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Poem: "Times of Hardship and Ease" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Times of Hardship and Ease"
This poem belongs to the project The Blueshift Troupers, which began with an idea for a science fiction show posted on Dreamwidth and on LiveJournal, and then further discussion on Dreamwidth and on LiveJournal. I want to work with the backstory and characters to get a feel for this setting and its people. This also fills the "gender play" square in my 10-6-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.


Times of Hardship and Ease


Zasha pushed and slashed at the thick membrane
until it gave way, tearing under determined fingernails
to release the medic from the shreds of the chrysalis
into the waiting arms of Taylor the engineer.

"I'm female this time," Zasha said, looking down
at the soft curves of her body, new and unfamiliar.
"You look beautiful to me," said her wife Taylor.
"How does your desire feel, or is it too early to tell?"

Zasha felt around inside herself, and discovered
that in this body she still wished to make love with her wife.
"I want you," Zasha said, and Taylor smiled.
It was not always so; sometimes the body changed desire.

"I was so worried this time," Taylor said as she
helped Zasha clean off the remains of the chrysalis.
"When those rocks fell on you, I thought you might die.
If you weren't a shapeshifter, you probably would have."

     En alagu af navor legan ajuvorum nos
     Kailu unt herra meget qus.
     Our help lies in the laws of nature
     Who made heaven and earth.

They stepped into the rain chamber together
and let the softly falling water rinse them clean.
It flowed over the sculpted swell of Taylor's muscles
and down the shallow hills of Zasha's breasts.

"I didn't mean to get hurt," Zasha whispered. "I was just
trying to herd the children out before the mine collapsed.
You were right about it being too unstable for safety."
"I'm always right about structural integrity," Taylor said.

Zasha pressed their bodies together and let Taylor
run strong hands over her back, feeling the bones
whole and healthy like the infrastructure of a building.
It was a dangerous job, problem-solving from planet to planet.

"I'm just glad that you gave the warning in time," Zasha said.
"So am I," Taylor said, "but that doesn't stop me from worrying."
"No matter what happens, we'll always stick together,"
Zasha assured her. "That's what teammates are for."

     En ese legan hupo nos
     Ver adaiti af mallum unt mollos.
     Our hope lies in each other
     Through times of hardship and ease.

They stepped out of the rain chamber, and the hiveship
breathed warm dry air over them to evaporate the water.
Taylor dressed in her uniform and then helped Zasha
adjust one to fit the shape of her current body.

Zasha's stomach growled, sharp with a hunger
driven by the demands of metamorphosis.
Taylor brought out food, following the guidelines of
caring for a teammate after an emergency transformation.

"We'll need to return and examine the mine," Zasha said.
"Tomorrow is soon enough for the analysis," Taylor replied.
"You need to recover, and I want to appreciate your survival."
"And my new body?" Zasha said with a smile.

"That too," Taylor said. "I love you as a woman,
as much as a man. You complete me, Zasha.
There is no season, no place I do not want you."
"The thought of you keeps my heart beating," said Zasha.

     Ese vo ese aselbo peleg wey
     Avo antos af daiti unt spey.
     We pledge ourselves each to the other
     Until the end of time and space.

Neither of them had expected to find that kind of relationship.
Zasha had just wanted to be a good medic, going wherever
the need was greatest -- the shapeshifting was a surprise.
Then Taylor had joined the team, a talented new engineer.

As they traveled the galaxy, the two of them had discovered
that they fit together, regardless of current shape or size,
sex or desire, gracefully compensating for the changes
as they flowed from one assignment to the next.

It was as if every new body they became, and
every new world they visited, showed them both
fresh things in each other and themselves,
jump gates of the soul full of wonders and perils.

"I don't remember seeing your hair this long before,"
said Taylor, hefting the silky weight. "Shall I braid it for you?"
"I think I'd like that," Zasha said, and her wife's deft fingers
began twining the separate strands into a single cord.

* * *
Notes:

A chrysalis is a protective case that surrounds a creature undergoing metamorphosis.  As with the butterfly chrysalis for which it is named, the thick transformative skin of a shapeshifter sometimes has gold markings, a relic of the genetic alterations that gave rise to the first shapeshifters.

Shapeshifters appear in mythology as well as in entertainment tropes.  Here we have an example of emergency transformation, as a shapeshifter can use the near-dormant state and biological malleability of metamorphosis to heal traumatic damage that would otherwise prove fatal.  This time it also happens to involve gender transformation; the shapeshifter's sex and orientation traits sometimes, but not always, change to match those of the template provided for the metamorphosis.

The indented verses are quotes from their wedding vows, somewhat inspired by this Latin sample.  The language is Shola, the scholars' language, which is inspired by Latin, some other old European languages, and quite a bit of Proto-Indo-European.  Special thanks to siege for the quote that I used as the base for developing Shola.

A hiveship is a bioship or living ship, better at using the jump gates than a purely mechanical ship, and capable of carrying a human crew.

Zasha isn't just being romantic, but referencing thoughts of family as fuel for the will to live.  It works, and has been mentioned often enough to be familiar to explorers and trauma care providers.

Braiding hair is a popular form of social bonding, primarily among women.  There are instructions for braiding hair online.

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