Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "All Hopes for a Better World"

This poem is spillover from the March 1, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by comments from [personal profile] capriuni, [personal profile] thnidu, and LJ user Lone_cat regarding "The Conduit for Influence." It also fills the "fear" square in my 2-29-16 card for the Villain Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. The two poems overlap somewhat, but "The Conduit for Influence" is from Ansel's perspective while "All Hopes for a Better World" is from Turq's perspective.

"All Hopes for a Better World"

The memories from the playground
dig into Turq like splinters so that
he can't stop thinking about them.

There are a lot of things that
he can't stop thinking about,
and these are less awful than
most of the rest, so Turq
lets them do their thing.

He remembers hearing Ansel
tell a story about a blue deer
to a little boy at least as
skittish as Turq himself.

On the one hand, Turq feels
uneasy over anyone talking
about him -- he hadn't even
known before this that Ansel
had spotted him browsing
amongst the rosebushes.

On the other hand, it's nice
to hear superpowers spoken of
as normal, instead of something
to be afraid of and fight over.

He remembers watching
the man and the woman
come to pick up the little boy,
how quiet and gentle they were
until the toddler slipped out
of his blanket into her lap.

It makes Turq recall
his own foster parents,
the ones he still secretly
thinks of as his parents.

He remembers Dao teaching him
first aid and how to take care of his body,
which is maybe the only reason Turq can
make any sense of the stupid thing.

He remembers the time he got lost --
really lost, not running away from home --
and Mingxia believed him. She hadn't
yelled or hit him. She'd taken him down
to the bus station and bought him a map
and started teaching him about the routes.
That was why he had known how to buy
a bus ticket to Bluehill after his escape.

He wonders how Mingxia's baby is doing,
who was so small and so sick when Turq
had to leave. He still wishes that he could
have stayed, but he understands why they
sent him away. They always did their best
to make sure that he had what he needed.

But that was then and this is now,
and Turq is a long way away from
the only place he thought of as home.

Nothing can ever be the same again --
even if he could somehow find his way
back to his family, he couldn't bear
for them to see him like this.

Turq is broken, and
he knows that he's broken.

Sometimes he can feel
the pieces of himself
shifting around inside.

It hurts when they move,
like the grinding of broken bones,
a pain with which he is intimately
and inescapably familiar.

This is, Turq thinks,
one of the reasons why he
seeks out Ansel so much: because
things hurt a little less around him,
like buttoning a hand into a sweater
to make a broken arm feel better.

Maybe he can start to heal.

So Turq follows Ansel around town,
trying to get close enough for it to work
but also trying to stay out of his way.

It's scary, but at the same time,
it's so tempting. He can't resist.

Turq watches the pink-haired policeman
chatting with people and picking up litter,
taking lessons at the True Blue bikeshare
and just generally being a stand-up guy.

It's so easy for Ansel that sometimes
it's hard for Turq to watch him.

Turq is afraid that he's forgotten
most of what he learned about
manners, or worse, all the things
he never had the time to learn that
people expect him to know anyhow.

He's always afraid of something, these days.

Still he remembers the playground
across from the police station, and
even though the other cops scare him,
he's not really afraid of Ansel anymore.

The playground is safe, and quiet when
it's not full of kids running all over it,
and there are plenty of places to hide.

Sometimes Turq just lies there and
tries to recall the sound of Ansel's voice
and the feel of his fingers stroking through
Turq's fur, because Ansel has to work
and Turq can't follow him indoors.

Then comes the day when the weather
is so fucking cold that the wind cuts
right through him, and Turq abandons
his fears and his dignity alike to huddle
against the warm wall of Ansel's body.

Turq doesn't turn down the hot pear cider.

He doesn't turn down the job offer, either.

Ansel wants help cleaning the foyer
of his garage, and Turq needs the money
and desperately hopes he'll find some of
the mismatched winter clothing that Ansel
swears always shows up in a cleaning.

But the door opens into a black space
like a cave, and Turq feels so terrified
that he can't take a single step toward
that hole just waiting to swallow him.

Then Ansel flicks a switch inside
and warm, buttery light fills the space.

Turq can see a corner of office now,
with a big brown leather couch in it, and
when he creeps forward under the deck,
another door gives a glimpse of the garage.

"I've opened all the doors, so you can
get out from any direction," Ansel says.
"If you get turned around and dodge into
the office by mistake, don't worry, it has
two doors, one to the foyer and one to
the garage. Both the garage doors are up."

"Okay," Turq squeaks, even though
he feels anything but okay.

"So you get the cubby by the door,"
Ansel said. "I have scrub brushes and
a bucket of soapy water here. Usually
it's easier to brush off as much dry mud
as possible, then use the water on the rest.
After that, we'll finish up with furniture polish."

Turq nods, his throat too dry to speak.

Stepping over the threshold
is the hardest thing that he
has done in recent memory.

