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Poem: "Look Both Ways" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Look Both Ways"

This poem was inspired by a conversation with DW user Stardreamer.  It also fills the "superpowers" square in my 6-10-14 card for the Fanbingo fest.  It has been sponsored by starcat_jewel.  This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.




Look Both Ways


It might have gone on forever
had Claire not met Poindexter
at a student life gathering.

Dozens of clubs put out their tables
on the Palm Court, and volunteers
industriously chalked advertisements
onto the wide sidewalks of herringbone brick.

Claire was just a foreign exchange student
from the French Riviera, come to Loyola University
to study French-based creole languages,
currently splitting her time between
the International Student Association
and the French Club tables, while also
eyeing the Wolf Pack Diversity Team and
the Student Peace Initiative across the way.

It seemed as if every French speaker on campus
wanted to stop and chat with Claire, eager
for the opportunity of native conversation,
so she shook hands and described her home
and sent them smiling on their way.

The handsome creole boy at Gumbo Ya-Ya
was watching her too, his dark hair glossy in the sun.
As Claire looked on, a black girl held up her hand
and produced a pink-and-green swirl of neon lights
to which the boy responded with enthusiam.

Then a blond man started harassing
the Hispanic students manning the ISA table.
"You should go back to Mexico!" he shouted.

Claire sidled over and asked,
"Is this how Americans treat guests?
I am from France, so I would like to know."

The man started to raise a hand,
then noticed several students filming
the conversation with their vidwatches.
so instead he stalked away.

That put him directly in the path
of a campus policewoman,
who was not pleased when he
crashed right into her mount,
a gray-and-white Gypsy Vanner.
She leaned down and hauled him off
to the far side of the courtyard.

Not long after that, the cajun boy
drifted over to Claire and said,
"So hey, I couldn't help noticing
that your control isn't perfect.
We do lessons, if you're interested."

"Control of what?" Claire asked.
Her English was excellent,
and her temper was level enough
that she hadn't even raised her voice.

"Your talent," the boy said,
and when she frowned in confusion,
he lowered his voice further and added,
"your superpower."

Claire shook her head.
"I have no special powers."

"Oh, you're a Kauai," he said,
his eyes widening.
"Oookay, we need to talk.
I'm Poindexter, and I run the club
for people with superpowers,
which you do have."

So Claire excused herself
from her tables and went with him
to a quieter corner of the courtyard.
"I don't understand why you think
that I have powers," she said.

"Well, it's some kind of luck power,"
he said, giving her a thoughtful look.
"Have you ever noticed strange things
happening around you, or to people
who come into contact with you?"

Claire thought about the times when things
had gone remarkably well for her friends,
or conveniently wrong for people she disliked.
"That's just coincidence," she said slowly.

"It's really not," he assured her.

Claire gazed at him, trying to gauge
what kind of person he was and
whether she could trust him.
"If you say so."

"I do, and -- there, what you're doing now,
that's another one," he said, waving
a tan hand between them.  "Soulgazing,
that tells you what people are like."

"Show me your gift then," Clair challenged.

"I already have," Poindexter said.
"It's just spotting other people's talents.
That's why I work outreach for SPOON,
and it ties in with my public relations major."

It seemed bizarre to imagine
that she could have a superpower --
let alone two -- and Claire could not think
how she might have gotten them either.
She said as much to Poindexter.

"Well, if you didn't know until now,
that lets out a major event or flickering,"
he said thoughtfully.  "Most likely
it's a family trait; you were born that way
or it grew in slowly. It might have come
from something you were exposed to, though."

Claire still felt a little dubious,
but it helped to have someone
who knew what was going on
and could show her what came next.
"So now what?" she asked Poindexter.

"Come to the Gumbo Ya-Ya table,"
he suggested.  "I'll send my current partner
over to your booth in exchange.
I think your Luck Power is always on,
but your Soulgazing blinks on and off."
He flicked his fingers to illustrate.
"If I tell you when you're doing something,
maybe you can learn to feel it yourself
and, eventually, control it."

"Are they bad powers?" Claire asked.

"Not if you don't hurt people on purpose,"
Poindexter said.  "They're just things you can do.
It looks to me like whatever people do to you,
that shapes the kind of luck they get from you."

"That makes sense," Claire said, nodding.
"It's like a mirror, or a rubber wall.
People only get back what they give."

"That's why reflective powers are protected,
as long as the user doesn't initiate contact," he said.
"One safety tip is to avoid approaching people
and let them come to you, so the responsibility
for the encounter clearly begins with them.
That way if a bigot comes up and bothers you,
then you're not liable even if he gets bad luck."

Claire smiled.  "I like that idea,"
she said, following him back to his booth.

Working the Gumbo Ya-Ya table was interesting,
and she had time to read the handouts
between talking to students who stopped by.
Twice more, people demonstrated their powers,
and Claire felt a new spark of kinship.

Whenever her Soulgazing activated, Poindexter
alerted Claire with a nudge against her ankle.
She still couldn't sense anything different,
but she did become more alert to things
that happened to people as they left --
a stumble here, a happy surprise there.

That evening, Claire went back to her dorm room
and pulled out her books to look for ideas.
She knew that people with superpowers
often took some kind of special name.

After half an hour of searching,
she found the perfect name for herself --
Miradoir, an old French word for "mirror"
or "scrying glass," a thing you look into
that also looks back into you.

