Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile PenUltimate Productions Website Previous Previous Next Next
Poem: "Faeder Way" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Faeder Way"

This poem came out of the April 1, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rowyn, moonwolf1988, DW users Alexseanchai, and Redsixwing.  It also fills the "pursuit of happiness" square in my 3-6-14 card for the Origfic Bingo fest; and the "language and translation" square in my 1-2-14 card for the Trope Bingo fest.

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: DW user Alexconall, general fund, Anthony & Shirley Barrette

225 lines, Buy It Now = $112.50
Amount donated = $45
Verses posted = 17 of 50

Amount remaining to fund fully = $67.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $3.50
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $.50

"Faeder Way"

The Fifers were known
for their fluting voices
and variegated plumage,
but also for their peculiar culture.

The aleph males grew the largest,
with bright plumage and hot tempers.
They strove to establish a territory,
but not all of them succeeded.

The beth males were smaller,
with lighter feathers, and they
held no territory but lived
between the alephs,
who tolerated them because
they attracted more females.

The rare faeder males were
the smallest, drab as females,
and they mated with other males
in the same manner, living
within an aleph's territory as well.
They attracted even more females,
stabilized the family bonding,
improved health and fertility all around.

The gimel females watched
as the males displayed for their pleasure,
choosing a mate or mates with care.
Often, though, they formed ties
with other females as well.

The modor females had
minimal interest in males,
wary of often-aggressive alephs,
but they would follow along
with a 'special friend' gimel
if she wanted to mate with males.

The humans who watched this
were baffled for a long time
before they figured out
how the avian society worked.

Captain Judd had been a captain
longer than a field scientist now,
and it colored his perceptions.
"They must be confused," he said,
watching the alephs with the faeders.
"The little ones look like females."

"They're not confused,"
said Commander Hale,
his background as a gender scholar
giving him confidence. "The alephs
know whether they're courting
a beth or a faeder or a female."

Lieutenant Martina the biologist and
Lieutenant Rodriga the geologist
agreed with Commander Hale.
Neither woman liked Captain Judd
or his kibbitzing on their work.
"Just because we think it's weird
doesn't mean they don't know what
they're doing," Lieutenant Martina said.

Commander Tyre the botanist
hung around the fringes of the discussion,
now and then voicing his opinion
about what it meant that the beth males
were the ones who decorated their pale plumage
with dyes made from various plants.
"They're displaying themselves," he said,
"both for other males and for females."

"Bunch of painted perverts,"
Captain Judd muttered,
but everyone ignored him.

Ensign Obert the linguist
was so engrossed in his studies
that he scarcely noticed the debates.
He reveled in the five-gender system
that somehow encoded the speaker's sex
but also subtly shifted the connotations
of the words that they used.
"The markers are on the verbs,
not the nouns and the pronouns," he said.

"What kind of language even does that?"
Captain Judd demanded.

"Well, back on Earth, there was Hindi --"
Ensign Obert began.

"Never mind, I don't want to waste time
on such nonsense," Captain Judd said
with a wave of his hand. He went back
to poring over the ship's security which,
everyone had to admit, he did rather well.

Ensign Obert shrugged and
buried himself in declensions again.

It was Commander Hale
who first broached the idea
with Commander Tyre.
"You know, I've been thinking
about Lieutenant Martina,"
said Commander Hale.
"She's dated us both once or twice,
but nothing serious. What if we
get together and make her jealous?"

"Seriously?" asked Commander Tyre.

"It seems to work for them,"
Commander Hale said,
watching the Fifers on the screen.

So the two men went to lunch that day,
and then to supper the next evening,
and the following morning
Lieutenant Martina asked
Commander Tyre on a date.
Later in the week she went out
with Commander Hale too.

This went on for a while,
and then one day
Commander Tyre said,
"I think Lieutenant Rodriga
is watching us."

"Can't be," Commander Hale said.
"She only has eyes for
Lieutenant Martina."
But when he looked, sure enough,
she was watching them.

"I think we should invite
Ensign Obert on a picnic,"
said Commander Tyre.

"Don't you think you're taking this
a little too far?" asked Commander Hale.

Commander Tyre shrugged.
"I think he's lonely, and besides,
it would be nice to have some guy time."

"You going to let him fuck you?"
Commander Hale asked.

Commander Tyre narrowed his eyes.
"I might, although I'd rather make love to him.
What about you?" he challenged.

"I don't bottom," Commander Hale said.
"But you are ... flexible?"

"With the right person,"
Commander Tyre said.
Then he grimaced.
"Captain Judd was a
bad decision on my part."

"I wondered what was between you,"
Commander Hale said.

"Distance now," Commander Tyre said,
"and the more of it, the better."

"We'll try your crazy idea,"
Commander Hale said.

So they invited Ensign Obert
on a picnic, and he was baffled
but he accepted.

The three men had a wonderful time,
and then a family of Fifers showed up.
In the ensuing conversation,
Ensign Obert learned six new verbs,
a dozen nouns, and something else
that he wasn't even sure what it was
except that he loved discovering it.
He got so excited that he kissed
both the commanders.

