Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Shame Comes to Civilization"

One of my favorite characters from the setting of Kherishdar by haikujaguar is the First Servant of Shame.  So when haikujaguar mentioned that in a comment, I came up with this poem, inspired by her illustrations and the descriptions that go with them.  It was sponsored by laffingkat.

"Shame" is not a condemnation, but an awareness of the difference between right and wrong that leads to regretting mistakes and striving to redress them.  "Civilization" in this context means something between culture and religion, as taught and embodied by Thirukedi the Emperor.  The Ai-Naidari are aliens; their minds and bodies don't work exactly the way we do.  haikujaguar has a lot of translating to do in presenting them to us in ways that we can understand; I'm doing my best to keep up. 

Shame Comes to Civilization

Without shame, there can be no Civilization.
Without someone to draw the lines, there can be no Law.
The one who lays down the Law cannot enforce it;
The hand that draws out the lines cannot lead between them.
Who can look into the face of Shame and meet that gaze?
Who can stare at the foundation of Civilization and not flinch?
They are each what they see in the other, and themselves.
Only in balancing each other are they made complete.

So the First Servant lies down upon the altar of Shame
And the Emperor makes the marks with careful claws:

Sight divided by a sword's edge,
Truth scratched out in permanent ink,
Two lines drawn to mark the path
At the edge of where it is safe to stop,
So that those who must approach
Will not have to see all there is to be seen,
But are allowed the mercy of meeting that gaze
Only through the silvery wall of one-way mirrors.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing
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