Ansel grins and hands him a brush.

The wooden handle is smooth and sturdy
under Turq's grip, and the stiff bristles
make short work of the mud dried
on the floor below the cubby.

It's not as bad as Turq expected,
when he can look over at the door
standing open, and thank goodness
that it's not as cold in the garage
as it is outside in the wind.

Ansel begins telling some story
about Boots as a kitten chasing
a butterfly and getting into trouble.
It reminds Turq of the playground
and how Ansel told stories to
the little boy to keep him calm.

When the floor is as clean
as it's going to get, Turq starts
lifting things off of hooks and shelves.
There are boots, coats, hats, scarves,
gloves, mittens, and other random stuff.

"Let's try to match up the pairs," Ansel says.
So they pile up all the boots, gloves,
and mittens from both cubbies.

All of the boots match, but
not all of the gloves and mittens.

There are tough winter gloves,
waterproof on the outside with
thermal insulation on the inside,
but still thin enough that they aren't
too clumsy to wear. One of them is
solid black, the other black-blue-white.

There are mittens knitted of thick wool,
easily big enough to stretch over the gloves.
One of them is red with blue and gray designs;
the other is black with gray and white designs.

"These don't match," Turq says to Ansel,
holding up the four orphaned items.

"All yours if you want them," Ansel confirms,
and gives him a grocery bag to put them in.

Turq sets to work with renewed energy,
brushing the mud away from the walls
and shelves that make up the cubby.

Ansel starts in on a new story about
someone called John Henry, and it
reminds Turq of how his foster father Dao
would tell tales of the Eight Immortals
to distract Turq while taking care
of skinned knees and elbows.

The cubby is still so dusty that
it makes Turq's eyes water.

He wets the brush to scrub
everything more thoroughly,
leaning into the work so that
Ansel won't regret hiring him.

Eventually Ansel says, "Good enough,
now let's look over the coats and stuff
while we wait for the wood to dry."

"Okay," Turq says. He has no idea
what Ansel is looking for, but he
obediently helps to sort through
the pile of warm, heavy fabric.

"Here," Ansel says presently,
holding out a hat. "This doesn't
belong to me or to Janie."

The inevitable unclaimed hat turns out to be
a hunter's cap with ear flaps and long strings
knitted from thick wool in several colors,
probably a box-bottom project, and lined
with fake fur. It is neither waterproof
nor dignified, but it is very warm.

"Thank you," says Turq. "There are
five coats in my pile. What do you
want me to do with them?"

"Five?" says Ansel. "There should
be four -- two lighter jackets and
two heavier ones. The raincoats
are in my cubby, and we haven't
taken out our winter coats yet."

Now that Turq knows what to look for,
he can easily identify Ansel's jackets
and Janie's jackets. "Who's this from?"
he asks, holding out the fifth one.

Ansel laughs. "Oh, that's one of
Jasper's patch jackets," he says.
"That guy is so forgetful, he leaves
his stuff all over town. Have it if
you want it; he must have made
another for himself by now. He
likes to find battered old clothes
and fix them up like that."

Turq examines the jacket in
his grasp more closely. The shell
is tough gray-green canvas that seems
waterproof, its tattered sleeves patched
with several shades of blue denim. Inside,
the removable liner is made of thick flannel
backed with some kind of insulating fiber.

He rubs a thumb over the patches,
remembering how Janie had mended
his jeans after he ripped them.

"Yeah, this is great," Turq says.

It's hard to imagine having enough
that he wouldn't care if he lost his coat --
but then another memory flares up,
sharp and bright, of going out with
Mingxia to drop off outgrown clothes
at a charity, then going to a store
to buy some replacements.

"Turq? Are you okay?" Ansel says.

Those words and a soft hand on
his forearm startle Turq out
of the reverie. "Yeah."

"The wood should be dry enough
for us to put the polish on," says Ansel.

"Okay," Turq says, holding out a hand
for the spray bottle and the rag
that Ansel is offering him.

The polish smells so strongly of pine
that Turq can't smell anything else,
and that scares him, because he
relies so much on his nose
to warn him of trouble.

The door is open, though, and
before long a brisk gust of wind
eddies around the corner and
sweeps away the smell, bringing
the muddy scent of the lake and
wisps of delicious smoke from
the neighbor's barbecue pit.

Turq hurries to finish the job,
but he doesn't skimp on it.

As soon as he's done,
he scrambles outside and
takes deep, cleansing breaths
of the cold autumn air.

Ansel follows, lazily swinging
the grocery bag stuffed full of
gloves and mittens and hat.

"Don't you want your coat?"
he says, holding out a handful
of gray-green canvas. "It's cold out."

Gratefully Turq shrugs into the coat,
which feels even warmer than it looks.

One of the pockets crinkles.

Ansel had promised to pay him
for the work, and had also said
that it would be rude to count
pocket money in front of people.

