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Poem: "Hostage to the Character" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Hostage to the Character"
This poem came out of the July 2015 Creative Jam.  It was inspired by a prompt from DW user Alexseanchai.  It also fills the "Stockholm syndrome" square in my 7-31-14 card for the Hurt/Comfort Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Calliope thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  Because it was launched during a half-price sale, the rate is $.25/line, so $5 will reveal 20 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: lone_cat, janetmiles, technoshaman, ng_moonmoth

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Hostage to the Character


Calliope was practicing with her superpowers,
air-juggling half a dozen ping-pong balls,
when Hyperspaceman appeared.

"I'm on assignment and I need your help," he said.

Since Calliope was already in uniform,
she simply held out a hand. "Let's go."

The tunnel swished them away and
deposited them just outside a city bank.

"Here's the situation," said Hyperspaceman.
"A supervillain named Mesmer Eye and
several of his men have taken over the bank,
capturing at least ten employees and
another twenty customers."

"Mesmer Eye," Calliope said thoughtfully.
"He's the Bratva captain, right? The one
who lost an eye as punishment last year when
a shipment of zetetic contraband went astray?"

"That's him," said Hyperspaceman.
"This isn't a random bank job.
It's a hostage situation because
Mesmer Eye specifically targeted
the daughter of the police chief,
a girl named Addison Boyle."

"What for?" Calliope asked.
"Some kind of bait or leverage?
Or more personal prurient interest?"

"Police analysts suspect the motive is
leverage against her father, to facilitate
the local trade in illicit substances,"
said Hyperspaceman. "Indications
are that he rolled her over an hour ago,
so she's been acting under his influence."

"That's never a good thing,"
Calliope muttered. Mind control
could have ugly consequences.
"So what do you need me to do?"

"Our job is to extract Addison safely,"
said Hyperspaceman, showing a picture
of a tall teen with a long, heart-shaped face.
"The problem is, my talent doesn't aim well
through walls, because of my limitation in
navigation. I need someone who can phase."

"I can get through, but I'm not sure
I could bring someone back with me,"
Calliope said uneasily.

"That's okay, what I want you to do
is peek through and sight for me,"
said Hyperspaceman. "I can
tunnel through if I have a guide,
and transporting extra people
poses no difficulty for me."

"That I can do," Calliope said
with a firm nod, and phased out.

It always felt strange to shift
out of phase with the rest of the world,
almost like slipping between dense trees,
except that she could feel everything
moving through her ghostly form.

Her vision faded to mist and wraiths,
layers of light and shadow that made it
difficult to discern any details,
but Calliope persevered.

She drifted through the walls of the bank,
mentally mapping its layout along with
the location of everyone inside.

Calliope found Mesmer Eye and
Addison inside an office where they
could see out but not expose themselves
to snipers from outside the building.

The teenaged girl held a beam rifle,
her long mahogany hair swept forward
to hang over her shoulders, leaving
the pale back of her neck bare.

The mobster stood beside her,
one arm across her back, his thumb
stroking the skin at the base of her skull.

The bank employees and several of
the more valuable customers lay on the floor,
their limbs bound at wrists and ankles.

The scene made Calliope uneasy.

Something was wrong,
beyond just the mobster
holding people hostage.

Mesmer Eye and Addison
started to turn, as if looking
for an intruder, and the room
trembled in response.

Calliope ducked back
into the wall, hiding herself,
but not before she glimpsed
the look of utter determination
on Addison's face.

Outside the bank, it took
only a minute to reconnect with
Hyperspaceman and report.

"We have a complication,"
Calliope said grimly. "Someone
in there is a tweak, and I'm pretty sure
it's Addison -- whoever it is must be new,
because everything in the room is vibrating."

"Shit," said Hyperspaceman.

"Do we have blueprints for the bank?"
Calliope asked. "That would help."


"Yes," said Hyperspaceman,
offering her a tablet computer
with the plans displayed onscreen.

Calliope used the lightpen to annotate
the blueprints with her observations,
so that anyone else on the team
could access that information.

