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Poem: "Part of Who I Am" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Part of Who I Am"
This poem came out of the September 3, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from tigerbright and Dreamwidth user Rainflowermoon.  It also fills the "psychological healing" square in my card for the author bingo meme.  This poem belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: amaebi, Anonymous gift to tigerbright, mdlbear, lb_lee, technoshaman

FULLY FUNDED
158 lines, Buy It Now = $79
Amount donated = $49.50
Verses posted = 22 of 34

Amount remaining to fund fully = $29.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.50
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2



Part of Who I Am


The first cane is plain aluminum,
the one the hospital sent Dale home with,
and she uses it because she needs it
but it never quite feels like her.

Kelly knows this,
and when Dale becomes
sufficiently accustomed to the limp
to take up neighborhood walking,
suggests that they shop for a replacement.

Just look,
Kelly signs to her
when they approach
an antique store or import shop.
You don't have to buy.

For a long time, it is Kelly
who lifts the canes from umbrella stands
or white plastic pipes or cardboard boxes
where the shop owners have displayed them.

There are wooden ones
twisted like walking sticks
or carved with New Age symbols
that make Dale grimace and shake her head.

Nothing flaky, she signs,
so Kelly puts the rune cane back.

There's one of pale smooth oak
that Kelly taps smartly against the sidewalk,
but something in the vibration of the wood
makes her frown and set it down.

Metal canes are common too,
but there is no point replacing Dale's
with another much the same.

Both women agree
that the acrylic ones look ridiculous.

Some of the composite canes are tempting,
dark wood with animal heads of silver or brass.
Once Kelly finds a sword cane and
draws the blade shimmering from its sheath.

Dale laughs and declines.
I'm not Sherlock Holmes, she signs.
I could be your Watson, signs Kelly,
and she is, they are, in their own way
but this isn't the cane for Dale
and back it goes.

They're sorting through the contents
of a fake elephant foot rack
when Dale hears a richer note
than the flat clatter of aluminum.

One of these is different,
she signs to Kelly.
Help me find it.

It comes up in Kelly's hand,
the metal darker than aluminum,
a beautiful blue-gray like a stormy sky.
Its canted handle has the graceful curve
of a ski pole, its shaft straight and true.

Kelly raps it on the ground and smiles.
This one is strong, she signs.
Strong enough to trip someone,
she means, or block a blow if needed.
There are reasons beyond
not wanting to look like a fool
that Dale won't take a fashion cane.

Dale takes it from Kelly.
It's a little heavier than the one
now leaning against her hip, but
she can feel the soundness of the shaft
promising to make up for what
her leg can no longer provide.

Her fingertips skim over the handle
and find irregularities there.
Looking closer, she sees something
etched silver-bright along the side:
a pair of wings bracketing a shield.

I'm not a pilot, Dale signs.
I should probably put this back.

Do you really want to? Kelly asks.
This feels like titanium.
I think it's a custom model,
not mass-produced; we aren't likely
to find another one like it if we pass it up
.

Dale doesn't want to, no,
just thinks it's a bit presumptuous --
not quite like wearing someone else's medal,
but enough to make her think of that,
enough to hesitate.

Still she can't help thinking about him,
the pilot who owned it before,
the probably-veteran who has gone
where he doesn't need a cane anymore.

Dale thinks they might have had
something in common, two strangers
who never met but through the touch
of their fingers on the same cane,
the policevet with a limp
and the pilot with clipped wings
stubbornly learning to live again.

The cool metal warms in her hands,
feeling almost alive, and no,
manners be damned,
Dale doesn't want to put it back.

Kelly twists the cane in Dale's grip,
rubbing a thumb over the ends of the handle.
These are flat, not rounded, she signs.
You could get your badge etched on here.

Dale looks, and yes, Kelly is right.
An image of her old badge would fit,
and that would leave room for
someone else to add their own mark later,
the way people sometimes autographed
hand-me-down books from one owner to the next.

So Dale buys the titanium cane
and leaves her aluminium one behind
without looking back.

The local locksmith has all kinds of equipment
for cutting and etching metal -- he makes
Christmas tree ornaments as a hobby.
It's no hardship for him to copy Dale's badge
onto the forward end of the handle.

When she walks, Dale can feel
the ghostly imprint of wings
underneath her fingers, roll her thumb
over the memory of her badge.

The titanium cane is light and strong,
and before long it feels as natural
as the gun she used to wear on her hip.

They are walking past the synagogue
when Rivka looks at them with a note of recognition,
not just for Dale and Kelly but for the cane.
"That was my husband's," Rivka explains.
"I'm glad to see someone making use of it."
Then she spies the engraving on the end.
"That's new, though."

"We had the locksmith put it on," Dale says,
feeling a little self-conscious
but determined to own it all the same.
"This is part of who I am."
She means the badge and the cane
and her place in history and so much more.

"Nu,"  says Rivka, "I'm happy to hear that."
She tells stories of her husband and his adventures --
who had indeed been a pilot and a veteran --
and Dale listens with all the attention
that she once gave to witness reports,
memorizing the details so that she
will be able to retell these stories later
along with her own.

