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Poem: "Gathering Family" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Gathering Family"

This poem is spillover from the November 3, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rix_scaedu, siege, mdlbear, and janetmiles.  It also fills the "nightmares" square in my 8-12-13 card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the series The Godship Wanderers, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.


Gathering Family


It was difficult to form families
out of nothing but people.

Bembé and Lur and Homero
woke together to find
that their freedom was not a dream.

They had in common
the bonds forged on the slaver ship,
a loyalty that carried over
now that they all lived within
the godship Estrella.
Bembé felt grateful for that.

Still they found it hard to adjust,
coming together as a family
for the very first time.

They had to learn
how to touch each other,
for the cages had kept them separate
except for sneaking their hands or feet
between the bars now and then.

They discovered that
Bembé enjoyed the company
of both women and men,
while Lur and Homero
wanted men alone ...

and that none of them
were ready for any of that
after being treated like livestock
so that they felt lost in their own bodies.

They had to explore
how to talk about things
other than the Cangrejos
who had captured them.

They shared their memories
of Cuba but soon realized
that this only made them feel worse,
homesick as castaways.

So the talk turned instead
to what they could do
to make new lives together,
Bembé spinning out plans
for Lur and Homero to share.

The three of them ate
with the other refugees,
gathering in a large dining hall.
This, too, helped to cement the bonds
among the other little families forming
and the community as a whole.

Estrella had thoughtfully salvaged
the supplies from the slaver ship,
so she had some idea what they could eat
and what medicines would help ...

but she was still learning human tastes,
so sometimes the cooking
came out a bit peculiar.

It helped that there were ingredients
so the humans could cook for each other --
and Lur could do that quite well when she wished --
but they had only a few seeds and vegetables
that might  be convinced to sprout
and so they would have to rely
mainly on what Estrella could make.

The nights were the hardest.
They still slept together,
cuddled in one large bed
with the warm blanket
wrapping itself around them.

In the dark, the dreams came
to tear at their minds
with visions of the horrors
they had survived.

Often Bembé would wake
to Lur crying or Homero screaming.
They held each other close,
soft skin driving away
memories of hard shackles.

Still they could not bear
the touch of anything
around their throats,
even after the wounds healed.

There were no necklaces
among the survivors,
and clothes had the collars
cut into wide, low scoops.

Estrella helped as best she could,
touching their minds in their sleep.
Bembé ran through his nightmares
until her strong, gentle voice
reached out to say, Wake up,
and he roused with his heart hammering.

Lur and Homero stroked his damp skin
while Estrella whispered to him,
You are safe here. You are free now.
With the words came reassurance,
a soft pressure that settled his feelings
and let him get back to sleep
at least sometimes.

Lur, too, could take comfort
from Estrella's mental presence,
slowly learning to sense more
as they grew to know each other better.
The tears still came, but Lur
had people to share them with.

Homero was alone in his own mind
and could not reach Estrella at all,
like most of the survivors.
He had only his own inner strength
and the tender embrace of Bembé and Lur
to soothe the terrors of the night.

Slowly they began to recover
from what had happened to them.
Bembé reached out to the other refugees
and formed tentative new friendships.
Lur investigated the supplies
and compared them with stores
that Estrella had to offer.

Homero developed a fondness
for their fellow residents,
Los Salvados, and the little aliens
liked him in return.
Often they trailed him
as he explored the godship,
scampering at his feet
or gliding through the air.

There is to be a meeting,
Estrella announced one day.

"What kind of meeting?"
Bembé asked, because
he hadn't heard anything of the sort
from either the human refugees
or Los Salvados.

I want you to meet the rest of my family,
Estrella explained. They are gathering.

"You have a family?"
Bembé said, though of course
even godships had to come from somewhere.

You are my infamily. They are my outfamily.
It is better for both to know each other,

Estrella said to him.

So Bembé explained that to everyone else,
and they talked a little about it on the way.
"I wonder if they'll try to touch our minds
the way Estrella does," said Lur.

They will try,  Estrella replied.
You may hear some of them, or only me.
Some who cannot hear me
may find resonance with another instead
.

There was a way to travel quickly
through the layers of space,
which Estrella also tried to explain,
but it made no sense to any of them.

All that Bembé understood
was one moment everything was quiet
and the next his head felt like a crowded room.

"¡Ay!"  said Lur. "I hear someone."
She was smiling, but Bembé
had a headache already
and it was getting worse.

Homero shrugged. "I hear nothing."
For the first time Bembé envied him.

