Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Changing the Conversation"

This poem is spillover from the December 6, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron and [personal profile] lone_cat. It also fills the "Gives You Hell" square in my 12-1-16 card for the iPod Shuffle Music Fest, and the "frighten" square in my 11-1-16 card for the Fall Festival Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Calliope thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Two trans characters, Hyperspaceman and Calliope, struggle to shut down wayward equipment in a mad science lab following a well-planned raid. In the process, Hyperspaceman travels from Terramagne to local-Earth, observes the racist and transphobic political situation, and comes back with a full-blown panic attack. Emotional First Aid ensues. The temporary connection, and the dissonance between T-America and L-America, may be unsettling for some readers. Also, this poem is dated November 2016, which sets it considerably later than most of the content. There's a hint of Calliope and Vagary being in better tune. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Changing the Conversation"


Calliope answered an emergency call
from SPOON to cope with a lab incident.

A planned raid on a supervillain lair
had gone great, with fluent teamwork
between superheroes and police, until
they realized that the mad scientist hadn't
shut down his equipment properly and
now it was creating vortex problems.

So Calliope wrestled with the writhing air
and tried to keep it somewhat contained, while
Hyperspaceman helped the super-gizmologists
deal with the spinning whirlpool of doom that kept
snaking out pieces of itself like a hydra's heads.

Hyperspaceman finally managed to hit one
of them straight on, disappeared briefly, and
then reappeared through another. Both of
the tentacle-tubes collapsed into thin air.

"It's a dimensional portal," he said.
"It's also unstable -- if I travel through it,
I can steer under my own power, and that
collapses the structure. Don't let anyone else
try it, though, they might not come back."

"Roger that," said the techs, and
then passed the word up the line.

"Be careful," Calliope said. "You're
a good friend and a great soup --
I don't want to lose you, Hype."

"You won't," said Hyperspaceman.
"Also, I have a working hypothesis about
why we're getting mini-tornadoes in here:
it's the pressure differential between
this dimension and the other side."

"That makes sense," Calliope said.
"Okay, I'll be ready for the surges
when you collapse the tubes."

That kept her busy, but at least it was
easier now that she had some idea
what caused the turbulence and
when it would spike or drop.

The vortex grew smaller and weaker
as each pair of tentacles collapsed.

The pauses in transit got longer, though,
stretching from instant to seconds to minutes,
which made Calliope worry more about Hype.

"We're almost done," said one of the techs.
"A little more and we'll have this thing
small enough to drown in the bathtub."

Just then Hyperspaceman stumbled
out of a tube, crashed into Calliope,
and then clung to her like she was
a life preserver in a tidal wave.

Behind him, the paired portals
popped out of existence, which
left only the motherlode and
two pathetic little threads.

Calliope held onto Hyperspaceman
with her left hand, raised her right hand
to fingerspell E-F-A, then pointed down at him.

One of the support crew darted out the door,
hopefully in search of the first aid crew,
while the techs buckled down on the vortex.

"I can't go back," Hype gasped.
"It was awful. I won't go back."

"Okay, you're done for the day,"
Calliope said, stroking his back.
"We'll find someone else to finish
closing the rest of the portals."

"We don't need to," said a tech.
"Hyperspaceman cut it down to size.
We can finish the job on the console."

"See, it's all taken care of," Calliope said.
"Do you want to tell me what happened,
or would you rather not talk about it?"

Hyperspaceman dug his fingernails into
Calliope's back, but she didn't protest.
"I was jumping from one dimension to
another, and the longer the lagtime got,
the more I started looking around for
landmarks, you know, in case I ever
went back to the same place."

"That sounds like a good plan,"
Calliope said cautiously. "So
what went wrong with it?"

"That last one -- there was --"
Hyperspaceman hiccupped a sob.
"It was such a mess. I checked the news,
because it's easy to gauge location if you
can pin down divergent events. They had
refugees spewing everywhere. One country
just elected an internet troll as the president!"
He shuddered in Calliope's grasp.

"How awful," she said.
"No wonder you're so upset.
I wouldn't want to go there either!"

"That wasn't the worst of it,"
said Hyperspaceman. "Yeah,
it was bad, but I could've coped.
Then I hit this list of nasty quotes
about transfolk and I just -- I couldn't
cope with that. So I punched through
early and took the rough trip instead."

"Oh," Calliope said. "Oh, buddy,
it's okay now, you're home safe.
We know you're a real man, and
anyone who says otherwise
is just a gigantic dick."

Most of his family, for starters,
but good friends made up for them.

"I know," said Hyperspaceman.
"That whole dimension was like
one giant bottom-ten country.
It's still hard to talk about.
It hit too close to home."

"Sometimes this job really
gives you hell, doesn't it?"
Calliope said. "It's hard
to talk about it, but if we
don't, things stay the same."

"Yeah, I guess," he replied,
though he didn't seem convinced.

"Just being alive, being together,
and supporting each other is an act of
defiance when people want us not to exist,"
Calliope said. "So when we speak up, then
we thwart their goals. We take the world
in a new direction, a better one. We are
changing the conversation right now."

"Thanks, Cal," said Hyperspaceman.
"You always make me see things
in a different light. It helps."

"I'm glad to hear that," she said.

That's when the Emotional First Aide
arrived with a yellow Microfyne blanket
and a comfort doll of blue flannel.

