Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Language of Resistance"

This poem is spillover from the April 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chanter_greenie and [personal profile] kelkyag. It also fills the "self-sufficient" square in my 3-16-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Godship Wanderers series, visible on the Serial Poetry page.

"The Language of Resistance"

Netta and Chung-Cha worked together
to help people communicate, splicing
the language of resistance from bits of
English and Yiddish and German
and all the rest spoken by those
who had until recently been slaves.

Henry and Macon managed to gain
a little control over the alien starship
in which they had been imprisoned --
enough to keep the life support on
and to see outside, but not to steer.

They knew where they had come from,
but not how they had gotten
from there to here.

They knew where they were, but not
what it meant in relationship to anywhere else.

They did not know where they were going,
or indeed, places that they might go.

Everyone agreed, however, that
it was better than staying in chains
even if they died for their freedom.

Henry and Chung-Cha figured out
how to work the controls that
dispensed food in the slave chambers,
combining his knowledge of machines
with her tentative grasp of the alien tongue
spoken by those they had come to call Goylómim.

The languages were running together
like drops of ink in a bowl of water, easier
for the children to learn than the adults,
but everyone made an effort.

If they were to be one village,
then they would need one language.

Someday, their children or their grandchildren
would speak the language of resistance as natives.

It was Ezra who found the gardens,
some with unfamiliar plants but others full of
carrots and turnips, white and sweet potatoes.
Testing the alien crops would take time,
but he thought some might prove edible.

The children made a game of listing
names for fruits and vegetables and flowers
in their own languages, with the intent
of naming any new foods approved.

The first one they called mu-kálmes,
from the Korean word for radish
and a Yiddish term for sweetflag,
because of its zesty roots and
its slim emerald leaves.

Food was just one thing that
they needed to become self-sufficient.

Travel was another, for they could not
subsist on a starship forever; they needed
to find a planet which could become
a new homeworld for them.

Nobody really believed that
any of them would see Earth again.

Then one day the ship shivered around them
and they wondered if something had gone wrong,
if they were all about to die.

Netta got a strange look on her face
and began arguing with the air.
"Go away! Leave us alone!" she said.
"I do not care what this ship looks like."

A pause, and then apparently the air replied.

"Oh, them," said Netta. "They are all
dead already. We killed the Goylómim
when we escaped from our chains."

She turned to Henry and explained, "There is ...
a person, another vessel? ... ah, godship,
named Estrella, outside and wrapped
around this starship."

"What? Why?" Henry said, startled.

"She does not like slavers, and
we are in a slaver ship," Netta said.

"If she recognizes this kind of starship,
then maybe she could help us
learn how to work it," Henry said.

"Perhaps a little, but not much," Netta said.
"Estrella wants to know if we would
like to come live inside her."

That required gathering everyone
together to discuss their options.
A few people were tempted, but
most of them wanted to stay
and become self-sufficient.

In learning each other's languages and
evolving a language of their own making,
they had changed not just how they thought
but what they thought about themselves.

Netta dutifully reported this
to the godship, then said, "She is
inviting us to mingle our crews
and see if anyone wants to exchange.
We may have things to trade as well."

The godship had more room, so those
who wanted to visit went there --
which required getting sucked up
a squashy white tube, a process
that none of them enjoyed.

The other ship was strangely beautiful, though,
and full of humans who had been captured
by a completely different group of aliens.
Most of them spoke English or Spanish,
so they were able to communicate.

Henry listened to Bembé explaining about
the Cangrejos with their breakable shells, and
in return he told how to melt the claylike Goylómim
by using electricity against them.

When Ezra mentioned the gardens,
Lur was delighted, because the godship
had managed to salvage very little
human food from the Cangrejos.

Ezra offered up their selection of root crops,
in exchange for some of the broccoli
and mung beans that Lur had.

It also turned out that the mu-kálmes
were a favorite food of the odd little gliders
called Los Salvados who shared the godship with
the humans, which they recognized from legends
but had never tasted before. Pirro and Mirana
trilled happily over the samples.

Between them and the godship Estrella,
they also managed to identify a few other plants
from the alien gardens that could be eaten
by humans or gliders or both.

Ezra learned a great deal about
how to test strange plants for safety
using the equipment on their starship.

Estrella asked one more time if they would
consider joining her crew, but again
they politely declined.

"We want to find a planet of our own,"
Henry explained, "since we don't
know how to get back to Earth."

"She says ... she could carry us?"
Netta said. "I don't see how."

Estrella showed them pictures of herself
wrapped around their captured starship.

Then she offered images of three worlds
within feasible reach which did not
already have sentient life of their own.

One was Earthlike but regrettably
orbited a star given to frequent flares.

One was an icy little exomoon
with a temperate belt at the equator.

One was rather larger than Earth,
covered by shallow seas sprinkled
with archipelagos of many islands,
circling a reddish K class dwarf.

They debated which of the worlds
to choose, because each of them had
its own strengths and weaknesses,
until Estrella pointed out that the third
actually had the most habitable area --
it was just spread out very widely.

That not only convinced them to pick it
but also enticed a few new people
to join their journey, as Estrella's crew
came primarily from Cuba and
other Caribbean islands.

Likewise a handful of their people decided
to stay with Estrella -- mostly those who
spoke English or Spanish and had trouble
learning the language of resistance.

As promised, Estrella carried them
to the new world, which they named Pántáo
or Heavenly Peach for its pinkish sky.

They agreed to stay in touch,
for it was always good to have friends,
particularly in a galaxy where some people
though that stealing other people to sell
was an acceptable profession.

At last Henry and Netta set foot
on the largest of the islands, and
dropped to their knees to kiss the sand.

Ezra took all of three steps before
spying something he thought might
be edible and stopping to take samples.

It was an auspicious beginning.

* * *


Staple foods include carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes.

mu -- Korean for radish

kálmes -- a Yiddish term for sweetflag

Here is a resource of seeds for sprouting. Mung beans are easy to grow and use.

gólem -- a man of clay

Superhabitable planets are not identical to Earth but in some ways better.

Pántáo = heavenly peach</user></user></user>
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, space exploration, weblit, writing
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