up as we took the wide sidewalk up. Le passed by the pod request box without even hesitating. “I’d need Khessi to get a lawyer’s apprenticeship or job in Auomo. Auomo is not–”

“Is this about getting out of Karoumoyu or just going to Galasu specifically? What’s in that city?” I picked an insect off of my arm and tried to regulate my breathing. “Your law grades are good, right? Good enough to sway someone on the fence about you.”

Haruñi sighed and stopped walking. “Go back and press the requester.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Do it, Tia.”

I walked back down about five meters and pushed the button. Ten minutes, the prompter said, plus or minus five. I motioned for Haruñi to come towards me.

Le waited up there, arms folded across ler hepteri vest, with sweat darkening ler underdress at the armpits. Only when the pod came to service us did le walk quickly down the hill towards me.

Haruñi whispered, “You have no say in this. Konnajo will think Auomo is a stupid idea, too.”

“Fine, then,” I said. The door opened in front of us. We got in across from a trio of young men in military uniforms. They smiled at us, and I shook my head. “Le could want something other than Galasu, too. We’ll be living together for a long time if this works, so don’t be bitter.”

Haruñi pursed ler lips together and turned ler head away from me. I input where we wanted to get off, about a five-minute drive away. The pod AI told us to make room for a final passenger.

My best friend held ler anger in ler shoulders. We called it youth-seething anger in our families because it usually manifests in new adults. Some people could be brought down from it through touch and compassion, but not Haruñi. It was best to just let it simmer and dissipate on its own.

When we walked into the kuaićo, Konnajo had already taken over a large table near the back. We’d only met a few times, but I liked what I’d seen. Reyanatau had few jomela role models in our family. Konnajo had high marks in the Karoumoyu Conservatory. Outside of politics, encouraging Reyanatau into a culturally influential career with public appointment opportunities would make the family very happy. I could use it to argue for this move with my matriarch. Konnajo’s husband, Morau, had just graduated with a degree in condensed matter physics. We still had no idea if Goitvei would be smart enough for that kind of educational investment, but it would at least provide lim with options beyond the military.

Konnajo put away ler notebooks, tablet, and input pens as soon as we sat down. The robotic server arrived at our table before we reshuffled ourselves. Upper-class kuaićo had more socially aware AI, but we only had enough lehi for this place.

After we ordered and paid, Konnajo leaned forward and propped ler chin on ler hands. Le jutted ler chin at Haruñi and asked, “You’re the one who found the loophole?”

Haruñi half-smiled. “Yeah.”

“Brilliant.” Konnajo rearranged ler half-eaten plates of food. One looked like root vegetables wrapped and steamed in leaves, a Galasuhi specialty, but the other was traditional North Shore fare, raw fish and sour fruit in a curing sauce. “Our family won’t have problems. We will, however — Haruñi, do you know how creative appointment works? The government ones?”

Haruñi shook ler head. I shrugged.

“We submit applications to the national government with some cities shortlisted, up to five. The competition is fiercest in Galasu. That’s where you can get work in the private government parties on the side. Auomo is second because the internationals and interplanetaries will take the high-speed rail from Itaka, Khessa, for weekenders.” Konnajo ate some of the root vegetable wrap, right hand held up to keep us from interrupting. “I’ve heard you want Galasu. Your friend — Tiarahañi, right? — and ler wife want Auomo. Sahiti told me. Is this about testing the law, or do you actually want to move out?”

“Sahiti and I want what is best for our children,” I said quickly.

Haruñi let out a long khhhhhhhhhh. “We’ll see. Maybe we don’t have the same goals.”

“You didn’t have anyone else respond to the forum post.” Konnajo snickered. “This is just like that school project with the word count thing. Remember that?”

“Our teacher couldn’t mark me down.” Haruñi grimaced.

“Look. I really like this idea. My applications are due next decad, and I defend next month. When I hear back in two months, we can look at the cities that offer me a position and make a decision together. That is my best offer.” Konnajo leaned back and pursed ler lips together, eyes shining.

The robot server came with our meals. Haruñi looked down at the cold noodles it put in front of lim, face scrunched up. I knew that I’d end up eating that and not lim. The fish-filled pastries at this kuaićo were much better than the ones I made. One of my at-home uncles yelled at me about how bad I was at making the dough the right way whenever I tried.

