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Poem: "Shame Comes to Civilization" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
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.

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Comments
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: February 9th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
The First Servant is delighted! I have linked this for people to come read. Thank you. :)
miintikwa From: miintikwa Date: February 9th, 2011 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Much with the squee! This is perfect!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 9th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

That's good to hear.

haikujaguar even linked it over on her LJ, so I'm happy today.
miintikwa From: miintikwa Date: February 9th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I am, too! This was definitely a good antidote to the crud I've been under. :)
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: February 9th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 9th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

SQUEE!!

You're welcome, and thank you for the signal boost. It's wonderful to take part in a project as lush as Kherishdar.
eseme From: eseme Date: February 10th, 2011 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow. I do like this. That first verse explains it well, and it sounds like the Kherishdar.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 10th, 2011 08:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.

*chuckle* And yes, I'm linguistic SillyPutty across universes, too. I can usually pick up the 'voice' of a place I visit. Kherishdar is a place I admire greatly. I like poring over the bits of language that come with the stories. I was telling someone about that tonight, and fil ekain fell out of my mouth without thought -- I had to double back and translate it to "incense stories."
eseme From: eseme Date: February 11th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

That is something I have noticed in your poems. They often have a strong voice - but the voices are all different. That is not easy to do!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2011 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I'm glad you appreciate the effect.

For me, though, that extreme scope of voice (and mood, and genre/setting, etc.) is normal. I was in ... college, I think, when someone pointed out to me that most people live their entire lives in just one person's head, their own. I've always had ulterior access. It colors a great deal of my worldview, and my writing.

I always laugh when people talk about writers making all their characters like themselves. My characters aren't like me. They aren't even like each other. The closest it gets is that each of my characters usually has at least one trait in common with me, which helps me relate to them and add concrete details. Rai, for instance, has the same kind of visual handicap I do, only worse enough that it's not correctable with glasses. Most often, it is the differences that attract my attention -- in Rai's case, he is a master of red tape, as many Southern Empire citizens are.

When I go to write a poem, I have all different kinds of characters to draw upon. I can visit distant settings, in this world or elsewhere, and I've traveled enough to have a broad base of experience in describing things. ("Don't sit under that tree. It is being harvested by leafcutter ants.") I've studied many styles of poetry, especially forms devised by different cultures. From that very well stocked database, each poem pulls together the pieces that it needs as it emerges from my mind. And that happens at warp speed, after decades of practice. Tuesday I was going nuts because my inspiration was outstripping not only my typing speed but my thought speed.
eseme From: eseme Date: February 11th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Tuesday was great! And I'm so glad, because you were worried that it would not be a good Fishbowl after being rescheduled. It seems to have worked out wonderfully.

I have a bit more trouble making characters not like me. But that's what revising is for, to help make that clearer (well, for me, anyway).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2011 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>>Tuesday was great! And I'm so glad, because you were worried that it would not be a good Fishbowl after being rescheduled. It seems to have worked out wonderfully.<<

Yes! For the first time, a rescheduled fishbowl had a high level of participation with donations in the normal range. I am thrilled.

>>I have a bit more trouble making characters not like me. But that's what revising is for, to help make that clearer (well, for me, anyway).<<

I find it useful to look at comparisons and iterations. Often a character has a trait that matches mine, but is significantly stronger or weaker -- or covers a different subsection or application. Karavai is creative, but a storyteller more than a writer, plus he does the puppets. Rai has the same kind of visual handicap I do, but it's somewhat worse than my worse eye. Other times it's useful to look at divergences: the Origami Mage is very little like me, as she is an Eastern hero of the contemplative sort, serene and easy-going.

So if you want to check your characters for similarity to yourself, think of your major traits (personality, profession, spiritual path, motivation, body, etc.) then look for overlaps and differences. Write it out, if that helps; there are plenty of character sheets online for making story characters, or even gaming characters.
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