"Here's the route I took," she said.
"Mesmer Eye and Addison have
taken over this office, and they're
keeping the more valuable hostages
in there too, with two Bratva guards
outside the door. The rest are in this room
with another four mobsters watching them."

"Is Addison injured?" said Hyperspaceman.
"Her father keeps asking about her."

Calliope sighed. "While I didn't see any
physical wounds, I wouldn't call her okay,"
she said. "Mesmer Eye touched her in
a very familiar way, not openly sexual
but close, and she let him do that.
Addison has a beam rifle and looks
willing to use it if threatened.
None of that is good."

"We are going to need so much EFA
after this rescue," said Hyperspaceman.

"Not to mention the fact that somebody,
probably Addison, has telekinesis which is
new enough to show poor control," Calliope said.
"The way she's sticking close to Mesmer Eye
makes me wonder about her relationship
with her father, and what shape that is
going to be in after this incident."

"So now we need a way to separate
Addison and Mesmer Eye, but not too far,
just in case their link is tight enough
to hurt them if disrupted suddenly,"
Hyperspaceman mused.

"It's easy enough for me to get in,
and thus give you an anchor for
your tunnel, but getting Addison
away from Mesmer Eye is harder,"
Calliope said, tapping the tablet.

"You'll have to take care not to let
him make eye contact with you,"
Hyperspaceman warned her.
"It doesn't take very long for him
to capture someone with his power."

"I know," said Calliope. "We will
need backup, and I'll also need
some kind of distraction."

"Agreed," said Hyperspaceman.
He handed her the tablet. "For now,
keep working on the notes while I
gather some additional resources."

"Make it quick," said Calliope.
"There's no telling how long we have
before Mesmer Eye does something stupid."

"Do my best," Hyperspaceman said
as he trotted toward the nearby police.

Calliope pored over the blueprints for the bank,
noting vaults and other thick walls that would be
difficult or impossible for her to phase through, and
others that were no more than studs and drywall.

Soon Hyperspaceman returned. "All right,
they're calling us Alpha Team," he said.
"Our job is still to get in, get Addison, and
get out. Beta Team has heavy hitters from
SPOON to handle Mesmer Eye, and then
the cops on Gamma Team will be able to
extract the other hostages through my tunnel."

"Sounds like a plan," Calliope said.

"Here, you'll need these,"
said Hyperspaceman,
holding out a box.

"China dolls?" Calliope said,
peering into the box.
"What in the world for?"

"Distraction," said Hyperspaceman.
"Apparently he rolled someone who
was a serious doll collector.
So if you throw one --"

"He'll what, chase after it?" she said,
snickering a little. "Sorry, I'm just having
a hard time imagining a Bratva badass
taking a dive over a china doll."

Hyperspaceman sighed, then lowered his voice.
"This doesn't go any farther, okay?" he said.
"Mesmer Eye has a little problem with his power,
so if he controls someone too long then he starts
to absorb some of their weaknesses. One of
his earlier victims was a doll collector, and
that's why SPOON put me on this case."

"Because that gives you an edge
into how he thinks," Calliope said.

"Exactly," Hyperspaceman said.
"Are you ready to go?"

"Let's do this," Calliope said,
and phased out again.

Between the annotated map
and the trace of her energy,
Hyperspaceman should be
able to follow along.

Calliope navigated through
the phantom building to
the occupied office.

She materialized near
Mesmer Eye and Addison,
tapping him on the shoulder and
then tossing a doll across the room.

Sure enough, Mesmer Eye
dove after it instead of trying
to fight with Calliope.

Addison was the one who
nearly bashed her with the rifle.

Calliope blocked with her forearm,
the shock of it echoing up to her shoulder,
and managed to wrench the gun away.

She checked to make sure that
Mesmer Eye wasn't about to attack
her from behind. He wasn't.

It was strangely disturbing to see
a Bratva captain curled around a china doll
as if it were a real baby -- or perhaps a grenade.