Hyperspaceman stopped squashing
Calliope and took hold of the doll instead.

The vortex finally collapsed with
a flatulent noise and a blast of wind,
which Calliope quickly muffled.

The super-gizmologists burst into cheers.

Hyperspaceman started crying, probably
from relief, and the Emotional First Aide
led him toward the staircase.

Calliope flopped into a chair
and put her head in her hands.
It had been a rough day, and she
hoped that Hyperspaceman would be
okay, but she was pretty fried herself.

Turning her attention inward, she
touched the link that connected her
with Vagary, just to remind herself
that it was still there and she was
here in her home dimension where
things might be dicey for transfolk
on occasion, but mostly it was okay.

A world where even a supervillain
saw her as a real woman.

Calliope felt his ripple of concern
and tried to reassure him that she
was fine, but he wasn't fooled.

Well, all right then. They could
both go to the Blue Spruce and
drown the horrors under a cup
of strawberry frozen yogurt
topped with lots of walnuts.

Plan in mind, Calliope sent
a vmail message to Vagary
telling him to meet her, and then
logged herself off-duty with SPOON.

Outside, the autumn air was clear
and crisp. Hyperspaceman waved
to her from where he was sitting on
the back bumper of an ambulance.
He looked considerably better.

Calliope spared a moment's gratitude
for having such good teamwork and EFA.

Then she took flight with a flick of her mind.

* * *

Notes:

Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope comes from Oklahoma; the father's family is Greek-American, while the mother's family is American. Calliope has light olive skin with gray eyes and short hair in shades of lighter and darker blond. Cal is demiromantic demisexual. She speaks English, Greek, and Esperanto.
Origin: Sucked into a tornado.
Uniform: Feminine-styled costume of dexflan and capery in dusty shades of pink, blue, lavender, and cream.
Qualities: Good (+2) Consideration, Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Handiwork, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Word Puzzles
Poor (-2) Distractible
Powers: Expert (+4) Air Powers (meta-power including Flight, Phasing, Sonic Blast, Tornado Straws, Whirlwind, Windtalking), Average (0) Empathy, Average (0) Shapeshifting
Vulnerability: Air Powers are opposed by Earth Powers. Some Air abilities do not work on an Earth-powered opponent, and vice versa, typically those meant to affect a person directly. Others gain an upshift on damage, typically attacks.
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope. As the power improves, additional shapes may be gained.
Motivation: Self-discovery.

Hyperspaceman "Hype" (Dennis Després) -- He has fair skin, gray-green eyes, and short wavy brown hair. Hexagonal dot-matrix tattoos cover most of his left shoulder. Dennis was born female (and named Denise), but eventually he became uncomfortable and sought the help of a healer for sexual realignment service. He has a daughter, who was born during his female years. He still has the "tiger stripes" from that pregnancy and refuses to give them up.
Hyperspaceman's superpower allows him to bend time and space, so it can act as Super-Speed, Teleportation, etc. He can even route a vehicle around obstacles by morphing the route. He is often called "Hype" for short. Between the superhero work and the sex change, his family life is a mess; only his daughter really loves him for who he is instead of resenting him for abandoning the expected motherly role. Also, Hyperspaceman is struggling to adapt his work at SPOON to accommodate the new abilities, but hasn't yet developed a new specialty based on transit.
Origin: Dennis used to volunteer as a dispatcher for SPOON at a small office. One day a supervillain bombed the office. He woke up clear across the country without a scratch on him, no memory of exactly what happened, and superpowers.
Uniform: His work uniform consists of navy blue dexflan thickened with leathery krevel armor at knees and elbows, piped with silver and with silver threads through the main fabric. Off-duty he wears men's clothes and likes to leave his shoulders bare.
Qualities: Good (+2) Climbing, Good (+2) De-Escalation, Good (+2) Dispatcher, Good (+2) Doll Collector, Good (+2) Existential Intelligence
Poor (-2) Family Dynamics
Powers: Master (+6) Timespace Warp
Limitation: The consensus timespace continuum has a very weak grip on Hyperspaceman. This means he has a poor sense of navigation, so he needs adaptive equipment with a compass, GPS, and map functions. It also means that if he's distracted, sometimes he bends spacetime without meaning to do so, making it easy for other people to lose track of where he is, or even where they are.
Motivation: To gain acceptance.

* * *

“Trans women supporting and loving each other is a revolutionary act… We are changing the conversation right now.”
Laverne Cox

Fingerspelling is used in various sign languages; it's handy for acronyms.  American Sign Language uses the American manual alphabet as shown in this guide.

Transphobia is an irrational fear and hatred of gender-variant people. Donald Trump's statements indicate that he despises the entire QUILTBAG. This makes survival more precarious for an already-threatened group. Understand how to deal with transphobia and fight against it.

Emotional injuries benefit from prompt care to reduce the chance of turning into serious problems. Know the basics of emotional first aid for yourself and others. You can also make an emotional first aid kit full of comfort items.

This is Hyperspaceman's comfort doll. Stuffed animals, dolls, and other toys are used to soothe upset children and adults. In T-America, emergency services customarily carry these. Here are some patterns for knitting comfort dolls. Waldorf dolls are good for this purpose because those meant for toddlers are soft and squashy. They sell kits, such as this flannel one, to make your own. You can also buy them.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, politics, reading, weblit, writing
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