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Poem: "Green Eyes" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Green Eyes"
This poem came out of the January 21, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from my partner Doug. It also fills the "unrequited love / pining" square in my 1-2-14 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

"Green Eyes"

The first time it happened,
Dale and Kelly were stocking up
on groceries after a winter storm.

Dale came back to their cart
with her hands full of soup cans
and found Kelly chatting away
with a lovely young woman,
their fingers flying and faces shining.

The stranger had smooth red-gold hair
fastened into two long braids, and
arresting green eyes in a heart-shaped face
so heavily marked with freckles
that she reminded Dale of an appaloosa.

Dale! Come meet Chrysta, signed Kelly.
She just moved into the neighborhood this month.
Chrysta went to the Beverly School for the Deaf
like I did, and some of my same teachers are still there

Chrysta drifted behind Kelly
as Dale approached them,
looking waifish and a little wary.

Dale put the soup into the cart.
Hello, she signed politely.
Welcome to the neighborhood.

Chrysta gave her a shy smile then.
You sign? she asked.

Kelly taught me, Dale said
with a practiced flick of her fingers.

Kelly and Chrysta exchanged email addresses,
then everyone went on with their shopping.
Dale couldn't help but notice the longing glance
that Chrysta cast after Kelly.

Well, it was hard sometimes,
being Deaf among Hearing people.
It got lonely.

Dale tried not to think about
being lesbian among straight people.

The next time it happened,
Dale and Kelly were at
Café Bartlett Square.

Kelly had gone to get them a table
while Dale placed their orders.
Dale juggled an armload of
Kelly's turkey sandwich and her own Cubano,
plus the hot chocolate and Ceylon tea,
cane held awkwardly in the crook of her elbow
as she headed toward the table.

Before Dale could get there,
Chrysta bounded up on her long slim legs
with a double espresso steaming in her hand,
green eyes glinting with energy.
Kelly brightened visibly and began telling her
about something or other the local artists had planned.

Without really thinking,
Dale paused in the aisle,
watching the two women together,
both of them Deaf and beautiful and mobile.
The tea was too hot in its paper cup
and Dale was squeezing it perhaps a bit too hard
as it leaked scalding droplets over the rim,
and her bad knee was beginning to ache.

Then Kelly turned in her chair
to cast a worried look around the room.
She gave an urgent wave to Dale,
who finally shook herself back into motion.

What in the world were you waiting for?
Kelly signed. You shouldn't be standing around
without any support like that

Dale put the food on the table and replied,
I didn't want to interrupt.

You can't interrupt, you live with me,
Kelly signed. Chrysta doesn't mind.

Dale said nothing,
losing herself in her sandwich.

Kelly picked up her turkey melt in one hand
and carried on conversation with the other.
Evidently she and Chrysta had no trouble
understanding the abbreviated signs
that sometimes confused Dale,
who could only follow about half
of what they were saying now.

Dale caught the sign for "microphone"
and something that might have been "poetry"
signed up the arm holding the turkey melt.

Finally Kelly set down her sandwich
and turned to Dale. There's an open mike
coming up in two weeks,
Kelly signed.
Chrysta and I want to perform some ASL poetry.
You'll come with me, won't you?

Of course, Dale replied,
because she wanted to make Kelly happy
and signed poetry was beautiful,
even if these days Dale didn't always
have the energy to appreciate going out.

So it went, with Dale and Kelly
crossing paths with Chrysta
every few days -- on the sidewalks,
in stores, in restaurants, wherever they went.

Chrysta was trying to learn her new neighborhood,
Dale realized, and surely that was something
they ought to encourage, even though
the flash of strawberry hair and olive eyes
made Dale wince a little inside.

It wasn't fair to Chrysta to suspect her
of making a move on Kelly,
just because Chrysta watched Kelly
with such wistful admiration.
There was no law against pining from afar.

It certainly wasn't fair to Kelly
to suspect her of anything like cheating,
when she had never given Dale
any reason to doubt her fidelity.
Dale didn't want to be that gal who
wouldn't let her partner have lesbian friends.

It was just that Dale knew
she wasn't such a catch herself anymore,
and they looked so happy together,
she couldn't help thinking
of how things could go wrong.

The open mike drew a crowd
of artists and poets and other bohemian folks.
Kelly had dressed up in a peach-and-teal skirt
and a peasant blouse whose sleeves
fluttered every time she spoke.
Chrysta arrived in an emerald shawl
that brought out the green of her eyes,
draped over a caramel sweater-dress
with gold filament winking among the wool.

Dale was almost the only woman wearing jeans,
and it left her feeling horribly out of place.
The other one was Eryn, and hers
were held together with safety pins --
in this cold. Dale shook her head in disbelief.

The poetry proved to be worth the trip,
though, both the spoken and signed performances.
Chrysta delivered her lines with sprightly grace,
while Kelly moved with smooth deliberation.
They even did a duet.

Later on, when Kelly went off in search of
the hot caramel apple cider,
Chrysta turned to Dale and asked,
Is there anything I can do to make you stop hating me?

I don't hate you, Dale said at once,
startled by the accusation.

Sorry, Chrysta signed.
It's just ... you don't seem to like me much,
and I'm wondering what I did wrong

It's nothing, Dale insisted
as she turned around to look for Kelly.

