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Poem: "Humans With Bumpy Foreheads" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Humans With Bumpy Foreheads"

This poem came out of the August 3, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from pocketnaomi.  It was sponsored by janetmiles as part of the 2010 Holiday Poetry Sale.  Seasons greetings, and thanks!


Humans with Bumpy Foreheads


It was awkward when the aliens came
and we realized that they looked so much like us
you could mistake them for such
at a distance or in dim light.

It was even more awkward when we realized
that the most visible difference was something we'd mocked
in cheap science fiction flicks and old pulp novels.

They looked like humans with bumpy heads.
Oh, they were born smooth as our babies,
but they learned by encysting symbionts
that mapped their knowledge into areas and masses
as meticulous as the divisions of our own brains.

You could tell at a glance how smart they were,
and what they knew, if you could read those bumps
like a strange echo of phrenology,
the false become suddenly true.

We discovered, in time,
that they didn't particularly like us,
with our unformed childlike faces
and smooth obscuring skulls.
They were reluctant to share their technology
in case it might do us some kind of harm,
or perhaps, tempt us to hit each other
like toddlers squabbling over a toy truck.

They liked our literature, though,
and our cinema, and the other
flotsam and jetsam of culture --
but if you watched them closely enough,
the pattern emerged.
They were collecting the science fiction
about the aliens with bumpy foreheads.
They would read, and view, and consume
and if they caught you watching them
they would stare back
with their flat inscrutable gaze.
You realized, slowly, that they weren't
as much like us as they looked.

They took what they wanted
and paid us in pittances,
and when they began to produce their own
stories and movies and so forth,
we realized
that cultural appropriation
is not nearly as much fun
when the shoe is on the other foot.

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6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
chipuni From: chipuni Date: December 17th, 2010 08:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Huh. Strange.

I must be weird. I really enjoy cultural appropriation from the US -- I especially enjoy hearing music from other cultures that take or comment on our culture.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 17th, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

There is a difference between cultural appropriation and multicultural creativity. The sticking point is that people often disagree on where the dividing line lies. I enjoy many types of blended material, such as Afro-Celtic drum music or the gorgeous Chinese-American paintings I once saw done in classic Chinese style but with American birds and flowers. But then there was the t-shirt with Smurfette in a bad "Indian Princess" costume: *choke*

If there is no cross-cultural exchange, that tends to lead to stagnation. If the exchange is wholly or primarily in one direction, that's theft. If one culture forces its content on another, that's colonialism. Those all tend to suck. The trick is to learn how to share -- and that's not always easy. But some of the coolest stuff comes from people passing ideas back and forth until they have changed so much the roots are barely discernible anymore.

So if you look at my writing en masse, you can see that I explore aspects of this big complicated sticky issue from a lot of different directions. Not knowing or respecting another culture can get you in trouble; you never know who might wind up on top; but sometimes a stranger might see a solution that you don't. I try to get people thinking about how they perceive the world, and why; what they like, or dislike, and why; and how that might affect others. There isn't necessarily a singular answer or interpretation, and that's okay.
chipuni From: chipuni Date: December 17th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

or the gorgeous Chinese-American paintings I once saw done in classic Chinese style but with American birds and flowers.

Oh, heavens, yes. One ex-coworker's grandfather was one of the first Chinese immigrants to the United States. He painted, in the very classic Chinese style, what he saw in the United States. It was fascinating to see the Grand Canyon in such a different style.

And I downloaded many of the songs from Coke Studio, a spectacular set of Pakistani musicians creating Western-ish music.

But then there was the t-shirt with Smurfette in a bad "Indian Princess" costume: *choke*

The difference is respect. I understand.

Thank you.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 17th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>>Oh, heavens, yes. One ex-coworker's grandfather was one of the first Chinese immigrants to the United States. He painted, in the very classic Chinese style, what he saw in the United States. It was fascinating to see the Grand Canyon in such a different style.<<

I would've loved to see the Grand Canyon. The guy whose artwork I was drooling over had replaced cranes with cardinals, chrysanthemums with herbaceous peonies, and so forth. It was the best kind of fusion art: if you'd taken away either aspect, it would've fallen apart. That's my favorite.

>>And I downloaded many of the songs from Coke Studio, a spectacular set of Pakistani musicians creating Western-ish music. <<

Cool.

>>The difference is respect. I understand.

Thank you.<<

*bow, flourish* Happy to be of service!
fayanora From: fayanora Date: December 18th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
*Giggles* Cute idea. I like it.

I kinda poke fun at the "they look like us!" thing in my Traipah universe. Thousands of sentient species in the known universe, and the only species that looks anything like humans are the Ah'Koi Bahnis - and they look almost exactly like us, except for the eyes and the wide variety of weird colors their skin and hair come in. I believe one of my AKB characters refers to it as a cosmic joke. :-) Especially since the AKB are pretty enlightened, and have more in common spiritually and culturally with the Na'Voom Da, who are the ones that look like pleisiosaurs.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 18th, 2010 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you enjoyed this.

>>I kinda poke fun at the "they look like us!" thing in my Traipah universe.<<

It's just such an easy cliche to mock, one can hardly resist taking a swing at it every now and then.
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