We both studied Haruñi, even though I think we both knew better. I should have told lim about Sahiti before Sahiti had reached Konnajo. We were interwoven with one another like a bad knot in a jewelry box.

“I guess,” Haruñi murmured.

Konnajo shook ler head and started eating the fish dish. I flaked apart my pastry. Not even Haruñi’s mood could spoil how good it tasted. “That sounds fine to me,” I said in between mouthfuls.

Haruñi slammed ler open palm down on the table and squeezed ler eyes shut. Konnajo stopped chewing. I ate more pastry.

“What if we end up somewhere just like Karoumoyu?” Haruñi’s voice rose. “The point is getting out of here and going somewhere we can live and see great things and not have to worry about living in a fucking hotåkhi place where nothing ever happens and we’re all just seeing the same people every Gods-damned day and the train lines only move away!”

People at the other tables stared. Haruñi’s shoulders shook, and ler arms trembled. I made eye contact with the owner and flailed my hands to my face to make an apologetic gesture. The owner canted ler head towards the door and mouthed in Tveshi, Nuakesh meshom

We couldn’t let this end in a scene. I shoveled my other pastry into my mouth while Haruñi breathed heavily beside me, fists rocking against the table so hard that ler knuckles made a painful noise. I stood and put my arms on Haruñi’s shoulders. Konnajo scrambled to get ler things together.

“We need to leave,” I said. “You’ve bothered the owner.”

“I don’t want to fucking leave.” Le shrugged forward and batted my arms away.

“You’re going to get us media attention,” Konnajo whispered. “This place sometimes gets journalists. They cover the student protests and love leads.”

Haruñi didn’t respond. Konnajo and I locked eyes. I couldn’t leave Haruñi here because we had a friendship ritual knitting our fates together. If I left lim, I would be a tradition-breaker. “I know what to do. Le’s just frustrated and probably hasn’t slept enough.”

Konnajo clicked ler tongue. “I know lim, too. Le and I were in cohort. This is probably a forum thing.”

What is happening on the fora, I thought. What are you doing, Haruñi? I reached a hesitating hand towards lers.

Konnajo moved to sit directly across from Haruñi. Le put ler arms on the table, palms turned up, and said, “Karoumoyu is Tveshė’s thirtieth largest city, fifteenth largest in Shija Province. Auomo, Galasu, Kiatasu, Karoumo, Aravakha, Kiaėtha, Inasahirami–”

“You don’t need to list them out like that,” Haruñi murmured. “It’s insulting.”

“We won’t end up in a small city. You’re crying over something that hasn’t happened yet,” Konnajo said.

I grabbed Haruñi’s wrist before le slapped Konnajo. Haruñi elbowed me in the ribs and started crying. I made eye contact with the owner and whispered, Mė koushena, because this was a Galasuhi Tveshi kuaićo in a Shiji-language city. We had already caused a scene, and I didn’t want us to look like provincials.

“The kuaićo wants us to leave. Don’t get us banned.”

Haruñi nodded and breathed in deeply. It was just like lim to turn the future into a catastrophe. Le shook as le stood, which meant that le was on the verge of hysterical screaming. Neither Konnajo nor I touched lim as we all left. I barely made eye contact with lim on the pod ride back to our neighborhood. Le needed time to work these thoughts out.

Konnajo smoothed things over — how, I don’t know. We all developed our city list with lim, and le sent in the application. The five of us had a lot of time to socialize during the months-long wait. Sometimes, we played board games and cards at Konnajo and Morau’s home. I started going to the Temple of Likhera with Haruñi. We hjathomahi went to the gymnasium near my family’s home and met Sahiti and Morau back at the house for electrolyte drinks and entertainment.

I’d gotten the four of them into Nut-Tree House and Why We Ride, which released episodes every fourth day of the decad. We piled onto the couches at my house and watched them back-to-back.

The application results eventually came. Konnajo’s composer package meant that we’d move to Inasahirami. Haruñi was neither happy nor unhappy — le’d settle for it — but the remainder of us truly loved what we knew of Inasahirami. We still needed the final signatures from our matriarchs to approve the move. We’d planned to tell them all at the same time, but hadn’t set a date.

It did not go as expected. One day, about a week after the results, one of Matriarch Daukhiañi’s underlings called us up to ler office while we were all there. I could count the number of times le’d summoned me on one hand. My family had about three hundred people in the house, and I’d hardly ever needed meetings.

