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Poem: "The Family You've Got" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Family You've Got"

Working through the recordkeeping for the November 5, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl I realized there were new prompters that I missed in action, so you get a second freebie from that session.  This poem was inspired by a prompt from DW user Chanter_greenie.  It also fills the "innocent" square in my 10-6-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  It belongs to the series Diminished Expectations.

WARNING: The setting is dystopic; it includes severe birth defects and a lot of oppression.  But this is actually one of the more positive poems in the series, focused on family of choice.


The Family You've Got


These four grow together
in the orphanage --
Credence, Silence,
Reverence, and Innocence --
put them down in the common pen
and they always find each other,
creeping along like little inchworms.

Credence is the only one of them
who can both speak and listen;
he is the first to learn how to communicate,
and he teaches the others as best he can.

Silence is the only one who can see,
and she cannot speak to warn them of danger,
but she finds other ways instead.

Reverence and Innocence are alike
except for their sex, each having
a mouth and nose, but no eyes or ears.
It takes a long time before they can learn
to produce more than grunts or wails.

There is a language that all of them share,
not sign language as others would think of it
because none of them have arms or legs,
but one they call kiss-talk that lets them
interact with each other across
the boundaries of their differences.
It is easier for the three who have mouths
but Silence manages with her eyes instead.

They feed each other in ways
that have no spoken names,
loving touches that keep them alive
when others dwindle and die,
questions and answers that help them think
when most grow up blunted
by the lack of stimulation.

They are trusting and subtle,
faithful and pure, despite
the predicament of their birth.

They know that terrible things happen
because Credence and Silence have heard it,
Silence has seen it, Reverence and Innocence
can feel it -- and they are determined
to escape before it happens to them.

They have committed no crime
to deserve such mistreatment,
and this is a thing they know,
regardless of what is said
by those above them.
They are innocent, not stupid.

It does not matter that they are
unrelated by blood;
it only matters that they have
love and loyalty to bind them
they are brothers and sisters by choice.
You work with the family you've got.

The nannies are careless,
speaking freely around them,
so the four siblings watch and listen
and bide their time.

When the chance comes for escape,
they will all be ready.

* * *

Notes:

Twin language, idioglossia, or cryptophasia can occur between any children raised very closely together but is most common with multiples.  It offers an alternative avenue of communication, much like being bilingual.

Lack of touch can lead to failure to thriveChildren need contact comfort to survive, a key reason for the high death rate in orphanages.  Healthy touch can help overcome this problem.  Here the children have figured out how to rely on each other instead of adults to meet their needs.


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7 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: November 14th, 2013 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I wonder how Silence eats without a mouth, but it doesn't matter. This is beautiful.

"They are trusting and subtle,
Faithful and pure..."

Wow.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 14th, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> I wonder how Silence eats without a mouth, but it doesn't matter. This is beautiful. <<

It does matter, actually, because I'm serious enough about worldbuilding to care about such details. It's a common defect for the Diminished. Once I set this up as science fiction, I had to account for the fact that this trait appears often in the inspirational material. The mouthless require intravenous feeding, which makes this one of the most serious handicaps. Although it's not mentioned explicitly in this poem, it is touched on in one of the unpublished ones.

>> "They are trusting and subtle,
Faithful and pure..."

Wow. <<

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this so much.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 1st, 2017 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Getting IV solutions and equipment may be problematic once they escape.

There's a much older (and mostly forgotten) technique I came across that was used in the 18th & 19th century for patients who had things like badly broken jaws.

Nutritional enemas. Yes, it actually *does* work, if you can get the right sort of nutrients (stuff that doesn't require the stomach acids and enzymes to break down into things that can be absorbed by the large and small intestine)

Sort of ick, but it does have some advantages in that you don't have to mess with needles nor is sterility as important. You still want the gear *clean*, but...

The stuff I pick up when I'm reading out of boredom.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 1st, 2017 10:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>> Getting IV solutions and equipment may be problematic once they escape.<<

It's a hassle for most of the mouthless, and that's mentioned somewhere too.

>> There's a much older (and mostly forgotten) technique I came across that was used in the 18th & 19th century for patients who had things like badly broken jaws.

Nutritional enemas. Yes, it actually *does* work, if you can get the right sort of nutrients (stuff that doesn't require the stomach acids and enzymes to break down into things that can be absorbed by the large and small intestine) <<

I have come across that, and it works even better for fluid intake. In the latter context, I came across it in survival situations -- it's a trick people have used when lost at sea. If you're catching rainwater on a tarp, the first flow is too dusty to drink, but still works for other purposes.

If this is something you'd like to shop for, I could take a swing at it. Otherwise not -- Diminished Expectations is my least popular series.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 2nd, 2017 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>If this is something you'd like to shop for, I could take a swing at it. Otherwise not -- Diminished Expectations is my least popular series.<<

Well, I can see why, but I think they are worth reading. I may throw this month's money at some of the unsold ones.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 2nd, 2017 02:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>Well, I can see why, but I think they are worth reading.<<

You have rare taste. I think the series only has one or two other fans.

>> I may throw this month's money at some of the unsold ones.<<

Awesome! Those have been sitting there forever. You could get a lot of bang for your buck -- a majority of these are shorter poems.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 2nd, 2017 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Well, I have yet to read anything of yours that isn't interesting. Occasionally you'll write something that's not my thing, but it's still good writing.

So "rescuing" poor things that have been huddling in the outer darkness for so long is a mitzvah (not Jewish, it's just a useful term :-)
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