Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Uncounted Colors of the Stars"

This poem is from the April 1, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from ng_moonmoth and janetmiles.  It also fills the "stars / outer space" square on my 3-30-14 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the series An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space.

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: ng_moonmoth, general fund

140 lines, Buy It Now = $70
Amount donated = $14.50
Verses posted = 7 of 33

Amount remaining to fund fully = $55.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $1
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2

Uncounted Colors of the Stars

If the processors are compatible,
the interface is negotiable.

Why is this concept
such a difficult thing
for people to comprehend?

Astin pilots a junker
between the arms of the galaxy,
scavenging wreckage and selling spare parts
to whomever needs them.

The problem is that the Arms proper
are civilized and organized
and downright fussy  about some things
that hadn't ought to matter so much.

Astin is tired of lying on forms,
sick of maintaining a facade,
self and society never quite meshing.
The operating systems can be
hacked into cooperating,
but it's a kludge at best.

There is truth hidden within;
it has always been there,
but now it is beginning to sprout
and Astin knows it cannot be
concealed for much longer.

Space is better than planetside;
it is quiet and open and comforting,
not hemmed in by boundaries.

Oh, people have tried
to paint lines over space,
to define the stars into classes,
but it's an exercise in futility.

No one can really
patrol the borders of
an entire galactic arm or
number the uncountable colors of the stars.

Astin is like that,
an outlier, a datapoint
not quite fitting established patterns,
a program murmuring in fuzzy logic.

Then suddenly the war is over,
and it leaves all the freetraders gasping
with the shock of the change.

The Carinan and Orion Arms
stare warily at each other
across the Lacuna,
but the armistice holds.

The Lacuna, oh,
it's a hotbed of opportunity --
they don't have much
in the way of resources, yet,
but they have needs
and they know to reach out
for networking with the freetraders.

They're different,
the people who have
chosen to stay in the Lacuna.

Astin has never met
anyone quite like them:
intense and focused
on their area of expertise,
stunningly skilled at things,
but often easily confused
by social expectations.

It begins to come clear, however,
that they are quite willing
to make accommodations
for each other's quirks
and thereby a society of their own
is beginning to coalesce
like the nuggets of planetary bodies
forming in a nebula around a nascent star.

Astin starts to wonder
if they might extend that tolerance
to someone else, and if so,
what it would be like to trade with people
who wouldn't make a bloody fuss
about which kind of plumbing attachments
one has inside one's spacesuit.

There isn't really any planning
or intent behind what happens;
one shift Astin is talking trade
and the words just tumble out:

"My paperwork is wrong.
That's not my real gender."

"Well then fix it," Operetta says,
flapping her hands. "Do you have
the BN-322 nanotech compensator or not?"

Astin does, in fact, have one
and lays it on the countertop,
not bargaining as fiercely as usual
because this society needs to exist.

Fixing the paperwork is not so simple,
because there isn't a right answer
available on the form in the first place,
and Astin can't write that kind of code.

But that's not a barrier anymore:
there are people in the Lacuna who can,
programmers and AYES who are fluent
in the operating systems of both Arms,
so all Astin has to do is explain

(All! It's a lifetime worth of hiding and lying
to do away with, and hard to find a way
of putting that into words that fit on a form,
but they manage it somehow.)

what's wrong with the form
and where it needs to be fixed,
and presto! it gets fixed.

There is a certain star-bright joy
to checking the box for 'Other'
and watching it light up
as honest as 'Male' or 'Female'
for everyone else.

"You know, it's a good thing that
you came along," Weavercreep says.
"Most of the AYES don't differentiate gender
the way their human pilots do.
We've been needing that 'Other' box
for a while now and just never noticed.
So thank you for the heads-up on that."

Weavercreep is perfectly happy
to be paid for coding time
in spare parts, too.

Astin doesn't care what people think,
that everyone in the Arms believes
the people of the Lacuna are crazy rebels
who will fall apart in a few years.

No, they won't,
not if the freetraders
have anything to say about it.

The stars may be no more
than a distant glimmer from here,
but Astin knows they still shine
in all their rainbow glory.

It doesn't matter that this society
is still groping its way into being,
that some of the people and the pieces
are strange shapes and don't always
fit together in easy or obvious ways.

If the processors are compatible,
the interface is negotiable.

* * *


Genderqueer includes people who identify as transgender or transsexual along with many other options.  They simply don't fit either of the standard "man" or "woman" boxes.

Coming out is the process of acknowledging and announcing one's queer identity in sex/gender dynamics.  Transfolk may come out in youth or middle age, often suppressing their nature until they feel safe expressing it (or can no longer conceal it).  For some people, therapy helps them understand and accept their identity, so they can build a healthy life.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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