We were in deep hotåkhi fucking shit, in other words. All of us knew it. We didn’t realize just how deep until we saw three older women — not one — in Matriarch Daukhiañi’s reception room.

Matriarch Jiahiñi, Konnajo’s great-grandmother, was something of a celebrity. Le’d been one of the few middle-class women to serve in the Senate back in the 1860s when such things were still possible. Matriarch Naćiñi, Haruñi’s great-great aunt, had sworn an oath of friendship to Daukhiañi when the two were teens.

Konnajo immediately fell to ler knees when we entered the room and pressed ler head against the floor. I felt like throwing up when Daukhiañi turned to me, lips curled and eyes blazing.

“What the fuck do you all think you’re doing?” Jiahiñi screamed.

Konnajo’s hands shook as le pulled them out in front of lim, palms up. Morau quickly fell to ler knees, pressed ler hands to the floor, and arched ler spine with ler chin tucked.

“What do you think? Huh?” Jiahiñi looked like le might kick Konnajo, but didn’t.

Daukhiañi pursed ler lips together. Ler skin crinkled and flowed like paper over ler bones as le gesticulated widely towards the two on the ground. “What has gotten into you? Who is responsible for this? You hjathomahi?”

Sahiti took a step back, and Morau breathed a sigh of relief. Hjathomahi meant that the blame rested on Haruñi, Konnajo, and me — the ones who stayed in their families after marriage. We had a duty that the others didn’t.

Haruñi met ler matriarch’s eyes and said, “Tågo Naćiñi, vas kouria lijunui vė tålịni?” Using Tveshi made it sound more formal and serious.

Naćiñi turned around and flicked on one of the monitors. One of the top news items in the Karoumoyu newspapers was us. As le scrolled through it, I sank to my knees. It detailed everything from our school and job applications to the Inasahirami satellite house paperwork, all based on Haruñi’s careless posts on the fora. Konnajo couldn’t see it pressed down against the floor. I didn’t want to see it, either. I sank to my knees and planted my forehead against the ground.

“Your so mesahi is in the paper,” Jiahiñi whispered. 

The correct term would have been so mesaheli or so rohi. Contracting it like that made it into helloing house, so frivolous and ridiculous that I couldn’t bear to repeat it for months after the article came out.

“What?” Haruñi’s brow furrowed. “When?”

“An hour ago. It’s everywhere on the news. A journalist asked if I’d signed for you.” Naćiñi clicked ler tongue. “Do you have no sense of responsibility? Are you trying to break our family walls with this ridiculous, shameful thing?”

Haruñi stomped on the ground twice. “If you try to stop us, the ProMos will turn this into a national political issue, won’t they? Have you had a call from the Coalition–”

“One of our senators. Le asked, ‘What has happened, Esteemed Jiahiñi, that you allow a young descendant to tremble the walls of your house?’” Jiahiñi clicked ler tongue. “Why couldn’t you have done this the normal way, Konnajo? You have an aunt in South Iturja. You could have picked the appointment there.

Esteemed Jiahiñi, think about the press coverage.” Haruñi cleared ler throat and stamped ler feet again. “You will sign our things due to the press coverage, Esteemed Matriarchs. Nobody cares if we have a retinue of relatives. Are our jobs bad?”

“The Coalitionist position is that we should say no,” Daukhiañi said.

“I’ll call the ProMos and tell them that. You know that we have the legal right to take this to external review. I had a year of family law.” Haruñi chuckled madly. “A extra fucking year of family law.”

Oh shit, I thought. Hotåkhi fucking shit. Haruñi had been plotting this for years. 

Sahiti cleared ler throat. “May I have permission to speak, Matriarch Daukhiañi?”

“Go ahead.”

“Inasahirami has excellent schools where Goitvei and Reyanatau will learn Shēdakla and Amurşin. It’s a big city. The commune isn’t permanent — and so many houses are still empty, yes? So much population was lost in the Occupation.” Le sighed. “Tiarahañi and I can try for a daughter through me. Our family is in no other cities yet. This so rohi is not permanent, and our children will have so many opportunities, Esteemed One.”

My shoulders relaxed. Haruñi was headstrong and a bit crazy. Le hung out on unsavory fora online. Sahiti did not. Le bore limself like a future priestess of Likhera. Thank Gods, I thought.

“Go on,” Daukhiañi said.

