WARNING: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes dysfunctional family dynamics, emotional incest, destructive handling of intellectual differences, some references to lingering damage from same, struggles with self-image, and other mayhem. But the ending is more positive because the protagonist has found a much better situation now. If these are sensitive matters for you, please consider your taste and headspace before clicking through.
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I never have listened
to what people said
of what I should want
or should dream
or should be.
My hands are woodcocks
roosting at the ends of my arms,
the wings with which my mind flies
and cannot keep still for long.
Mother, you never wanted me,
you only wanted a girl who
never was born.
The future that you try so hard
to fold around me itches
and doesn't fit.
You locked me in barren rooms
because the world was too much for me.
I spent the summers of my childhood
hiding in attics, keeping company with
the journals kept by my ancestors --
the women who wrote the programs
that carried us to the stars, the ones
who taught the students who
designed our first colonies.
They sacrificed so much
so that I could be where I am.
Our new world is so close,
I can taste it, and I'm so tired of
being told not to lick what is delicious.
I'm tired of being told not to touch
what cries out for my fingertips,
garments struggling to emerge
from skeins of yarn and bolts
of cloth stacked helplessly
on shelves gathering dust.
Our new world is full of treasures
we're only beginning to find.
You said I was lazy;
you said I was dull;
you swore that I would
never amount to much.
I like to think that you didn't know
how much damage you were doing,
how dangerous it was to shut me
away from myself like you did.
You smothered my senses
and then disapproved when
I used my imagination to escape
the jail you had made.
You complained of my games
and my fantasy plans, told me
to focus on finding a man, but
that's not what I wanted
and not what I have.
They were unicorn futures
you said when I left you,
tired of being the burden
slung over your back.
You said it, but it never was so.
Our new world is right here,
so small I can hold it
like a seed in my hand,
the way Sam the Gardener
is learning to grow food.
It's so soft I can spin it
from lint into sweater,
the way Weavercreep
has shown me how to do,
and our people need spinners
and sweaters now the supply lines
have all changed their names.
I have a new name, too, Mother --
they call me Shuttlecock here and
they don't complain when my hands
fly around my words even if you clipped
my fingers so often I've almost forgotten
what it's like to fly free.
I can look at the others around me
and see the shapes of those memories.
Someday I'll recover my whole wingspan,
you'll see, flying in the Lacuna between
these far strange stars of home.
It doesn't matter that I'll never live to see
the full flower of the society we're building.
I can turn scraps from waste into
raw materials, and sew the uniforms
that the starship crews will wear.
I can saddle dreams like unicorns
and ride them as far as
my time will tell.
I have a journal of my own now.
When I'm done, I'll throw it
to the next girl down the line
and tell her to trust her finger-wings
and believe in unicorn futures.
I don't care that the future I have
and the one you wanted for me
look nothing alike at all.
The future was never something
for you to own, anyway.
* * *
This poem was partly prompted by the song "Somebody Will" by Ada Palmer.
(Some of these links are harsh.)
Dysfunctional families may have many different problems. One example is emotional incest, such as parents trying to live vicariously through a child. There are ways to overcome a dysfunctional childhood.
Hand flapping is an important form of self-expression, self-regulation, and communication for many autistic people. Watch a video about hand flapping. (The next link is ouchy.) The "quiet hands therapy" to suppress it is so destructive that autistic people have started a "loud hands" movement instead. Here you can see that Shuttlecock has a hard time with emotional regulation and expression because her efforts were stifled instead of supported.
Sensory overload is an issue for many neurovariant people. There are simulations for neurotypical people to help them understand what it's like. Sometimes a reduction in stimulation can really help. (This next link is ugly too.) Unfortunately some people apply that in abusive ways.
Licking things is another autistic behavior which causes concern, practical as well as social.
Parents may see their disabled children as a burden, not just emotionally but in many concrete ways too. Autistic people understandably resent this.
A shuttlecock is a piece of sport equipment made from a weight and a skirt of feathers or other material. Although used in many games, it may be best known as the thing batted around in badminton. Shuttle also touches on references to weaving and other fibercrafts. It's a general reference to going back-and-forth with something.