Turq realizes that he doesn't worry
about how much money is in
the envelope he can feel.

He trusts that it's the right amount.

That is new, or not new exactly,
but old and half-forgotten and something
he hadn't ever expected to rediscover. Trust.

His eyes are watering again,
even though there isn't any dust.

Turq remembers the little boy
diving into his mother's lap, then
the man holding them both,
and misses his own family,
suddenly and fiercely.

"Hey," Ansel says, one hand
coming up to clasp Turq's shoulder.

It is enough, just enough,
to fold Turq against him with
longing and loneliness.

Ansel doesn't grab him or anything
like that, only gives a gentle squeeze
of fingers on shoulder and lets
Turq lean against his chest.

"You know, there are basically two things
that drive us, fear and love," says Ansel.
"Fear makes us pull back from life and
the people around us. Love gives us
the courage to open up and reach out.
So we have to love and accept ourselves
first, warts and all, before we can connect
with anyone else. That's what teaches
us to be gentle with each other and
embrace all hopes for a better world."

Turq listens, and remembers what
it was like to live in a world where
he could believe things like that, and
not feel as if he's trying to breathe
through broken ribs as he does so.

He misses that hopeful innocence,
one more thing he's lost along the way.

He wants it back. He doesn't know
how to get from here to there, or
what he might do with himself
if he actually succeeded,

but he wants it.

* * *


Jasper Cornwall -- He has fair skin and green eyes. His curly auburn hair hangs past his ears, and he has a full beard and mustache. Jasper lives in Bluehill and is friends with Janie Newcastle and Ansel Nicholson. He works odd jobs, mostly making or mending things. He is quite good at repairing clothes and toys, or finding cheap solutions to problems. This makes him popular with Bluehill's bohemian crowd. Because he's so absent-minded, though, he winds up leaving stray items all over town. Usually he just makes himself another of whatever he has lost.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bohemian, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Generous, Good (+2) Kind-hearted Man, Good (+2) Making and Mending Things, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Poor (-2) Absent-minded

* * *

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
John Lennon

Memory is complex, and old memories can be reactivated by sounds, smells, sights, or other things. State-dependent memory relates to many factors, including emotions, so for instance it's easier to recall sad memories when you feel sad. Now that Turq is feeling happy sometimes, he's starting to remember more about the foster family he loves. Among the best way to let go of painful memories is to create new ones that will last.

Feeling broken is a common result of abuse. It's okay to be broken when something terrible has happened, and in fact, one of the things that trauma survivors need most is acceptance from people around them. Some things may never heal fully, but people can usually learn to work around the scars. There are ways to cope with feeling broken and with loving a broken person.

Ansel lives in a small cabin by a lake. The lower level has a garage with a shop area, foyer, and office. The upper level has a bathroom, kitchen/dining room, living room, and bedroom.

There are two of these mud cubbies built into the foyer of the garage: one in the corner right next to the outside door, and one inside the bend of the staircase. They are very convenient to use and do a great job of organizing stuff. However, they get messy fast, and Ansel hates cleaning them because it's such a fussy task with all those little shelves and spaces.

Ansel's office has a leather couch and loveseat along with a tapestry rocking chair around a large square coffee table. His desk and its chair are along the inside garage wall, not visible in this picture. The carpet is short tan-and-gray pile. One stone wall has been plastered over, but the other has been left bare and features a stone bench, fireplace, and entertainment center.

Trauma triggers usually come from sensory input. They can have a huge impact on someone's life. There are ways to cope with flashbacks caused by triggers. Friends can help a trauma survivor feel safe and support them through flashbacks. Among the most helpful things is simply highlighting differences between safe space now and hazards of the past.

These are tough winter gloves, waterproof on the outside with thermal insulation on the inside, but still thin enough that they aren't too clumsy to wear. One is solid black, the other black-blue-white.

These are thick wool mittens, big enough to fit over the gloves. One is red with blue and gray designs; the other is black with gray and white designs.

John Henry is a famous folk figure of a steel driver.

The Eight Immortals are figures from Chinese legend.

The inevitable unclaimed hat turns out to be knitted from thick wool in several colors, probably a box-bottom project, and lined with fake fur. Not very dignified, and not waterproof, but it is very warm.

Here is Turq's patched field jacket. The outside is heavy, waterproof canvas. It has a removable liner made of thick flannel backed with thermal insulating fibers.

Some people prefer repairing to replacing clothes. Learn about sewing on patches and other forms of repair.

Trust develops gradually during a relationship. Turq is starting to feel safe with Ansel, and that makes it possible to push other limits. However, trauma survivors sometimes have difficulty identifying trust, and may notice it only in retrospect. There are ways to know if someone is trustworthy and to recognize a true friend.

Trauma recovery goes through various phases and steps. Turq is still struggling, but far enough along now that he's starting to regain some of the ground that he's lost. Here is a whole workbook on the topic.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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