A faint tremble went through his muscled form
as he wound himself even tighter.

Calliope felt vaguely unclean.

Just then the tunnel unfurled,
and Hyperspaceman charged through
followed by the Beta Team in charge
of capturing Mesmer Eye.

Calliope managed to get
ahold of Addison and hustle
the girl into the tunnel.

As soon as they cleared the far end,
Gamma Team went in to rescue
the remaining hostages.

By then Addison was fighting her,
wrestling against the shoulder grip,
and Calliope didn't want to hurt her
so simply wafted enough air underneath
to lift them a few inches and prevent
Addison from getting any traction.

Suddenly Addison quit struggling
and started crying instead.

Calliope brought them down at once,
thinking that the flight had scared her,
but no, that wasn't it -- she soon realized
that someone else had disrupted the control
Mesmer Eye had been exerting over Addison.

"It's okay now, you're safe," Calliope said.
"Mesmer Eye can't hurt you anymore."

"You don't understand," Addison sobbed.
"It wasn't like that! He didn't hurt me.
He wouldn't. He was going to take me
with him. He was going to take care of me!"

A chill crept down Calliope's spine.
If that initial contact hadn't been forced,
if it had been -- however ill-informed at the time --
a willing connection, then the lingering influence
would be a lot harder to break even now that
the actual control had been released.

"What makes you feel that way?"
Calliope asked. "Catching you up
in a hostage situation doesn't seem
very caring to me, but then I didn't see
how all this started. Tell me more."

"He likes me," Addison insisted,
raking her hair out of her face.
"He listens to me. Nobody else
ever listens to me, they just tell me
to do whatever my father says."

Calliope quietly made a note that
talk therapy with a sympathetic counselor
might prove beneficial in this case.

"You don't get along with your father?"
Hyperspaceman said as he joined them.
"He's been asking about you constantly."

"It's -- it's not that," Addison said,
"He just has this really hard job where
everyone expects him to be perfect,
so he expects me to be perfect too."

Her long, slender hands wound together,
fingers squeezing and releasing.
The pebbles on the street
began to quiver.

"Addison, I want you
to take a deep breath and
then let it out slowly," said Calliope.
She stroked the girl's shoulder. "You can
calm yourself down if you focus on your body
for a minute and let the rest just fade a bit."

"I can't, I really can't," Addison said,
staring at the jittery rocks around her.
"This is so bad. This is awful.
What if my father finds out?"

"Well honey, unless you can
learn control in the next few minutes,
I don't think hiding it from your father
is an option," said Hyperspaceman
as a bottlecap rolled over his toe.

"You don't get it! I can't let my father
know what I can do," Addison said.
"He'll hand me over to SPOON and
try to make me into a superhera.
I don't want to be a superhera."

Calliope and Hyperspaceman
shared a sympathetic look.
They both knew what it was like
trying to live up to impossible standards.

"We won't let that happen,"
said Calliope. "Neither your father
nor SPOON get to decide your politics --
and frankly, cape politics are not as
black-and-white as some people
like to pretend they are."

"You are your own person, Addison,"
said Hyperspaceman. "Your father
is supposed to help you figure out what
that means, not just force you into his mold."

"What would you know about it?"
Addison grumbled. "You're
still perfectly normal."

Apparently she had associated the tunnel
with Calliope instead of Hyperspaceman.

"You know what? It doesn't matter,"
said Hyperspaceman. "All you need to know
is that I've got your back on this."

"We," Calliope corrected.

"We have your back," Hyperspaceman said.
"So if your father reacts badly to the news that
you're safe and you have a new superpower,
or if anyone at SPOON tries to pressure you
into doing things that make you uncomfortable,
you tell us and we'll help you work it out."

Addison sniffled. "I just wish that
none of this had ever happened,"
she said. "or that Mesmer Eye
had gotten me away from it all."

"You wish that things could go back
to the way they were," Calliope echoed.
"Right after my superpowers manifested,
I wished that too. They made huge changes
in my life, some of those scary and confusing.
Later on, though, I got used to my powers
and the differences. Now I'm glad."

