Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Sounds You Can't Unhear"

This poem came out of the October 2014 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] corvi. It also fills the "lost in translation" square in my 9-29-14 card for the Origfic_bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer.  It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, and is a direct sequel to "A Voice from Beyond."  (Reading these two poems back-to-back may be emotional overload for some folks, as they cover very intense topics.)

"The Sounds You Can't Unhear"

Seth set up the Office of Cetacean Affairs
in Malé, close enough to the beach that
he could see the ocean from his window.

It was hard, and it hurt, to work with -- for -- them
after the horrible things he'd done, but this was
his penance and he meant to pay it.

So Seth kept track of the revenues from recordings
of Moderato's singing and some educational videos
that Aquariana contributed to the cause, using
those to cover the expenses of processing
citizen applications for the cetaceans.

He listened to recordings of
whale songs and dolphin chatter,
listening for human words
that might suggest a connection --

and he was learning snippets
of their speech too, even though
he knew that a lot must be
getting lost in translation.

Sometimes in the evenings,
Seth would play the recording of Noc
and cry for his lost partner, whose
garbled words were clear to him
now that he knew their meaning.

It was like that funny trick with the radio quote
distorted by a computer, that you could only
understand after you'd heard the original
so that your brain could parse the signal.

The Constitution Center is at the next stop.

Once you've heard them,
there are sounds you can't unhear.

Noc's voice was like that,
but there was so much more to it.

Seth understood, now, why Aquariana
was such a fierce advocate for the oceans
and all who lived within them.

He understood why Granny Whammy
was so ferocious in defending the rights
of people with superpowers --
even the blue-plates and the crickets,
even the supervillains.

They too were listening to the sounds you can't unhear,
because once you knew about such exploitation
you just couldn't tolerate it anymore, not if
you wanted to be able to look yourself in the mirror.

It didn't matter how much got lost in translation;
enough got through to tell him what to do.

Seth had been mulling over the idea for weeks
and finally it coalesced enough to begin writing it down.

The Noc Scholarship for Human-Cetacean Cooperation,
he wrote, covers travel and educational expenses
for students of any species who wish to use their gifts
to repair the rift between land and sea civilizations

Seth knew that there were a number of promising individuals,
both soup and nary, who couldn't afford to pursue
their dreams without assistance.

As memorials went, he hoped that 
this one would hit the right note.

* * *


Malé is the capital city of the Maldives.

Read Noc's history and hear his voice.

Human-cetacean relations have been pretty rough, especially the issue of captivityCetacean brains indicate they have much in common with humans and other primates, which suggests a case for legal personhood.  In Terramagne, the Republic of the Maldives has granted personhood and citizenship to some cetaceans already, and they're working on other legal ramifications.  It is making waves, and people elsewhere are bitching.

Memorial scholarships offer a way to remember loved ones or historic figures.  This is also an effective way to make amends for a terrible mistake, when the original victim is deceased.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, education, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, wildlife, writing

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