Sahiti cleared ler throat. I willed Haruñi to remain silent. Le might have been my best friend, but even I knew that my wife was a better woman to handle this. Konnajo and I could never have gotten the commune started without someone who held firm like Haruñi. We could never have received signatures without Sahiti.

The Taritit hadn’t bombed Inasahirami as heavily as other cities. Some of its buildings contained stones dating back to the 600s, the same century my family cleaved from another maternal line to find its fortunes in Karoumoyu. The most noteworthy thing about my first view of the skyline was the lack of construction cranes.

We expected press and protesters, so we cleaned ourselves up in the transit bathroom before the reporters gave online viewers a three-hundred-sixty-degree view of us as we went to our new property. Goitvei counted five drones at one point before le started throwing rocks at them. I made lim stop. The local ProMo coordinator tried ingratiating limself to us while we troubleshooted a luggage hover that refused to turn on.

Haruñi and Sahiti got rid of the ProMo. I was too soft. Sahiti went after me in Maðzi about how I couldn’t just take ProMo literature and the man’s comm band number in front of the remaining four drones or the Coalitionist field propagandists. In my defense, the ProMo told me le’d help me with anything.

The small, four-bedroom home the city assigned to us in the Turusa Yåhi Neighborhood stood three blocks from the sacred waterfall from which the neighborhood takes its name. It lay along the road where pilgrims go to Yisaja Grove to re-oath friendships. The koidė shrine marking out the neighborhood’s northern boundary lay eight blocks beyond us, past several large matriarchal homes, the rail station, and a hotel.

An inspector had apparently certified the home for habitation. No one had used it in nearly a century. Thick, quivering blood-vines grew over the entire front yard, which splattered on our embroidered pants as we crushed them beneath our feet. The keys barely turned in the lock.

We searched through vermin and insect droppings for a place to set down our belongings, hyperaware of the media crew outside trying to get a view of the interior through the filthy windows. Oh — and the building had no working refrigeration drawers. The solar panel room’s wiring had been restored following inspection, but some of it hadn’t been connected properly. We had no power. Haruñi whispered to me that the city must have given us a place like this on purpose. 

My children remained at the door with Sahiti and Morau while Haruñi, Konnajo, and I went through the rooms with chimes and ashes from our household shrines to invite our family Gods into the space. We installed libation and burnt offering bowls in a nook shrine after we cleaned out the shrine rubble from whichever family had once lived and died here.

Someone had raided the mattresses, but we found some furniture that hadn’t warped or been eaten by mold and fauna — hardwood dining couches and a table, desks and bookshelves, and two of the nine bed frames. We found a statue to Enahahi in the tiny inner courtyard. We cleaned out the God’s tiny shrine and offered more incense. A few moldy tapestries upstairs bore ler myths.

We stripped down to our undergarments to clean so we wouldn’t need to replace our nice clothes. Morau and Sahiti took the children to the park while the rest of us scrubbed and hauled trash out.

On that first night, we pushed the dining couches together and slept smushed together. Haruñi cried quietly, and Sahiti tossed and turned while the vermin scampered upstairs. The children slept well. Morau had nightmares about the dead crawling back through the blood-vines to haunt our house. The next morning, Sahiti went into town to buy a pack of kikheda while I called pest control. We put in a work order for large item trash removal and contacted a priestess to purify the house of restless ghosts.

And I called the ProMo.

When le answered the phone, le asked if we were okay. I hesitated for a long time, just breathing.

I wanted things in the house to work. 

Calling the ProMo for help was worth every concession because they helped us make the Turusa Yåhi House livable. We negotiated assistance down to a news piece and community volunteering for a ProMo youth mixer. The Coalition never gave us anything.

It was worth going ProMo because they gave us everything. Three days later, I stood in the kitchen chopping vegetables while the children ran chasing kikheda up and down the stairs in a clean place with real furniture. My new jar of sasahi paste opened with a pop. The refrigeration drawers purred. Sahiti prayed at the household shrine, perfuming the house with incense.

When the heat sizzled the water out of my fresh-cleaned pan and I added the first cooking oil and meat, I knew that I was home. 


Lexember 2019: December 8-15

December 8

Sau /sa͡ʊ/, n. Class D.  JourneySauyi /ˈsa͡ʊ.ji/, relating to journeys. Asauyit /ʌ.ˈsa͡ʊ.jit̪/, to travel.

