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Poem: "Written by the Winners" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Written by the Winners"
This poem is from the August 5, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] aoifes_isle, [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah, [personal profile] rix_scaedu, LJ user the_vulture, and Anthony Barrette. It also fills the "atonement" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony Barrette. It belongs to the series Tripping into the Future, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.

WARNING: This poem deals with war, weapons of mass destruction, isolation, and depression.  If these are touchy topics for you, please think carefully before deciding whether you want to read onward.







"Written by the Winners"


History, they say,
is written by the winners

but you aren't sure
if you are one

surely you don't
feel like one

but the others, the enemy:
they speak of you that way
on the fluttering radio waves

so maybe you are, after all.

You remember what it was like
to be told that you were a hero
(were going to be a hero,
and language just doesn't
have tenses for the things
you were/will be needing to say)
and what it was like to believe that.

There are things that
people believe are true
that are not actually true
in the world outside their heads.

There are things that
people believe are true
that are only true because
people believe them.

You remember the politicians
telling you, "This will be worth it."

They believed it.
You believed them.

But you have broken
time and the galaxy
with the weapon
that they gave you

and you no longer believe
either it or them.

This pretty planet with
its pink-and-orange foliage
and compassionate cat-creatures
is hell (you can't be a hero:
there are no heroes in hell)
for want of human hand or voice
besides your own.

Time tears down all things
in the end, including
your own perceptions --
they melt, they run,
they bleed like ink.

Spacetime itself can flex,
bend, and stretch

but what of that within it
or traveling upon it?

Lies are not so flexible as that.

The weapon shattered truth
from its crystal prison,
left it to flow back
to its own beginning,
seeping into you until
you cannot help but see

that what you have done is evil.

You remember the politicians
and how they wanted most
to go down in history
for their great deeds.

You remember their names
and their faces and their desires.

This is a thing you can take from them,
as they took time from you and all.

So you write them down,
lay out the war in its ugly length
as best you can recall it,
splayed like a dead sheep
on a butcher's block.

It wasn't worth it.

You write that down,
underline it, but
it isn't enough
so you write it again

and again

until you realize
that you've covered
whole pages with nothing but

and a burst blister on your thumb
is bleeding onto the paper.

For tonight, you are empty,
memory retched up and written out,
leaving you hollow inside.

You close the book,
wash your hands
and bandage the blister.

Sasha comes to curl up in your lap,
filling the emptiness with a quiet croon.
It is good to feel full of something other than war.

You let your good hand
drift down to the soft, warm fur
of the little felinoid alien
who is your only friend now.

It's not human companionship
but it's what you have and
you are so, so grateful for it.

Some other time,
you will take up the pen again
and continue your tale.

History, they say,
is written by the winners

but sometimes
it's not acclaim, it's confession

sometimes,
it's atonement.

* * *

Notes:

It has long been said that history is written by the winners, and it has even become an entertainment trope.

Atonement is the process of taking action to make up for past mistakes.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: August 11th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
It occurs to me that, in the days of the Internet and everyone and his dog being able to have a virtual soapbox for the cost of a net connection (often furnished by the local library) and five minutes' time, that perhaps the ability to write one's own history, win, lose, draw, or choosing not to fight, is in a way its own win.

Hmmm. Perhaps it is that life, like love, is not a zero-sum game, and that getting to tell the story *is* winning... "We are here so the stories get told," sings S.J. Tucker...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 11th, 2014 01:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> It occurs to me that, in the days of the Internet and everyone and his dog being able to have a virtual soapbox for the cost of a net connection (often furnished by the local library) and five minutes' time, that perhaps the ability to write one's own history, win, lose, draw, or choosing not to fight, is in a way its own win. <<

This is vital. It's giving a voice to people who have been previously voiceless. They can find each other, collaborate to identify goals, and start making improvements.

>> Hmmm. Perhaps it is that life, like love, is not a zero-sum game, and that getting to tell the story *is* winning... "We are here so the stories get told," sings S.J. Tucker... <<

Sooth. And for people who don't consider storytelling -- whether fiction or nonfiction -- to be their skill, I'm here. Tell me what you need, and I'll do my best to write it out.
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