This is Dale, now:
two arms, two legs,
wings and shield and cane
of sky-bright metal belonging to her
as much as her flesh-and-blood limbs.
Something lost and something gained.

"This is me," Dale says
when she tells the stories,
when she stands up to people
who think a little less of her for the limp
or a little more of her if they know how she got it.
"This is part of who I am."

* * *

Notes:

Kelly uses a low-pressure tactic of friendly persuasion known as foot-in-the-door.  A small request (look at some canes) opens the way for a larger one (buy a new cane).  For personal growth applications like this, you want to work it right at the edge of someone's comfort zone. Expanding your comfort zone is a crucial life skill.

The human brain tends to treat tools and prosthetic devices as part of the body.  For this reason, adaptive equipment needs to be a good fit for the mind as well as the body so that it can integrate into body image.  Otherwise the risk of rejection is much higher, for practical and/or aesthetic reasons.  A recent trend toward highly personalized gear improves adaptation.  This helps disabled people get back in action.  While the details vary, the underlying concepts apply both to major equipment like a prosthetic limb and minor equipment such as a cane or eyeglasses.

There are instructions for choosing and using a cane.  However, side preference varies.  Some people favor the off-hand approach described in the tipsheet, taking advantage of human locomotion mechanics.  Other people find it more effective to hold the cane on the impaired side and keep the ferrule very close to the foot, moving the cane almost as if it is part of the leg.  Do what works for you.

Runes are the letters of an ancient Germanic alphabet used for writing, magic, and other purposes.  They're aren't really "New Age" symbols, but just look that way Dale and Kelly who don't know much about such things.  See further resources on runes.

Titanium is a lightweight metal often used in aircraft and medical equipment.

A fabrication facility may make various products from raw materials, such as this titanium cane that inspired the one Dale likes.

Pilot wings appear in the insignia of the U.S. Air Force.  Besides official use, similar imagery appears on many items used by pilots, such as t-shirts.

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Current Mood: busy busy

33 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
ravan From: ravan Date: September 11th, 2013 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Cane Commandos

Ah, yes, the ugly piece of shit that send you home from the hospital with, that makes you feel old and useless, no matter how young you are. Plain, gray aluminum, crappy rubber handle, clunky as hell.

I used mine for at least a year.

Then I found wooden ones, and then folding aluminum ones. The wood ones were sturdy, but the folding ones were inexpensive, and folded up. I lost a good wood one before I settled on the folders.

My current one is a *purple* folder, with a wrist strap, for less than $20 from Amazon. I got my wife a grey one, too. Adjustable, foldable, strong enough to hold me, light enough to not feel like I'm carrying an extra bag.

Damn straight the hospital shit doesn't feel like you, and it can take a while to find what works with your lifestyle.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 11th, 2013 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cane Commandos

Thank you for sharing such relevant and personal information. It really helps me understand when I'm getting something right, along with ideas for future reference.

>> Ah, yes, the ugly piece of shit that send you home from the hospital with, that makes you feel old and useless, no matter how young you are. Plain, gray aluminum, crappy rubber handle, clunky as hell.

I used mine for at least a year. <<

I think it makes sense to start with something simple, when a person is first learning how to use a new piece of equipment. However, there's a drawback to that, partly psychological and partly neurological. The human brain tends to treat tools as part of the body. That's what you want to have happen with adaptive equipment, so that it can be used naturally and the person will in fact use it instead of abandoning it. This is a huge issue in prosthetics but it apply elsewhere too. And here's the catch: if the person doesn't accept the device because it "feels" wrong to them somehow, that interferes with the process of integration. It creates a barrier between self and tool so that the brain can't extend its self-image down that support structure. So then the tool doesn't perform as well as it could, which means the person is likely to hate it all the more, and perhaps quit using it. That happens. It's a problem.

A better approach, which a good rehab coach will use, is to start simple and then as soon as the person understands the basics, explain the options and how to figure out what will work for you. If you understand that the simple, ugly version is temporary then you'll be paying attention to what you like and what you don't like and why, so that you can learn what you will want. It wouldn't work just grabbing random fancier versions first, because you wouldn't understand your needs. But once you identify the limitations of the current model as it interacts with your body, you can look for something better.

I've got reference links for this, as the poem goes along.

>>Then I found wooden ones, and then folding aluminum ones. The wood ones were sturdy, but the folding ones were inexpensive, and folded up. I lost a good wood one before I settled on the folders.

My current one is a *purple* folder, with a wrist strap, for less than $20 from Amazon. I got my wife a grey one, too. Adjustable, foldable, strong enough to hold me, light enough to not feel like I'm carrying an extra bag.<<

That's awesome. I have seen some pretty interesting canes.

>> Damn straight the hospital shit doesn't feel like you, and it can take a while to find what works with your lifestyle. <<

It can also take time for a person to adjust to a new handicap enough that they can tolerate thinking about it in the detail required to make a nuanced selection. Some people can do that very quickly, others not. The more they've lost, the longer it tends to take. Dale didn't just lose a chunk of mobility but her job that was (and kind of still is) a major part of her identity. So she spent a while shying away from the change, paying just the minimum of attention to it. The starter cane was something she could use but kind of ignore. Actually shopping for one of her own is a process of acceptance. Big step forward.