Nusauyiculturally astute, well-traveled
Nusaukourisomeone who has made traveling a profession
Enasaureligious procession
Sauyåssị, any god to whom one prays for journey-related reasons. 
Saukhialight-distance, or the journey light takes from one place to another. 
Efịsau, hotel, hostel, or other room where a journeyer stays
Fågoim sauyi, a traveling teacher, typically a religious officiant or philosopher. 

Sau mėi vat kossori para mė noahet efịsauć shitarahi.
My journey was monotonous, except I hated the loud hotel rooms.

December 9

Shovė /ˈʃo͡ʊ.və/, n. Class N. Shore.

Ashovė /ʌ.ˈʃo͡ʊ.və/, inspiration after a long, fallow period.
Akaiashovit /ʌ.kʼaɪ͡a.ˈʃo͡ʊ.vit̪/, to stand someone up, as in not show up for an appointment or social function despite saying one would be there.
Anuashovit /ʌ.nʊ͡ɑ.ˈʃo͡ʊ.vit̪/, to beach, negative sense.
Ashovit /ʌ.ˈʃo͡ʊ.vit̪/, to beach, positive or neutral sense.

Gịssåt ret shovit nia vė mohuyem vannuonehio ratịtu.
/ˈgɪ.ʂɔt̪ rɛt̪ ˈʃo͡ʊ.vit̪ ni͡ɑ vɛ mo͡ʊ.ˈxu.jəm vʌ̃.ðʊ͡o.ˈnɛ.xio͡ʊ rʌ.ˈt̪ɪ.t̪ʊ./
The boat was beached and le wrote a letter to a/the sister.

December 10

Thåtotei /θɔ.ˈt̪o͡ʊ.t̪ɛ͡ɪ/, n. Class A. LonelinessThåtoti /θɔ.ˈt̪o͡ʊ.t̪i/, alone

Aithåtotei /a͡ɪ.θɔ.ˈt̪o͡ʊ.t̪ɛ͡ɪ/, digital isolation
Iathåtotei /i͡ɑ.θɔ.ˈt̪o͡ʊ.t̪ɛ͡ɪ/, a state of renunciation
Enathåtotei /ə.nʌ.θɔ.ˈt̪o͡ʊ.t̪ɛ͡ɪ/, a theological term describing the interaction between Gods and the world. 
Othåtotei /o͡ʊ.θɔ.ˈt̪o͡ʊ.t̪ɛ͡ɪ/, isolated
Athåtotait /ʌ.θɔ.ˈt̪o͡ʊ.t̪a͡ɪt̪/, to isolate; when reflexive, to go into isolation.

Mė mėis thåtotam helai tålịnė nia noaha ñirep lopesu dat reyani nia shueyi.
I isolated myself because the anger and hatred of everyone here was strong and dangerous.

December 11

Thui /θu͡i/, n. Class D. FootprintOthui /ˈo͡ʊ.θu͡i/, track, spoor

Aȯthuiyit /ʌ.ʔo.ˈθu͡i.jit̪/, to track
Aithui /ˈa͡ɪ.θu͡i/, technology footprint
Thuivekut /θu͡i.ˈvɛ.kʼut̪/, energy footprint, amount of energy used

Thuivekut vasa da olayi othuat tuahi.
/θu͡i.ˈvɛ.kʼut̪ ˈvɑ.sʌ dɑ o͡ʊ.ˈlɑ.ji ˈo͡ʊ.θu͡ɑt̪ ˈt̪u͡ɑ.xi/
Their energy footprint is far too massive. 

December 12

To /t̪o͡ʊ/, n. Class D. Metal

Sitoyi, metallic
Toyi, made of metal
Mịto, metal worn for adornment
Aimịto, prosthetic.
Uhoto, mine
Ånåto, recycled metal, lit. old-new metal. 

Mesh kouriaia peairahėo isi ånåto.
We do metal recycling for the planet.

Tosamiakha /t̪o͡ʊ.sʌ.ˈmi͡ɑ.ʁʌ/, n. Class N. Impermanence

Ñijė hidė nia sihata voiyauptu måtenui tosamiakha.
Everything suffers and suffering is necessary to illumine impermanence by means of teaching.

December 13

Tussi /ˈt̪u.ʂi/, adj. Soft.

