Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Capes Make for Capers"

This poem is spillover from the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] mdlbear. It also fills the "go bag with civvies missing when I got back to it" square in my Superhero Bingo card. This poem was sponsored by [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"Capes Make for Capers"

Not all soups wear a mask and a costume,
but many of them do, and they all have
their reasons for dressing as they do.

Some wear street clothes,
some a stylized uniform,
others a dexflan costume.

Countless societies have recognized
the effects of dressing a certain way,
hiding or advertising identity,
keeping things handy.

If clothes make the man,
then capes make for capers.

Superball wears a spandex tumbling unitard --
yes, plain old spandex, not dexflan --
in swirling rainbow colors.

He has a whole drawer full of them
in different color combinations,
some pretty garish; they were
on sale for a reason.

He's not made of money, after all.

Dr. Infanta wears street clothes,
whatever is currently fashionable
for children of her apparent age.

She has been keeping up with fashion
for seven centuries now, and may be
the world's secret expert on playwear.

She advertises her femininity
with lace and pink satin
and bows in her long brown hair
because her little-girl body
will never grow up.

The SPOON uniform is patterned after
those worn by other first responders,
a short-sleeved shirt over trousers
with the logo embroidered on a pocket.

In Eastbord the cloth is light blue
with silver embroidery.
In Onion City the cloth is navy blue
with silver embroidery.
In Easy City the cloth is tan
with gold embroidery.
In the Heights the cloth is black
with gold embroidery.
In Rain City the cloth is gray
with silver embroidery.
In Westbord the cloth is brown
with gold embroidery.

They're almost the same,
yet each a little different,
even as SPOON itself is
a just loose association of
people with agreeable needs.

The Kraken uniform consists of
dexflan and capery for members
who have superpowers, or
chameleon cloth for the naries.
Jumpsuits are sensibly designed
for a sleek fit, with plenty of pockets
and fasteners for equipment.

They provide excellent camouflage
to a designated user, but
if worn by anyone else,
the cloth turns garish neon colors.

You can sneak into their midst,
but if you don't really fit in,
then it's going to be obvious.

What Granny Whammy once wore
is not what she wears now.

She used to wear Army fatigues and
combat boots and an eighty-pound pack,
with a look of determination on her face.

Now she wears dark green pants
with a cream blouse under a camo sweater,
and sometimes on a good day,
the arms of a superkid around her neck.

What the Anathema once wore
is not what he wears now.

He used to wear a black shirt and pants,
his features hidden behind a stretchy black mask
with a white circle over the face.

Now he wears a state-issued zebra suit,
its black fabric striped with reflective white,
just in case he manages to escape.

Qwerty wears hyperlight trail shoes, a utility belt, and
an ankle-length cape of gray capery that's big enough
to roof a lean-to in an emergency. (She knows it is. She's
done that, more than once.) A jumpsuit of navy blue dexflan
hugs her body, the knees and elbows thickened with
leathery krevel armor. It's not pretty, but it's practical.

"Why do you dress like that?"
asks the lady from some society rag that
Qwerty hasn't bothered to learn the name of.
"You have such a pretty face! You could
be beautiful, if only you would take
more pains with your appearance.
So why don't you?"

She is so busy typing something
into her smartphone that she does not
see the grille until she is almost upon it
and has to skid to a graceless stop
lest her stiletto heels get caught in the gaps.

"That's why not," Qwerty says,
the metal singing under her feet.

Dvorak wears low-heeled boots, a utility belt,
and a hip-length cape of white capery
over a catsuit of platinum dexflan
with a round boob window.
A glowing blue ring around
the rim of the boob window
makes the "Power" symbol:

"Why do you dress like that?"
asks the cub reporter dogging her heels
as she stalks through a city park.
"It doesn't look very practical,
so why do you, huh, why do you?"

He is so busy trying to get a snapshot
of her cleavage with his smartphone
that he fails to corner properly
and falls into a fountain.

"That's why," says Dvorak
and keeps on walking.

There are dutiful heroes
and punch-clock villains,
but then there are those
who never seem to log out.

There are fans, too,
some of them with manners
and others without.

Sometimes after a battle,
the superheroes or supervillains
get back to their hiding spots
only to discover the go-bag
with their civvies is missing.

Those are the times when they throw up their hands,
take another spin around the block, stay in character
a little longer, and belt out a few off-key verses of
"Who Put the Overalls In Mrs. Murphy's Chowder ..."

because capes make for capers.

* * *


Masks have many different cultural meanings. A cool mask is part of superhero tradition. There are multiple reasons for wearing a mask, including to protect a secret identity. Super suits reveal a lot about how clothes make the man. Explore a lesson about masks.

Tertiary Sexual Characteristics include hair bows. One reason people use things like this in real life is to avoid misgendering.

People wear uniforms for practical and social reasons. Ideally a uniform will be well suited to the job. This also applies to creating a look with street clothes or stylized clothes. A superhero costume can tell you a lot about personality and tone.

Some fabrics are compatible with superpowers or even convey them.

Institutional clothing is often designed to stand out. Terramagne-America uses reflective strips to make prisoners more conspicuous if they escape.

Capery is a lightweight fabric responsive to super-powers, similar to silk. This is retro-engineered tech. Capery is a rare median between ordinary material and super-gizmos, in that it can be produced by ordinary people but then function on a super scale. Capery is considerably lighter and more billowy than dexflan, but inelastic.

Dexflan is a mediumweight stretchy, clingy fabric responsive to super-powers, similar to spandex. This is retro-engineered tech. Dexflan is a rare median between ordinary material and super-gizmos, in that it can be produced by ordinary people but then function on a super scale. Dexflan is form-fitting in a way that capery cannot be, but it's heavier.

Krevel is a heavyweight leathery material responsive to super-powers, a meta-aramid similar to twaron but far more effective. This is super-gizmology. It provides considerably more protection than dexflan or capery, but is heavier and less flexible. A key advantage is that it blocks most types of attack, instead of specialized defense against only one type such as a bulletproof vest. A known weakness is that certain kinds of penetrating superpower, which may pierce even other defensive powers, also tend to go through krevel; but the force and damage are typically reduced in the process.

A boob window that reveals cleavage is common in many superhero settings. In Terramagne, it took 355 pages of character notes to reach one boob window, and Dvorak essentially uses hers as a weapon. Capes are popular enough in Terramagne to serve as slang for people with superpowers, primarily superheroes and supervillains. Clothes and shoes are feminist issues because of how they often restrict motion, drain resources, and cause injury.

Listen to "Who Put the Overalls In Mrs. Murphy's Chowder."
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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