And that's what this poem is all about: adapting self-image.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 13th, 2013 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been looking forward to more of this. :-)

(The Doctor, prescriptive side: "Runes are the letters of …")
(The Descriptive Linguist: "(Sigh.) That, too.")
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 13th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

I'm glad you're enjoying the poem.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: September 13th, 2013 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)
$10 donation (from Hyperspace Express).

I usually put my cane on the side with the bad leg and in sync with it when I'm using it for support, and on either side but in sync with the opposite leg when using it for balance.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: September 13th, 2013 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :)
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: September 13th, 2013 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wings, huh? I'm betting, somehow, that it's not pilot wings . . . .
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: September 13th, 2013 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
You will really, really, love the answer,
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 15th, 2013 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Because my problems with my knee came on gradually, I never had the point where I got sent home from a hospital with something. I'd been wanting some sort of extra support for a while, but hadn't wanted to accept a cane until one day I was in Ace and they had a display that had some really cool-looking wood and brass ones. I spent half an hour clunking around the store with them until I found one that I liked the look and feel of.<<

It's good that you found something you like.

>>I still only need it a few days a year, and I don't use it if I don't have to, but on the days when I need it, I don't mind it, because it looks cool enough that some people mistake it for just a fashion accessory.<<

Nice to have when you need it, yes.

>>Which is a mixed thing as well. I like that other people think it looks good, but I don't like that it doesn't always get me the space I need on days when I'm wobbly, where something more obviously "medical" might.<<

That's one of many challenges in balancing personal needs against what other people think and how they respond.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: September 13th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tossing some money your way for more verses of this. I can sympathize with the frustration of accepting one's limitations.

I have actually considered getting a cane. Although nothing is physically wrong with me, apparently my brain is douchey enough to sometimes make my legs weak, and losing that mobility is awful. It only happens rarely now, but every time, I find myself swearing I'll get myself a cane--or better, forearm crutches, since my arms feel fine, it's just in the legs. I just never do, because it only hits every once in a long while, and if I rest, it goes away within a few days.

--Rogan
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: September 13th, 2013 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :)

A disability activist I greatly admire needs crutches for odd weakness, but can ride a bicycle swiftly and safely. She has special attachments on the bicycle for the crutches. Of course, people being stupid, she gets accused of faking the need for the crutches.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: September 14th, 2013 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I thought it sounded like titanium. Lovely stuff -- I have a cup and a couple of sporks made of it. And titanium nitride coated drill bits.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 14th, 2013 03:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad the description works so well.

I have some titanium jewelry and a few tools. I like it too.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 21st, 2017 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting bit about titanium. "As is" it looks a lot like silver. And when looking up a bunch of data on various metals something jumped out at me.

It's got a density of 4.5. Which is a bit over half that of iron or steel. None of the other metals are close to that.

Why did that catch my attention? Because in LOTR mithril is described as "half as heavy as iron" which has to mean half as dense.

So, Titanium is mithril. :-)

Somewhere I have chunk of titanium plate (about the size of a deck of cards) that was scrap from some project or other. I used to toss it to players and "this is what mithril is like"
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 21st, 2017 01:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Wow!

>>Why did that catch my attention? Because in LOTR mithril is described as "half as heavy as iron" which has to mean half as dense. <<

That is so awesome. And huh, titanium does hold magical energy really well, like mithril. Certainly it doesn't have the bad bioreaction that iron/steel has for many magical folks, and it doesn't break down the way flimsier things do under a magical field. Hence its popularity in body jewelry.

Another feature of mithril sometimes mentioned is superconductivity. I checked and titanium does that too, especially with niobium.

So yeah. You have a solid case for mithril = titanium.

*laugh* Now I'm tempted to get some and test it for magical artifact construction.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 26th, 2017 07:16 am (UTC) (Link)

from callibr8

The cane itself was a wonderful find, but to be able to discover more about its history is *so* awesome! I'm glad that Rivka was so accepting of Dale's addition to the handle.

I have occasionally had the privilege to serve as the conduit for an item making its way to an appropriate new owner. I get a sort of cosmic nudge along the lines of "you need to get (or keep) this and cache it away" and then months or years later, another nudge when the "right" recipient crosses my path. Being able to serve in that way gives me a particular, special sense of delight unlike any other.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 26th, 2017 07:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: from callibr8

>> The cane itself was a wonderful find, but to be able to discover more about its history is *so* awesome! <<

Yay! :D

>> I'm glad that Rivka was so accepting of Dale's addition to the handle. <<

She's good at letting go of things, I think.

>> I have occasionally had the privilege to serve as the conduit for an item making its way to an appropriate new owner. I get a sort of cosmic nudge along the lines of "you need to get (or keep) this and cache it away" and then months or years later, another nudge when the "right" recipient crosses my path. Being able to serve in that way gives me a particular, special sense of delight unlike any other.<<

How wonderful! I'm glad it works for you. I've done it occasionally, but not routinely. Sending the right poem to someone is routine for me though.
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