After that they stuck to each other like glue,
often working together in the cafeteria,
looking for connections among
their different projects.

It was Commander Hale who noticed
that the gender tags had subtle inflections
which were altering the connotations, or not.
It was Commander Tyre who realized
that the plant dyes tied into the economy
that Commander Hale was also studying.

And then Ensign Obert figured out
that the native vocabulary for stone
distinguished between things
that had Lieutenant Rodriga
practically tearing her hair in frustration.

He walked over to her table
and handed her his notes,
showing her how they matched hers.
Her gaze followed him all the way
back to his two friends.

It wasn't long after that
when the two women
party-crashed a picnic
and asked if they could
join the three men.

What happened that night
was not exactly an orgy
because not everyone
made love with everyone else --

it was mostly
Hale topping Tyre topping Obert
and Rodriga topping Martina
with occasional rounds of
Obert and Martina getting it on,
plus a lot of petting all around.

Then the next day, suddenly
they were all inundated by Fifers
who had been reserved
and now wanted to talk
or trade or just hang around
being friendly.

Somehow -- nobody was
quite sure how that worked --
they managed to get
an amazing amount of work done.

Captain Judd fussed and sulked
about being left out of the excitement
until Ensign Obert told him
to get out of their way and
go play with the security system.

"I think we broke his brain,"
Ensign Obert said.
"He had a hard enough time
dealing with five-part families
when it was just the Fifers doing that."

"Oddly enough, this works,"
said Lieutenant Martina.
"How would everyone feel
about having a baby?"

"Psh, if we breed out of season,
the Fifers will never forgive us,"
said Lieutenant Rodriga.
"They think it's freaky enough
that we're even fertile year-round.
We should time for a spring birth."

"And in the meantime?"
Commander Hale asked.

Lieutenant Rodriga smirked and replied,
"Well, nothing says we can't practice."

* * *


Aleph -- Largest male, most testosterone, brightest plumage. Holds a large territory, attracting and mating with as many females as possible. Many of them also enjoy topping beths and faeders, but they rarely if ever bottom. By himself, an aleph gets in more fights and suffers more injuries. They attract fewer females while alone, which makes some of them prone to aggression, especially against modors who aren't enthusiastic about their advances to begin with. An aleph-only mating typically produces just one egg in a female. This is the most common variant, but only about a quarter of alephs succeed in establishing a territory.

Beth -- Medium male, moderate testosterone, lighter plumage. Lives on the fringe of territory held by an aleph male, often between two or more territories. Will usually interact with multiple alephs unless a faeder is present, and sneak-mate with any of their willing females. Alephs tolerate beths because they help attract more females via homosexual displays. Beths typically enjoy bottoming to alephs and topping faeders, but may switch around. They don't like alephs who are too rough, but sometimes they get socially pushy themselves. An aleph-beth mating may yield two eggs from a female; a beth-only mating is lucky to produce even one. This is the middle variant; about half of alephs holding a territory have a beth on the fringe, and only a third are actually bonded with one.

Faeder -- Smallest male, least testosterone, looks much like a female. Lives inside the territory of the aleph male, almost always one who has a beth on the side. They typically enjoy bottoming to both beth and aleph males, topping only occasionally. They will NOT tolerate a rough aleph or a pushy beth. A bonded beth won't cheat on his faeder and aleph with another aleph. Faeders scent-mark their other males, making them more attractive to females; the aleph and beth will actively display their faeder for the delectation of female onlookers. A faeder not only draws even more females via homosexual displays, but stabilizes the bonds among males and females sharing a territory. This also improves the chance of reproductive success, as the bonding pheromones boost fertility and health. An aleph-beth-faeder mating commonly brings three or more eggs from a female; a faeder-only mating usually brings one, rarely two. This is the rarest variant; only about a quarter of alephs with a territory have a faeder inside it.

Modor -- A female who enjoys topping other females; some also enjoy topping males who permit it (usually faeders, occasionally beths). Some modors pair up with each other, either diverging the roles or alternating. Modors rarely accept male advances of their own volition; they are instead the "extra" females brought in by a gimel female. Modors sometimes mate with males -- especially a wandering beth -- but then withdraw to raise the young alone or with another female. This is how an aleph-beth pair tend to lose some of their females. Modors are often skittish around solitary alephs, who can be aggressive toward them; a beth makes them feel safer, and a faeder even more so. Modors make up about two-thirds of the female population.

Gimel -- A female who enjoys bottoming to other females. It is primarily the gimel who selects male suitors, and she looks first at the aleph to determine the most promising candidate. The best solitary aleph will do in a pinch; an aleph who can attract a beth is better; and a trio of bonded males is best. The gimel then brings along any 'special friend' modor(s) she may have. Gimels make up about one-third of the female population.

