Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Queen Choufa Beseeches Her Sister"

Since one of the other poems in this set, "The Leader of the Rebel Drones Laments the Death of His Last Brother," just appeared in Sci-Fi Short Story #3, I decided that now would be a good time to reprint the first poem in the set.  "Queen Choufa Beseeches Her Sister" originally appeared in Fantastic Worlds  #1 Summer 1996.

Queen Choufa Beseeches Her Sister

When first I emerged,
When first I shattered the Wax
That surrounded me,
I stood on my new legs and fanned my wings
(still damp, but drying) and tasted
For the first time the warm, moist air
With my antennae.

And then
My gaze in all its fresh complexity
Alit on you: encased as I had been
Encased in Wax, a tall cone the color of sun
(though I had not yet seen sun, then) rising
From the floor of the Chamber of Emergence.

The Rage came upon me --
I tell you this -- I nearly
Killed you then.  I set my claws
Into the yellow walls of your cell
And tried to push my stinger through.

But my chitin was still
Slightly soft: I had only just Emerged.
I could not force my way
Into your heart.  And as I tried,
It occurred to me to wonder
Why I was trying.

It was a struggle!  Never believe
It was not as much of a struggle
As what you now face.  It was.  I
Wanted to kill you: the Rage
Of the First-Emerged drove me
Towards your death.

Yet I
Held back.  How, I do not know,
Save only that I suddenly
Saw myself in you.
I could just
Make out your shape beneath the Wax.
I saw your hands, and they were
My hands too.  I saw your wings,
And they were my wings too.

My first joy still filled me, the thrill
Of wiggling my fingers, opening my wings.
I felt sorrow that you should never do these things
Because of me (by ancient our Tradition, my life
Must mean your death).
And then I saw your head, and it was
My head too!  I saw my face reflected in
The thousand facets of your own.
That made me wonder if, like me,
You could learn to question.

Can you?
Oh, can you?
I have waited for this,
For your answer, three days now.
How the chervi  flustered when I bade them
Set up a barrier around your cell!
How they fussed at me, certain
Their Queen was deranged!

But I persevered, and they,
Being servants, at last acquiesced
To my wishes.  I watched you
All that time: for these three days
I have not left your side
(save for that one glimpse to see the sun).

In that time I wondered about you.
I tried to tell the others
What I was about, but I could find
No word for you.  So I made
A new word to speak of you:

Now, as the last of the Wax
Crumbles under your hands, as you too
Taste for the first time the air
That is my gift to you, as you
Struggle to stand
(now, before you believe yourself
Emerged-Together-With-Me and doomed
to fight: Now, before the Rage
takes you)
I ask, O my Sister,
Can you hear me?

Can you, too, catch instinct
In your claws and hold it back?
Can you anticipate the Rage and,
Warned against it, batter down the fury
With your not-yet-hardened fists?
Can you see yourself in me?

If you can, we might perhaps learn
To live together, as the whole Hive should.
Who knows?  No one has done this
Before.  We can perhaps
Begin to be civilized (another word I
made while watching over you).
I cannot force myself into your heart: you
Must welcome me yourself.

O my Sister, answer me!
And let your words be words of peace.
         ... please.

Tags: poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing

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