Chrysta gave an audible sigh
as she followed the line of Dale's gaze.
It's not like that, Chrysta signed.

... no, of course not, Dale said
a little too slowly.

What, you think I have a chance
with ALL THESE spots?
Chrysta said,
signing "freckles" as if she were trying
to point out every last dot on her face.

With a sudden sinking sensation,
Dale realized that Chrysta did not
think of herself as attractive at all,
nevermind that Dale saw her as a threat
(... and was being kind of a jerk about it ...)
or that Kelly charmed everyone
but flirted seriously with just a few
(... which Dale really ought to have remembered ...),
and the whole situation had turned into an awkward mess.

I'm sorry, Dale signed.
You haven't done anything
but trip over my personal baggage

You're almost all that Kelly ever talks about,
you know,
said Chrysta. She spent hours
trying to guess what kind of poetry you'd like

I don't know enough about poetry
to have real opinions,
Dale said.
I just think it's pretty.
She paused, and then added,
I think you're pretty too.

Chrysta shrugged,
clearly not believing her,
but allowed Dale to draw her
into a discussion of poetry anyway.

By the time Kelly came back
with two cups of caramel apple cider
and one cup of black coffee,
the atmosphere at the table
was almost comfortable.

* * *


"The green-eyed monster" is an old kenning for jealousy.

See my reference photo for Chrysta.

Appaloosa horses have spots, and the leopard appaloosa pattern particularly resembles freckles. Along with leopard or cheetah spots, this is a common comparison for freckles. Some people with freckles love it; others hate it. It's generally not a safe thing to say aloud unless you're sure the other person is okay with it. Chrysta just plain hates her skin.

Read about the Beverly School for the Deaf.

Café Bartlett Square is a popular coffeehouse in Jamaica Plain.

See the sign for "freckles." In American Sign Language, intensity and plurality can be indicated with repetition. Linguistically it's similar to the way some vocal languages mark these things with a change in tone. Instead of voice inflection, there is body language, with such things as speed or crispness of gesture conveying emotional connotations. Chrysta's dislike of her freckles comes through even to Dale, who is not a native signer but lives with one and thus has a lot of everyday practice in the language and its nuances.

American Sign Language is customarily a two-handed language, but people still discuss aspects of one-handed sign language. Different types of signs may be categorized as one-handed, two-handed symmetrical, and two-handed asymmetrical signs. The training signs for deaf dogs are often abbreviated into one-handed signs so the owner can hold a leash. Some symmetrical signs are easily abbreviated by half. Others rely on mirrored action, as in "open." Asymmetrical signs like "write" usually do not abbreviate well with one hand. Signing one-handed is kind of like talking with your mouth full: sloppy and a little hard to understand, but something that people often attempt anyhow.

See the ASL signs for "microphone" and "poetry." Deaf poetry uses fluidity of motion, rhythm of gestures, and repetition of shapes to create a lyrical effect in visual rather than auditory mode. Watch some poetry in sign language.

Bohemian refers to a creative lifestyle. There are tips on how to be bohemian.

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7 comments or Leave a comment
From: technoshaman Date: January 26th, 2014 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I so grok Dale's POV there... Chrysta is a looker to these eyes; indeed, she reminds me of my own partner somewhat. :)

Some people I know take performance ASL to the next level; they sign-sing, interpreting concerts. (You may have heard of Judi Miller out your way?) If this interests, I know of several videos I can link to...

<3 the ending, too. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 27th, 2014 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I so grok Dale's POV there... Chrysta is a looker to these eyes; indeed, she reminds me of my own partner somewhat. :) <<

Yeah, I think she is HAWT.

>> Some people I know take performance ASL to the next level; they sign-sing, interpreting concerts. (You may have heard of Judi Miller out your way?) If this interests, I know of several videos I can link to... <<

I have seen videos of her performing alongside filkertom.

>> <3 the ending, too. :) <<

Yay! That makes me happy. Jealousy doesn't just go away, but you can choose how you deal with it.
ravan From: ravan Date: January 27th, 2014 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)
The one handed signing being limited bugs me. Having the use of only one hand, I would never be able to learn 2 handed sign. I am literally monodexterous.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 27th, 2014 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)


That did come up in some of the references I found, about signs for people who can't use both hands. The responses weren't very sympathetic though. It's kind of like how homesign used to be, when deaf people were pressured to use lip-reading only and never sign. For fucksake use what your body can do and stop trying to pound nails with a screwdriver.

I think the most effective solution would be to analyze the vocabulary of two-handed signs and determine abbreviations for those that still work one-handed, and synonyms for those that don't make sense if abbreviated. Then it would just be a matter of promoting awareness of the new vocabulary, which would be highly useful not just to people who can only use one hand, but also to two-handed signers who are holding onto something.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: February 4th, 2014 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Cat Faber has written a lullaby for a deaf baby, which is meant to be sung and signed one-handed. It's awesome.

I like this poem a lot, and not just because Colleen has freckles :) I'd love to see some Deaf poetry performed.
rowyn From: rowyn Date: January 27th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awww. I like the take on jealousy here, as a normal but negative emotion, something to work past rather than indulge or cater to.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 27th, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

That's exactly what I was aiming for. I'm glad it worked for you.
7 comments or Leave a comment