"You make a good superhera, though,"
said Addison. Her voice dropped
to a whisper. "My father ... he's
a good cop. But I'm not him.
I don't want to be a superhera,
and that's what everyone
will expect of me now."

"It never feels good to be
held hostage to the character
of another person," Calliope said.

"Whatever happens, Addison,
you have people who will help you
through it," said Hyperspaceman.

"What about Mesmer Eye?"
said Addison. "He's all
tangled up in this too."

"People will take care of him
as well," said Calliope. "He
certainly needs it. Did you
know that he let the Bratva
dig out one of his eyes?"

Addison shivered and shook
her head. "No. He didn't say."

"Well, that's what happened to it,"
said Calliope. "I don't think that's
a very healthy relationship, do you?
Have you gone over that kind of thing
in your health classes yet?"

"Safety and personal boundaries,
yeah, it's not good to stay with anyone
who hurts you," Addison said.

"So maybe people can help Mesmer Eye
figure that out," said Calliope. "You won't
have to worry for him as much, because
he won't be going back to the nutjobs
who tore up his face earlier."

However creepy it was to see
the connection that lingered between
a teenaged girl and a badly damaged mobster,
it wasn't something that could simply be
handwaved away, and just maybe,
some good could come of it.

"Speaking of injuries, does anyone
need a medic?" asked Hyperspaceman.
"I'm fine, nobody put a touch on me,
but you two look a little worse for wear."

"I'm not hurt," Addison said.
"I just feel ... really sad inside."
She looked at Calliope, and then
looked away. "I'm sorry I hit you."

Calliope rubbed her throbbing forearm.
The beam rifle had left an ominous bruise.
She hoped nothing was broken.

"I forgive you," she said.
"I should probably get this
looked at, though. Let's go
find the medics. They should
have Emotional First Aid too."

Addison brightened at that.
"Do you think they'd talk with me?"
she asked. "Sometimes it helps
to sort out my feelings, but it's hard
for me to find anyone who really listens."

"We'll make sure they do," Calliope promised.

* * *

Notes:

Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope comes from Oklahoma; the father's family is Greek-American, while the mother's family is American.  Calliope has light olive skin with gray eyes and short hair in shades of lighter and darker blond.  Cal is demiromantic demisexual.
Origin: Sucked into a tornado.
Uniform: Feminine-styled costume of dexflan and capery in dusty shades of pink, blue, lavender, and cream.
Qualities: Good (+2) Consideration, Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Handiwork, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Word Puzzles
Poor (-2) Distractible
Powers: Expert (+4) Air Powers (meta-power including Flight, Phasing, Sonic Blast, Tornado Straws, Whirlwind, Windtalking), Average (0) Empathy, Average (0) Shapeshifting
Vulnerability: Air Powers are opposed by Earth Powers.  Some Air abilities do not work on an Earth-powered opponent, and vice versa, typically those meant to affect a person directly.  Others gain an upshift on damage, typically attacks.
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope.  As the power improves, additional shapes may be gained.
Motivation: Self-discovery.