* * *

Notes:

Miradoir (Claire Bonheur) -- She has tawny-fair skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long wavy hair of light brown.  She comes from a well-to-do family in the French Riviera.  Her signature perfume is Clair de Lune, which lasts a long time with the interesting feature of shifting focus subtly.  It starts out with bright citrus notes in the morning, turns floral in midday, and ends with vanilla.
 Claire is a student at Loyola University who has come to America to study the evolution of French-based creole languages and other variants, particularly Cajun French and Louisiana Creole, with secondary interest in Haitian Creole and Antillean Creole.  Her later plans include traveling to Canada for graduate work, studying Quebec French and Métis French.  Her activism originally focused on endangered languages and marginalized ethnic groups, but has grown to include superpowers.
 Her mystical artifact conveys Mirror Powers, so far including Reflective Luck and Soulgazing.  It may add more over time.  Unlike most artifacts, the compact does NOT have to be worn in order to work, or even have to be kept.  Instead it activates the user's own natural abilities if any.  So it wouldn't work for just anyone; it has a limited range of potential superpowers that it can manifest.  Aside from the Mirror Powers it can also awaken Psychic Powers, Light Powers, Elemental Powers, and some Energy Powers.  Keeping the artifact longer does make it easier to strengthen extant powers or develop new ones.  Reflective Luck does not affect Claire directly, but rather improves her life by affecting the people around her.  Those who intend harm to her get bad luck, making poor life decisions or running afoul of mischance.  Those who treat her well get good luck, improving their choices and bringing good chances.  It's always on, and so far she has no control of it.  Soulgazing gives Claire subtle hints about what people are like.  She has some instinctive control of this.
Origin: At sixteen, Claire inherited her aunt's antique compact mirror.  The case is gold, decorated with enamel, pearls, and glass cabochons.  Soon she developed Mirror Powers.
Uniform: None.  She tends to wear women's suits at school or professional occasions, casual fashions most other places, and wilderness gear for traipsing through rural Louisiana to meet contacts.
Qualities: Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Linguist, Good (+2) Making Friends, Good (+2) Smart
As a linguist, she knows Basque, Breton, English, French, French Sign Language, Italian, and Spanish.
Powers: Expert (+4) Mirror Powers
Motivation: To see and to be seen.

Pointer (Poindexter Duval) -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and curly dark brown hair.  He speaks both English and Cajun French.  He enjoys physical activity and is a pretty good lacrosse player.  He also makes floats for Mardi Gras.  Poindexter is studying public relations at Loyola University.  He works part-time for the Easy City SPOON base, helping them locate soups and identify what superpowers people have.  He also does some activism for soup acceptance, interfacing between different groups.
Origin: His superpower grew in gradually during adolescence, when he was most intent on finding other people like himself.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) College Student, Good (+2) Athlete, Good (+2) Craftsmanship, Good (+2) Public Relations
Powers: Expert (+4) Power Identification
Motivation: To find other soups.

Neon Girl (Valentina Boyd) -- She has light brown skin, green eyes, and straight black hair.  She can make neon colors on or near herself, or put them on other people where they last for a few minutes to a few hours.  She is studying to become a makeup artist, and already hires herself out to decorate people for Mardi Gras and other parties.
Origin: In junior high, she was playing with homemade makeup along with several other girls.  One of them turned out to be a budding Super-Gizmologist, and the makeup left Valentina with superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) College Student, Good (+2) Charisma, Good (+2) Creativity
Powers: Good (+2) Illusion Powers
Motivation: To feel pretty.

* * *

Loyola University has a large campus.  The Palm Court is a beautiful green space sometimes used for student events.

The International Student Association, Student Peace Initiative, and Wolf Pack Diversity Team all exist.

"Gumbo Ya-Ya" has two meanings.  First, it's a famous type of New Orleans soup; see a recipe.  Second, it's slang for "everybody talking all at once; i.e., at a loud party."

Explore the etymology of "mirror" and "miradoir."

Kauai -- a person who does not recognize their own superpowers.  Some abilities can be quite subtle, especially at low levels, such as Super-Intellect or Luck.  The term comes from the silent crickets of Kauai.

Public relations is a profession and a college major.

Mounted police are popular in some cities, including New OrleansGypsy Vanners are bred for intelligence, gentleness, strength, and gorgeous looks.  Because they're usually some kind of pinto, they can mimic the classic black-and-white or blue-and-white coloration of some police cars.  Zigana, or "Ziggy" for short, is one of these.

France has a history of Super-Gizmology that specializes in making jewelry or other personal items which grant superpowers.  Consequently French antiques command higher prices, and known artifacts are astronomical.  But most of them are family heirlooms, often not even understood as artifacts.  There are also fakes which are purported to grant superpowers but really don't.

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6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: September 10th, 2014 09:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. A cop horse that looks like a black-and-white. :)

Naming in a roots language. Hauntingly familiar. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 11th, 2014 06:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> Heh. A cop horse that looks like a black-and-white. :) <<

As soon as I started thinking about Easy City, I knew they'd want to do things that were both flashy and effective. So this seemed like an ideal match.

>> Naming in a roots language. Hauntingly familiar. :) <<

Yay!
siege From: siege Date: September 11th, 2014 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, that's one way to learn!

Third verse, last line: "the across the way." (remove the first 'the')
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 12th, 2014 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Well, that's one way to learn! <<

Sooth. I like exploring the diversity.

>> Third verse, last line: "the across the way." (remove the first 'the') <<

Fixed.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 12th, 2014 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Karma!

Kudos for the Ethnologue link. :-)

• Those who indend harm to her
-> intend
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 12th, 2014 03:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> Karma! <<

Instant karma, yes.

>> Kudos for the Ethnologue link. :-) <<

You're welcome!

>> • Those who indend harm to her
-> intend <<

Fixed, thanks.
6 comments or Leave a comment