Nuatussi, /nu͡ɑ.ˈt̪u.ʂi/ unstable.
Atussit /ʌ.ˈt̪u.ʂit̪/, to soften, to weaken.
Atusi /ʌ.ˈt̪u.ʂi/, pliable, supple.

December 14

/t̪ɛ/, n. Class D. Road.

Setė /ˈsɛ.t̪ə/, highway

Setua nia ennahjịć rikhaptu tịnnuåć. 
Highways and trains bind cities.

December 15

Ta /t̪ɑ/, n. Class A. Call

Tayi /ˈt̪ɑ.ji/, noteworthy, something to pay attention or respond to, important.
Atayait /ʌ.ˈt̪ɑ.ja͡ɪt̪/, to call, to transmit widely, to alert

Mė davajem nådịnui tayi karanai mėi. 
I solved my despair via important oracles. 

Vė tayaia odashinasio sejatho ćėis. 
Le will alert your (sing. inf., AKA “thy”) family after the decision.

Lexember 2019: December 1-7

It is once again Lexember, the time of year when conlangers work on our lexicons.

Looking Back

Last year, I wrote a language called Eamaru/Eamarubhe from scratch to support a creative writing project called Ossia, a story about the daughter of Salus Niksubvya who is solving the puzzle of who lived in the ancient ruins she finds in the Canyons while anchoring herself in the present by telling the story of her life — a mystery which grows into obsession as she entices the God of Time and Eternity, Saämatsra, through her repeated time travel. It allowed me to move from this:

A few younger adults followed me. They pointed and said something like ut-ta-ka-mia-de-sa, which I couldn’t break into words. The syllables ta-kam happened more often than others. Ta-ka-mia less often.

To this later on:

These day-sky blossoms are harvested during the night, when the air is cool, at this time of year. They will be crated and sent via air freight to a processing center that will dry and crush them for the pigments they hold. 

Flowers are less brittle when their petals are closed.

It’s a phrase I have heard from Aðokei several times now, that I heard from Ktanja before. In Eamaru, it is, Fhin itn-me ei jabh meða ẖam rak muto ziur llejabh ba. To think that all of that refers to this? Day-sky pigment is expensive — it is not made artificially, after all — but this is what it meant?

… but also the realization (hey, drafts, right?) that the younger adults were probably not speaking Eamaru, but Dásna, spoken by the Ékkivá (accents are high tones), even though Toma learns and is taught Eamaru instead.

Ossia has a draft that is 198,000 words. The main character, Toma, learns Eamaru during the story. And, of course, you can check out the words and phrases I made in the 2018 Lexember here (a link to my tag for Eamaru).

Moving Forward

The year before, though, I was working on my Tveshi dictionary. Tveshi was my first conlang, and it is old, cumbersome, and beloved. Basically, I was the lexicon and expanding it from brief notes that looked like this:

tha, mark
thåtotei (AN), loneliness
thåtoyė (AN), Criminal
thau (NN), earth
thaufoi (DN), cavern
thaukinị (NN), Earthquake
thena (DN), Practice
thie, smear
thau (NN), earth
thaufoi (DN), cavern
thaukinị (NN), Earthquake
thena (DN), Practice
thie, smear

to robust entries that incorporate polysemy, derived words via prefixes/suffixes/compounds, verbs, and more (basically, what you’ll see farther down here). Sometimes, I have to fix and clean things a lot, too.

This year, I’m continuing that work — starting in the Ns and going down as far as I can. Apart from Lexember, I’m finishing up a poetry project right now.

December 1

Nau, /naʊ̯/ n. Class N. Deep, a term for valley, ravine, or low place. When followed by an article, this indicates the Canyon region of Narahja: nau sof /naʊ̯ soʊ̯f/, sometimes nau aif /naʊ̯ aɪ̯f/ because the Canyons are seen as divine.

I also made a phrase, reyanakourić efa mėi. It uses the word reyana, strength, with the suffix -kouri to denote that someone does something (often professional, but colloquially, it often just accentuates that someone is performing a role), and for plural. Efa is the plural emphatic article, and mėi is a first person possessive pronoun. Roughly, it means those who bring me strength, but it has the connotation of my peeps, my comrades, et cetera, in a colloquial, endearing way. It can be shortened to reiekoufam.

December 2

Nea /nɛɑ̯/, n. Class N. Hand.

