Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Confusing to the Ear"

This poem is spillover from the April 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl, but it has its roots in several discussions on [personal profile] dialecticdreamer's blog about characters with disabilities including "Disability On Screen" and "Future Illness and Ableism." The prompt from [personal profile] capriuni about Claudius I is actually under "Prompts Open for April 2016." [personal profile] technoshaman prompted for Granny Whammy in my fishbowl. It also fills the "living legend" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] capriuni. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: This poem discusses disability and discrimination, along with Granny Whammy's muleheaded stance that everyone with superpowers ought to be a superhero. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Confusing to the Ear"

Granny Whammy enjoyed taking
time to look through history in search
of possible soups from the past.

Today she had company in
the form of Valor's Widow,
another avid historian with
an interest in superpowers.

"I think Claudius I of Rome
may have been a Super-Intellect,"
said Granny Whammy, her finger
pointing out a block of text. "It says
that although his speech was
confusing to the ear and people
underestimated him, he made
many astute arguments and
solved a lot of problems."

Valor's Widow leaned over to look.
"You think that his physical disabilities
obscured his mental gifts," she said.

"It seems likely," said Granny Whammy.
"His plans made it possible for Rome to
conquer Britannia, the first time the Empire
reached beyond continental Europe."

"We can put Claudius I on the list of
possible soups," Valor's Widow said,
making a note on her tablet computer.

"He would have made a great superhero,"
Granny Whammy said with sigh.

"He would have made a terrible superhero,"
said Valor's Widow, frowning at her.
"He made a great politician."

"Politicians," Granny Whammy snorted.
"Bunch of snooty old fools arguing over
how to run the country into the ground."

"Helen, not everyone is cut out for combat,
and that's a good thing," said Valor's Widow.
"You need to leave room for that, and you
don't always remember to do so. Otherwise
you'd wind up doing the jobs you hate, like
politics -- I know people keep asking you."

"Never gonna happen," Granny Whammy said.

"I know, and that's probably for the best,"
said Valor's Widow. "So if you don't want
to do it yourself, you need to let other folks
develop their skills in that direction."

"Can't teach what I don't know,"
said Granny Whammy. "I know how
to be a superhera, how to fight the good fight."

"So delegate," said Valor's Widow. "I know it's
confusing, but you have plenty of volunteers,
and SPOON could be a lot more than it is.
It could reach a lot more people."

"You mean supervillains," said Granny Whammy.

"I mean supervillains, blue-plate specials,
crickets -- everyone not optimally covered
by the current offerings," said Valor's Widow.

"They talk to you," said Granny Whammy.

"They do," said Valor's Widow. "I could
make some suggestions, based on that input."

"I'll think about it," Granny Whammy said.

* * *


Granny Whammy -- Helen Laguardia was Whammy Lass in her youth, one of the first really famous superheroes. She served in World War II. She has olive skin and brown eyes. Her wavy hair was black, and is now white. As Granny Whammy, she runs the Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus.
Origin: Always a big strong girl, she came into her superpower at puberty.
Uniform: Whammy Lass served in the army and wore camo fatigues. Granny Whammy customarily wears dark green pants with a cream or white blouse, often with a camo-patterned sweater or vest on top.
Qualities: Master (+6) Commanding Respect, Master (+6) Wisdom of Experience, Expert (+4) Organizational Skills, Expert (+4) Stubborn, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Armor, Good (+2) Soup HIstory
Poor (-2) No Longer a Spring Chicken
Powers: Good (+2) Strength
Motivation: Use the right tool for the job.

Valor's Widow -- Deirdre Braden has milk-pale skin and wavy auburn hair. Her eyes have changed from hazel to glas, sea-color lit with sorrow. She has a slender, delicate build. Superheroes and supervillains alike respect her and stand aside for her. They are coming to her more and more often for help resolving disputes or other problems. Deirdre lives in San Jose.
Origin: Deirdre was the wife of Captain Valor. When Haxxor planted a bomb in San Jose and took over Captain Valor's gizmotronic armor, Deidre activated a failsafe and destroyed the armor, killing both Captain Valor and Haxxor. The sacrifice changed her from an ordinary woman to a supernary hera.
Uniform: Deidre dresses all in black, in sober styles. Sometimes she wears a black veil too.
Qualities: Master (+6) Aura of Valor, Master (+6) Loyalty to Honor, Expert (+4) Love of Captain Valor, Expert (+4) Historian, Expert (+4) Leader, Expert (+4) Mediation, Good (+2) Compassionate, Good (+2) Contacts Among Soups, Good (+2) Forethought, Good (+2) Graceful
Poor (-2) Broken Heart
Motivation: To keep the peace and uphold the memory of Captain Valor.

* * *

Claudius I made many accomplishments, despite his physical and social challenges. People often overlook parts of his life.

"It is likely that Claudius had the congenital physical impairment known today as cerebral palsy. This affected his ability to walk. This impairment is very common for survivors of this condition." [...]
"He also had a speech impairment. Lucius Annaeus Seneca sometimes known as Senecathe Younger (Stoic philosopher, dramatist, politician, money lender and teacher) (c. 4 BCE - 65 CE), makes a mocking reference to his speech in the play Apocolocyntosis DiviClaudii / The Pumpkinification of Claudius: "They did not understand his reply because his voice was disturbing and confusing to the ear [...] His tongue was not intelligible - notGreek was he, nor Roman, nor of any noted race [...]"
-- Emperor Claudius I: the man, his physical impairment, and reactions to it by Keith Armstrong

"Later Claudius was to write a history of the Etruscans in twenty books, in Greek; a history of the Carthaginians in eight books also in Greek; a history of the Roman state since 31 BCE in forty-one books and his own biography in eight books. None of Claudius' books have survived."
(In Terramagne, fourteen of these are known to have survived: the first volume of the Etruscans, the last volume of the Carthaginians, four of the Roman ones, and all eight of the autobiography.)
-- Emperor Claudius I: the man, his physical impairment, and reactions to it by Keith Armstrong

Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by damage to a child's developing brain before (usually), during, or immediately after (rarely) birth. Brain damage can cause a vast range of physical or cognitive effects; CP is characterized primarily by muscular impairments such as tremors or paralysis. Here is part of our discussion about the possible overlap with cognitive impairments, and the importance of maximizing people's mental opportunities. Coping with CP offers techniques for living a more enriched life. There are tips for parents and friends of people with CP. Adults with CP may need some special arrangements to function, but many enjoy productive lives.

It's important to let people be themselves, and avoid pushing your expectations on them. This creates a good workplace or other organization. People with superpowers have a very wide range of cultures and standards, making it difficult to include representation for everyone. You can see the difference just between Granny Whammy (who thinks in terms of duties and institutions) and Valor's Widow (who thinks in terms of connections and negotiations).

Diversity has a variety of benefits and challenges. Here are some tips and activities for supporting diversity.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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