Hyperspaceman "Hype" (Dennis Després) -- He has fair skin, gray-green eyes, and short wavy brown hair.  Hexagonal dot-matrix tattoos cover most of his left shoulder.  Dennis was born female (and named Denise), but eventually he became uncomfortable and sought the help of a healer for sexual realignment service.  He has a daughter, who was born during his female years.  He still has the "tiger stripes" from that pregnancy and refuses to give them up.
 Hyperspaceman's superpower allows him to bend time and space, so it can act as Super-Speed, Teleportation, etc.  He can even route a vehicle around obstacles by morphing the route.  He is often called "Hype" for short.  Between the superhero work and the sex change, his family life is a mess; only his daughter really loves him for who he is instead of resenting him for abandoning the expected motherly role.  Also, Hyperspaceman is struggling to adapt his work at SPOON to accommodate the new abilities, but hasn't yet developed a new specialty based on transit.
Origin: Dennis used to volunteer as a dispatcher for SPOON at a small office.  One day a supervillain bombed the office.  He woke up clear across the country without a scratch on him, no memory of exactly what happened, and superpowers.
Uniform: His work uniform consists of navy blue dexflan thickened with leathery krevel armor at knees and elbows, piped with silver and with silver threads through the main fabric.  Off-duty he wears men's clothes and likes to leave his shoulders bare.
Qualities: Good (+2) Climbing, Good (+2) De-Escalation, Good (+2) Dispatcher, Good (+2) Doll Collector, Good (+2) Existential Intelligence
Poor (-2) Family Dynamics
Powers: Master (+6) Timespace Warp
Limitation: The consensus timespace continuum has a very weak grip on Hyperspaceman.  This means he has a poor sense of navigation, so he needs adaptive equipment with a compass, GPS, and map functions.  It also means that if he's distracted, sometimes he bends spacetime without meaning to do so, making it easy for other people to lose track of where he is, or even where they are.
Motivation: To gain acceptance.

Mesmer Eye (Fyodor Dubsky) -- He has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and brown hair with a short mustache and beard.  His body is stocky and durable.  He is Russian, speaking Russian fluently and English adequately.  Fyodor works for the Bratva, the Russian mob.  His cape name was originally Mesmer Eyes, changed after the Bratva dug out one of them as punishment.  He is still fanatically devoted to them, and does whatever they want.  Currently they're running dangerous zetetic substances.
Origin: His superpower emerged during captivity in a gulag.  It may have been pure survival, trying to control the guards, or it may have come from medical experiments.  He doesn't remember clearly.  And he doesn't have the "mentally fastidious" feature normal for telepaths, precisely because nobody paid any attention to his boundaries, so he has a really hard time separating his mind from everyone else's.  This causes a lot of problems.
Uniform: He dresses to look like a complete badass, usually either all black or camouflage fatigues bristling with weapons.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Bratva Captain, Good (+2) Fearless, Good (+2) Strategy, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Daddy Issues, Poor (-2) Distracted by China Dolls, Poor (-2) Fidgety
Powers: Good (+2) Mind Control
Limitation: His superpower is a gaze attack that requires eye contact to initiate.  After taking control, however, he can maintain it without further eye contact.
Vulnerability: His lack of mental hygiene means that he picks up things from his victims.  After about an hour of controlling someone, he starts responding to triggers for their Poor quality as if it were his own.  If he maintains control for more than a day, or just has an especially strong connection with someone, the weakness can stick with him even after he releases his victim.  So he usually has several at a time.
Motivation: To serve the Bratva.

Addison Boyle -- She has pale skin, sherry-brown eyes, and long wavy mahogany hair.  She is tall and strong, with a long heart-shaped face.  She is 17.    Addison is popular and successful in school.  However, her father is the chief of police, which makes her feel insecure about her family and awkward with her friends.  These complications play into her challenges with soups and superpowers.
Origin: She was held hostage by Mesmer Eye, in hopes of gaining concessions from her father.  Either his telepathic manipulation or the stress, or both, caused her superpowers to manifest.  Addison and Mesmer Eye wound up with a strong -- and mutual -- case of Stockholm syndrome.  Even with the direct link broken, some of the affinity and feelings have remained.
Uniform: Fashionable girl clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Obedient, Good (+2) Popular, Good (+2) Smart, Good (+2) Tall
Poor (-2) Police Chief's Daughter
Powers: Average (0) Telekinesis
Motivation: Not being thought of as her father's daughter.

* * *

"Almost all our suffering is the product of our thoughts. We spend nearly every moment of our lives lost in thought, and hostage to the character of those thoughts. You can break this spell, but it takes training just like it takes training to defend yourself against a physical assault."
-- Sam Harris

Asking for help allows others to show how much they careExchanging favors is a way of forming connections when well done.  Some people are actually good at these things.

The Bratva, or Russian mob, has a strong hierarchy and is one of the most powerful in the world.