Aianea /aɪ͡anɛɑ̯/, cross purpose.
Uneayi /ʊ.ˈnɛɑ̯.ji/, wealthy/well-resourced.
Enanea /ə.ˈnɑ.nɛɑ̯/, Providence.

Nåneayi /nɔ.ˈnɛɑ̯.ji/, fresh, inexperienced, novice.
Anåneait /ʌ.nɔ.ˈnɛ.a͡ɪt̪/, to try out.

Ćė nåneat måtua. 
/t͡ʃɛ nɔ.ˈnɛ.ʌt̪ ˈmɔt̪.uɑ̯/
You.informal had tried out teachings/ways.

December 3

Ninna,/ˈnĩ.ðʌ/, n. Class A. Trace, track. Aninnait, to trace, to track.

Ver ninnamị thunoyėa naui vo athovamị vė.
They (formal) tracked the young woman through the gorge and killed lim. [no gender in #Tveshi 3PS]

Ninnashåsso, storm-trace, a fulgurite (fused trace left by lightning).
Sininna, argument following from a prior.
Uninna, talent, aptitude.
Uininna, an act of kindness done for someone whom one will never meet in a place before ler arrival to make things better for lim.

December 4

Nitha /ˈni.θʌ/, n. Class D. Ditch
Anithit /ʌ.ˈni.θit̪/, to drag down into the mud, to slander, to diminish, to defame

Sher nithoiyi henehågep fågoim mėi.
You-informal-pl most likely defamed/slandered my teacher without remorse.

But I did more on December 4 than just that.

Nuita /ˈnui̯.t̪ʌ/, n. Class N. Temporal flux, temporal jumble, time travel. A neologism created by the writer of a book called Ko Foali MånauptuTime’s Beginning/Momenting/Succession of Instants Is Endless, a horror novel about a woman who gets lost in the woods and must solve a time travel puzzle to avoid being devoured by forest spirits. The term has passed into pop usage.

… I would actually read something like that.

The forest spirits, incidentally, are called klamodya (sing. klamoda) in Narahji, and the reason a Tveshi woman would be harassed by them is that the Tveshi neglected the klamodya shrines when they conquered Shija. The Tveshi word for nature or tree spirits is atuat or enayoi; the term for a klamoda is enayoi thuani, or evil tree spirit. (They’re not actually evil.)

December 5

Rahị /ˈɾɑ.hɪ/, n. Class D. Mote, speck.

Rahi, invisible, dustlike, insignificant.
Oirahị, bacterium.
Nårahi, no longer relevant.
Årahi, irrelevant.

Sirahị, prioritization. This actually means something like, the art of identifying insignificant things. Setting priorities by eliminating what is actually unimportant, right? 😂

Thuyirahị, bribe. I was asked to explain this. Thuyi- is a prefix that indicates badness or wrongness, much like nua- (the two can be used interchangeably, but the latter prefix is increasingly used less for some social reasons in the culture). It’s an allusion to how difficult it can be to know that someone has been bribed — a mote or speck that can do so much damage, but that is invisible until close inspection.

December 6

Rout /ɾo͡ʊːt̪/, n. Class N. Crevice, openingRouti /ˈɾo͡ʊː.t̪i/, openAroutait /ʌ.ˈɾo͡ʊː.t̪a͡ɪt̪/, to make space

Oiroutlung or other respiratory mechanism, in the case of blood-vining plants. 
Thuyirout, a bad situation that has a narrow chance of escape. 
Kaiarouta softening of the heart, often seen as a reflexive verb, akaiaroutait.

Mė mėis kaiaroutaia helai sha amatara laihua tusa mėi.
My heart will soften if le takes care of my nine bowls.

After doing this, I did a few other words and learned I had a double entry for this word and that there were already some other things in the other entry. I then merged them together. From that previous work, I have:

Rout is also used colloquially to mean opportunity or possibility. Da routi is an achieved opportunity.

December 7

Sassė /ˈsɑ.ʂə/, n. Class N. Air

Aisassė /a͡ɪ.ˈsɑ.ʂə/, air filtration system on a space ship or submarine. 
Hosassė /ho.ˈsɑ.ʂə/, atmosphere. 
Oisassė /o͡i.ˈsɑ.ʂə/, exhalation. 
Nåsassė /nɔ.ˈsɑ.ʂə/, inhalation. 

Mė våsam saishehio aisassė. 
I fixed the air filtration system for a cousin.