Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Serpentooth"

This poem came out of the June 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] callibr8 and rix_scaedu. It also fills the "questioning" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


Haidee Phelps was the daughter
of Fritz Phelps, a famous
but bigoted preacher.

Her father was the kind of man
who honored the letter of the law
but broke the spirit of it.

Among other things,
he hated women, gays,
anyone who wasn't white,
and people with superpowers.

Haidee hated the fact
that everyone assumed
she was just like him.

Oh, she was conservative too,
but she was thoughtful about it.

She liked old things better than new things,
and preferred proven methods to innovations
that might or might not actually work.

She kept her shoulders covered
and her knees together.

She just questioned everything.

Haidee wasn't blind; she could see
how helpful superheroes were, and also
how broken supervillains were.

There had to be a better way
of handling that than her father
ranting about how they all belonged
in some kind of super-secure prison.

You'd think he never heard of Argentina.

So when it came time for her dissertation,
Haidee wrote Standing Up to the Bully Pulpit,
which refuted her father's arguments and
listed ways people could work together.

The last thing her father said to her was,
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth
it is to have a thankless child!"
Then he hung up on her.

Her family didn't even show up for
her graduation, but Granny Whammy did,
and Haidee felt pretty sure the little girl
sitting beside her was Dr. Infanta.

None of them said anything,
but they didn't have to.

The newspapers were
full of reviews talking about
how well-researched, well-written,
and ultimately influential her book
was turning out to be.

She had speaking engagements
and other invitations everywhere.

Haidee still felt lonely, because she
was estranged from her birth family
and hadn't managed to replace it yet.

She got complete respect
from supervillains, though.

She was pretty sure they
were the ones who started
calling her Serpentooth.

Haidee looked at the new posters
for the Sankofa clubs that displayed
a supergirl with noise-canceling earphones
and a superboy going to school alongside
the usual boys and girls of various colors
playing together and doing nice things.

Then she saw that someone had taped
a supervillain to the end of the row,
and that's when Haidee decided

that everything had been worth it.

* * *


Haidee Phelps -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair that she usually pins up. Haidee is the daughter of Fritz Phelps, a famous but bigoted preacher. Among other things, he hates women, gays, anyone who isn't white, and people with superpowers. Haidee has written an influential book, Standing Up to the Bully Pulpit, which refutes her father's position. She herself is a thoughtful conservative. She likes old things and proven methods, meeting new ones with caution until tested. She dresses modestly but fashionably, and keeps her knees together. This makes her popular with other conservative girls, although the boys often find her daunting. Many soups adore her, which is how she got the nickname Serpentooth even though she doesn't do cape work. Like Valor's Widow, she gets complete respect even from supervillains. Despite her successes, Haidee is lonely because she is estranged from her birth family and has not yet managed to replace it.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Writer, Good (+2) Antique Collector, Good (+2) Conservative, Good (+2) Influential
Poor (-2) Estranged from Family

* * *

If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!
-- Shakespeare, King Lear Act 1, scene 4, 281–289

Bigoted preachers cause many problems. Learn how to respond to bigotry.

Conservatism is often thought of backwards, but when applied mindfully, can be prudent and positive. Conservatives favor traditional values such as modesty and family -- but they don't all define those the same way.

Questioning covers everything from challenging assumptions to sexual orientation. Terramagne-America generally considers this a healthy activity, but not all subcultures agree. Think about how being curious can help you become wiser.

College is typically considered a four-year project, but in local-America, students now tend to take longer in undergraduate school. Graduate school is customarily presented as one to six years. But I found nothing on how to plan for a college career spanning more than four years. >_< T-America covers that, including an option for expanding your four-year plan if you discover partway through that you need to learn more stuff. In this case, Haidee realized while writing her dissertation that it was an important topic that needed to get published, and she wanted continuing support from her mentors during the publication and launch process. So they adapted her plans to accommodate that.

Graphics for the posters include a boy and girl playing at a sand table, a boy with a globe, a girl with chairs, a boy taking notes, a superhera with noise-canceling headphones, and a superhero going to school. A matching supervillain has been taped onto the end of the row. That was Plucky Girl's doing, by the way. \o/ Sankofa graphics customarily show a wide range of diversity.

Inclusivity means actively welcoming differences, not just putting up with them. Radical inclusivity means embracing people who are usually rejected, and in T-America, one of the examples quickly brought to mind is supervillains. It is the second-most effective way of stopping supervillains, after preventing them in the first place. Fighting with them is sometimes necessary but much less successful. It may stop individual crimes but rarely stops anyone from being a supervillain. Befriending them has pulled many supervillains out of the black. Here are some ways to boost inclusivity.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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