Hostage situations often require delicate negotiations, even in the preliminary stages of assembling a team to handle the problem.  In Terramagne, police prefer to keep the approach as low-key as possible, using violence only as a last resort, rather than raise the risk of major superpowered damage by choosing a frontal assault.  They're less concerned about looking macho and more concerned about extracting the hostages without turning the town into a smoking hole in the ground.

Stockholm syndrome happens when hostages begin to sympathize with their captor(s).  It can also happen to abuse survivors and other people, and is difficult to think through. Treating traumatic bonds can be a lengthy and difficult process.

Phasing is a superpower which allows people to become intangible and pass through solid objects.

Telekinesis lets people move things without physically touching them, and "tweak" is one Terramagne nickname for someone with this ability.  However, people can't always control it, especially when it is new.

Telepathy can produce effects such as mind control, psychic link, and mental fusion.  A drawback is the kind of carryover that Mesmer Eye experiences, picking up the weaknesses of his victims.  Just because you can  do something, doesn't necessarily make it safe  to do.

Sometimes people feel that nobody listens to them, which is maddening, because it's a fundamental human need.  (It may or may not be an accurate impression of how others behave.)  Know how to help people recognize that you hear and understand them.

The father-daughter relationship is important for many reasons.  However, bad fathers can cause a lot of problems. Perfectionist parents with excessive expectations are difficult to live with.  There are tips to fix this.  T-America has the added concern of supervillains getting involved, because a troubled relationship is much easier to exploit.

Children often want to hide things from their parents, especially if parents tend to respond negatively.  That kind of self-concealment can turn into a habit.

It's important to know how to calm down when you get upset.  There are ways to help someone through an anxiety attack or calm an upset teenager.  Simple breathing exercises work for many people.

Different types of boundaries can be healthy or unhealthy.  Here are some rules for establishing and communicating good boundaries.

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Comments
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 16th, 2016 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> You left out the underscore in my username. <<

Sorry about that, fixed now.

>> Hmm... Hype collects dolls, and Mesmer Eye is distracted by them. Plan or coincidence? <<

Plan. The more sensible T-American dispatchers try to match superpowers or other areas of expertise to the job at hand. Hyperspaceman was well equipped both for extracting hostages and for exploiting the supervillain's weakness. Calliope just wound up feeling like they may have gone a little too far in the latter.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 21st, 2016 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I want to see this develop, but I was thrown for a loop there.
«Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope ...  Calliope ... Cal is demiromantic demisexual.
...
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope.»

That last line (Limitation) took me by surprise. Up to then I had no clue that this person had two self-presentations, of different sexes. (Probably that was partly due to my having a friend who calls herself Calvin (her original middle name) or by her last name, rather than her first name.) I presume that "Cal" is short for "Calvin"... or is it short for both?

Edited at 2016-02-21 04:24 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 21st, 2016 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

>> I want to see this develop, <<

Yay!

>> but I was thrown for a loop there.
«Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope ... Calliope ... Cal is demiromantic demisexual.
...
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope.» <<

Okay ...

>> That last line (Limitation) took me by surprise. Up to then I had no clue that this person had two self-presentations, of different sexes. (Probably that was partly due to my having a friend who calls herself Calvin (her original middle name) or by her last name, rather than her first name.) I presume that "Cal" is short for "Calvin"... or is it short for both? <<

Cal is short for both. Double back and read the original poem in this thread, "Everyday Lies and Heroic Revelations." You know how the superhero is usually presented as the "disguise" and the secret identity is the "real" one? Cal does the opposite. It was a lifetime worth of self-delusion and playing to expectations, until the tornado happened. Now Calliope is the real person, and Calvin is a disguise. I actually just finished writing a Creative Jam poem where he makes his first appearance in print since that original one.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 21st, 2016 04:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

O-kay!! Now I get it. Thanks.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: February 22nd, 2016 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

So Calliope is trans too? Cool!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 22nd, 2016 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Yep, that background is in the original poem.
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