Estrella managed to wrap her mind
around Bembé well enough
to shield him from the worst of the noise.
She showed a picture on the wall
of a dozen other godships gathering.

We meet to exchange knowlege
about our infamilies,
said Estrella.
Now if anyone else finds people like you,
they will know to contact me.
Sometimes people find lost kin that way,
or wish to change ships in search of a mate
.

Bembé repeated that for the others,
and they all took heart from the idea
that more humans might be rescued.
They knew they weren't the only ones
who had been kidnapped from Earth.

"The one I can hear says that
she is Estrella's mother," Lur said.
"I do not know what to call her, though."

"I named Estrella," said Bembé.
"It is your turn to choose a name."

Lur thought about that for a minute.
"Ángela," she said, "because her voice
in my head reminds me of angels."

Bembé finally sorted through
the muffled babble to make out
individual voices. Ángela?
he thought, trying to discover
which one she might be.

Greetings, came the reply,
deep and distant like the sound
of something striking a hollow tree.

Have you seen anyone else like us?
Bembé asked her.
Have you heard of our homeworld?

I have not, Ángela said,
but if I do then I will send word.

It was the most they could hope for,
cast adrift in unknown space,
though still a disappointment.
At least now they had strong allies --
a whole family of godships
who were willing and able
to relieve the slavers of their victims.

Estrella showed her outfamily
as much as she had learned
about the newly arrived humans.
The humans followed along
as best they could, but the godships
communicated on so many levels
that it was difficult to keep up.

There was a stir among Los Salvados
because Estrella's brother
also carried a population of them.
The two ships exchanged passengers,
mostly young adults looking for love
or possibly adventure.

The meeting lasted all day,
and by the end of it
Bembé felt like his head
was stuffed with wool and splinters,
even with Estrella shielding him.

He was grateful to curl up in his own bed
between Lur and Homero, burrow down
into the soft padding and fall asleep.

That night, for the first time,
everyone slept soundly to morning.

* * *

Notes:

There are steps for creating a healthy family and for building a family from scratch.  It helps to understand some basic principles for making relationships work.

Creating a family of choice is useful when the natal family is unavailable or undesirable.  Select your own kin, and you influence your life instead of just getting swept along.

PTSD can affect a whole family.  There are ways to cope with traumatic stress and heal PTSD.

Nightmares are a common symptom of PTSD.  Learn how to stop having nightmares.
http://www.wikihow.com/Stop-Having-Nightmares

Meeting the family is an important -- if sometimes nerve-wracking -- step in relationships.  Family meetings can also improve functionality and closeness.

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Comments
From: technoshaman Date: December 21st, 2013 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Cool. Another one to circle back to for references, especially as we-here integrate...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 21st, 2013 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad I could help. Yes, this poem has the best build-your-own-family kit that I could assemble.

*sigh* You'd think we would teach people more about this, considering family is the building block of society. But there's not much on constructing a family. There's advice on how to make one work after you've put it together, but it really helps to have instructions before assembly. Huh, maybe I should consider this for nonfiction, if I could find a market for it.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: December 21st, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

There's always a market for good self-help books, and this seems to be an untapped segment. Go for it!
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: December 21st, 2013 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I first learned about chosen family from my then-girlfriend Colleen, the only child of a single, working mother. Her sisters of choice were bridesmaids at our wedding.

We moved to Seattle in large part to be with my sister of choice; we're sharing a house with her, her two kids, and our younger daughter. It's a little weird to be "Uncle Steve" and "Grandma Colleen" to the kids, but it works.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 21st, 2013 07:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> I first learned about chosen family from my then-girlfriend Colleen, the only child of a single, working mother. Her sisters of choice were bridesmaids at our wedding. <<

That's lovely. Thanks for sharing.

>> We moved to Seattle in large part to be with my sister of choice; we're sharing a house with her, her two kids, and our younger daughter. It's a little weird to be "Uncle Steve" and "Grandma Colleen" to the kids, but it works. <<

*chuckle* Yeah, the nomenclature can get a little chaotic. In many tribal cultures, "uncle/aunt" is a term of respect for any adult of one's parents' age; "grandfather/grandmother" for much older adults and "cousin" for someone of similar age to oneself.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: December 21st, 2013 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

One amusing thing is that Colleen is five years younger than me. The other is that Naomi is almost exactly halfway in age between us and our kids, so that both designations are at least possible. They would be more plausible if they were swapped; I'm only a year younger than Naomi's father.

Not just tribal cultures; several of my parents' friends were honorary aunts and uncles.
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