While females of both types tend to prefer males in the order of faeder, beth, aleph they consistently mate with all three types if available. This is valuable because the male variants are genetically determined, while the female ones are a matter of taste. It keeps the testosterone buffered within an effective range that covers multiple useful services. The triune mating is also the most fecund.

Males and females gather together in summer to mate and raise young. Chicks can walk shortly after hatching, but require close care and feeding. They fledge toward the end of summer. Faeders, who resemble females, often socialize with them more than with males. In winter, the sexes separate and travel to different weathering grounds. At this time, the faeders follow the other males. Male chicks go with their fathers; female chicks go wtih their mothers. Mothers with a surviving chick from the previous season usually won't mate the next, but will skip a year. Fathers usually keep right on mating. Chicks take 8-10 years to reach sexual maturity.

* * *

The Hebrew alphabet contains the letters Aleph, Beth, and Gimel.  Why Hebrew instead of Greek?  It's part of the infrastructure for my main science fiction universe, where the inventor of the stardrive happened to be a Jew.  Consequently there are Jewish motifs scattered throughout, and that's how I pegged where this planet was.

Faeder means "father."  It's part of the original terminology.

Modor means "mother."  I added this as a logical counterpart in nomenclature.

Ruffs are sandpipers with an unusual sexual structure which inspired this adorable comic and then the poem.

Fifer means "pipe player," both a reference to sandpipers and to the fluting voice of these aliens.

Read about Navy ranks.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

15 comments or Leave a comment
thnidu From: thnidu Date: June 23rd, 2014 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is amazing! I thought the sexual behavior and the Anglo-Saxon-derived terms "faeder" and "modor" were your invention till I checked first Wikipedia and then your link.

And I love it that it was an amateur birder who discovered it: «But the Dutch potato grower Joop Jukema, a volunteer bird investigator who counts migrating ruffs every year, noticed that there were a few doubters between the normal birds. They used to be taken for females, but Jukema felt uneasy about it. So he turned to prof. dr. Theunis Piersma (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and Nederlands Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee, Texel, The Netherlands) to get rid of this feeling, and they dissected a few middle sized birds.»

And I'm extra-amused because I just lately read about the translation into Frisian of Lois McMaster Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt, a favorite book in a favorite series of mine. (Eh??) Oh yes, the connection: the -ma ending shows that those names, Jukema and Piersma, are Frisian. So the circle is complete: fantasy series – alien mating behavior – bird mating behavior – Frisian observers – Frisian fan – Frisian translation of fantasy book.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2014 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)


>> This is amazing! I thought the sexual behavior and the Anglo-Saxon-derived terms "faeder" and "modor" were your invention till I checked first Wikipedia and then your link. <<

I'm glad you liked this so much. I really had fun researching this poem.

>> And I love it that it was an amateur birder who discovered it: <<

I think that's awesome too.

>>And I'm extra-amused because I just lately read about the translation into Frisian of Lois McMaster Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt, a favorite book in a favorite series of mine. <<

Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed that link.
siege From: siege Date: June 24th, 2014 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)


We're not even halfway through and I think I don't like Capt Judd. :/
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 25th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sigh

I don't like him much either, but there are more likable characters in the poem.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: June 25th, 2014 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
BTW: the Israeli Hebrew pronunciation of the letter-name beth ב is (IPA) [bɛt] or [bet] ≈ (English spelling) "bet" or "bait".

Historically, it's the word for "house", which it originally was a picture of, and it's often seen in the names of Jewish congregations, e.g., Beth Israel (house of Israel, in the sense of the people Israel = the Jewish people). In American English, it's often pronounced like the name Beth [bɛθ] in that context. You may also hear [beis] ("base"), a Yiddish pronunciation.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 25th, 2014 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

That's interesting to know.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: June 25th, 2014 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Y'r welcome! I was imagining your readers pronouncing it [bɛθ], and shuddering.
From: technoshaman Date: July 5th, 2014 12:36 am (UTC) (Link)
*snork* I wondered how that cranky captain was gonna get his comeuppance.

A good old-fashioned *mindfuck*.... :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)


>> *snork* I wondered how that cranky captain was gonna get his comeuppance. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> A good old-fashioned *mindfuck*.... :) <<

Hee! It's fun to tweak the stuffy people.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 5th, 2014 01:14 am (UTC) (Link)
This is, so to speak, SO ғџɔʞıй౸ MUCH FUN!!!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 01:20 am (UTC) (Link)


Thank you! I love your creatively rendered adjective too.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 5th, 2014 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

I beg your pardon! It's an adverb, modifying "much"... well, of COURSE it's an adjective too ! :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 5th, 2014 09:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

It's okay, I wasn't looking at the role in the sentence so much as the creative spelling.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 5th, 2014 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 5th, 2015 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I just reread this after reading "Feathered Nests". Even more fun than the first time! And especially

«In the ensuing conversation,
Ensign Obert learned six new verbs,
a dozen nouns, and something else
that he wasn't even sure what it was
except that he loved discovering it.»

I identify with that!
15 comments or Leave a comment