Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Alien In-Laws"

This poem came out of the June 2012 Crowdfunding Creative Jam.  It was inspired by a prompt from siege.  This poem belongs to the series Starfather, which you can explore further via the Serial Poetry page.

This is the linkback perk poem for the February 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl, originally posted by thesilentpoet.  Linkers include janetmiles, wyld_dandelyon, rix_scaedu, DW user Layla, DW community Poetree, cadenzamuse, thnidu, DW user adeliej, DW user elliemurasaki, DW user sylvaine.  This poem is now complete! You can reveal more verses by linking to the unsold poetry page, or any individual poem you like from the current fishbowl.

Alien In-Laws

After the Hesh destroyed the colony,
Fleet scientists analyzed the colonial ship
and worked to trace it back to the alien homeworld.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Adjo Mubarak was left to manage
the sole survivor as best he could, the tiny tentacled infant
clinging to his waist with parasitic suckers.
Adjo wished that he could return the baby to the proper family,
because he was terrified of doing something wrong --
but then again, human babies didn't come with instructions either
and Bes was truly the "joy bringer" that his name implied.

At last Fleet made second contact
with the aliens who called themselves the Touched,
warning them about the Hesh
and informing them of their colony's fate.
The xenolinguists and the diplomats did their work,
and soon Adjo received an invitation to a meeting.

Zusa the xenolinguist met him when he arrived.
"It's going quite well," she explained,
"because the Touched are empathic,
so that makes translation much easier."
"I'm sure it does," Adjo said,
with Bes radiating curiosity in his mind.
No wonder the Hesh had cut through the colony
like a laser-knife through fresh bread.

The Touched blended into the meeting room,
their skin the silver of the ship's walls
accented with the deep blue of the seats.
One of them came forward and Zusa said,
"Adjo, this is Fallinglight, grandfather of the survivor."

"Lieutenant Adjo Mubarak at your service, sir,"
he replied.  "I'm sorry about the loss of your family."
Fallinglight burbled something, and Zusa translated,
"We are grateful that you saved what you could."

Adjo stroked the small warm lump under his uniform.
"Will you want your grandchild back now?" he asked,
hoping and fearing that the answer would be yes,
fearing and hoping that the answer would be no.
"I love him, but I hardly know what to do for him."

"Let us discover," said Fallinglight.  "May I touch?"
Adjo wondered what that was all about,
but agreed, "You may touch."

The fine tentacles were as deft as fingertips,
unbuttoning Adjo's uniform to stroke the baby
who cuddled against his waist.
Pink circles stood out against Adjo's brown skin
where Bes' suckers had attached and released,
the scars not yet faded.

Fallinglight traced over the rings and said,
"You have carried him since the colony's death-day?"
"Since the moment his parents fell, yes," Adjo said.

"You bear the marks of parenthood, as do I,"
said Fallinglight, pointing to his own waist
where clay-pale scars dappled the damp skin,
rings upon rings too numerous to count,
like sun-shadows under a tree during an annular eclipse.
"We call them Krono's Rings."

"The Touched live on a moon orbiting the ringed planet Krono,"
Zusa added helpfully. "The phrase means fatherworld rings."
Adjo wondered what it would be like to stand on that moon
and gaze up at a ringed planet in the sky,
wondered too whether he could ever take Bes there.

"Do you know the baby's real name?"
Adjo asked Fallinglight. "I call him Bes
because it means someone who brings joy."
"Then Joybringer he will remain," said Fallinglight.
"He was too new for his name to be recorded."

Fallinglight had worked his tentacles between Adjo and Bes,
gently trying to lift the infant away from his adopted caretaker.
Bes squeaked a complaint, his distress raking across Adjo's mind.
"He doesn't like that," Adjo said aloud,
but Fallinglight was already letting go.

"I sense it too," the old alien said.
"Bes will not come to me.
Having lost his hatch-parents,
he has attached himself to you as a clutch-parent.
You will have to keep him."

The weight of those words settled on Adjo's shoulders,
as wonderful and terrifying as a battlefield promotion --
which in a sense it had been, and would remain.
"So now what do we do?" Adjo asked.

Fallinglight rumbled a reply.
Zusa paused in her translation.
"... ah, the literal phrase is son-by-knotting,"
she said finally. "I think it means son-in-law or step-son."

Adjo suppressed a shiver at that.
He had wanted to marry a girl, once,
but their families had not gotten along at all
and wound up calling the whole thing off.
Well, he had faced Heshian raiders in a firefight;
he could face alien in-laws too.

"I would like to remain with you and Bes,"
Fallinglight offered. "I can teach you the things
that a good parent should know
about raising a child of the Touched."
"Yes, please," Adjo said,
desperate to know whether or not
he had done right by Bes, and how to go on.

Adjo could overhear Zusa speaking
with the other Touched and the Fleet officers.
He suspected that they would cut through the red tape
and get his paternity leave approved at last.
Adjo leaned against Fallinglight
and let the words lap over him, past him,
concentrating instead on the momentous awareness
that was reshaping his life.

He was irrevocably a father now,
although he had not meant it;
he was suddenly a son again,
drawn into a strange and unexpected family;
and for all the fear and the hope,
he would not wish to change any of it.

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