Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Bulletproof"

This poem is spillover from the July 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "gay" 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 Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains historical atrocities which many readers may find disturbing. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features the Holocaust, acts of genocide, the Schutzstaffel, mass murder, loss of families, yellow stars, ghettos, a gay man and a straight woman getting married and raising a family together, some awkward family dynamics, gay-related bashing, unplanned (but welcome) lesbian pregnancy, and other challenges. But the good guys mostly win. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read. It is not a plot-relevant part of extant storylines, just an interesting piece of Terramagne history.


Zeph Cavanagh grew up
traveling around Europe
with his merchant family.

When the war broke out,
the Schutzstaffel caught them
in a raid with hundreds of others,
marched them to a pit in the woods,
and opened fire with machine guns.

Everyone died except for Zeph.

He climbed out of a killing pit
wearing nothing but rags,
spent shells falling off of
his body like leaden rain.

When the stunned Schutzstaffel
stammered, "What -- what are you?"

he replied, "I'm your worst nightmare:
a bulletproof Jew." Then he killed them.

Zeph went to the places where
his family had stashed things
in case of emergency: gold and
papers and medical supplies.

There was no one else
to need them now but him,
so he took them all.

Zeph dressed up in
a three-piece suit with
a greatcoat thrown over it.

He did not wear the yellow star
or any of the triangles that the Nazis
would have pinned upon him, but
his identities were written within
his words and deeds anyway.

He was a lover of other men
and a hater of German regime.
He was a traveling merchant and
an intellectual -- and, of course, a Jew.

He was also bulletproof.

Zeph joined the Resistance
everywhere he found it, wending
his way through Europe in war
as he had in peace.

He brought supplies
and carried messages,
staged great escapes and
killed all the Nazis he could.

The Bulletproof Jew terrified them.

Once he arrived, few of them
survived to tell the tale, so all
they had to go on were rumors of
a redheaded Jew who could not
be killed with any weapon.

He walked through gunfire
and falling shells, unflappable,
as bricks rained down around him.

Occasionally, the Nazis realized it
in time and ran away, but most of them
could not conceive of an Übermensch
who was more super than they were,
who was half Irish and half Jew
and almighty wrath.

Zeph killed them as calmly
as he did everything else.

In Poland he helped to rescue
the last group of Jews from a ghetto
before they could be shipped away
to a concentration camp.

One of the girls clung to him
and refused to leave. "I have
nowhere else to go. There is
no one left. The Nazis have
already taken my family away.
All I have left is to fight."

"All right," said Zeph,
and gave her a gun.

Her name was Chava.
He knew she was beautiful,
although he felt no lust for her body.
He came to admire her quick wit and
her deadly competence in battle.

Together they traveled around
war-torn Europe, and it was
almost like having a family again.

After the Nazis were beaten
and the war was over, Zeph
turned to Chava and said,
"What will you do now?"

"I want to make babies,"
she said firmly. "The Nazis
tried to wipe us out. I have
a womb, so I'm going to fix that.
What about you, Zeph?"

"I want to make the world
a safer place for people
who are different," he said.

"I'd like that too," said Chava.
"Perhaps we could continue
working together. We make
a good team, you know."

Then Zeph explained,
gently but firmly, that he
could never be a usual sort
of husband to her.

Chava explained that
all the usual men were dead,
she only needed his penis once
or twice a month to get pregnant,
and they were already good friends
which was enough for going on with.

Zeph thought about that.

He could perform with women;
he'd done it before; he just
didn't find it much fun.

He could go out to a bar
or a dark alley and get his fun,
and none of those men would
care about marrying him.

Zeph realized that he didn't
really want to live and die alone;
he missed the hell out of having
a family; and if he had to lie with
a woman in order to get one,
well, that would be worth it.

"Let's go find a rabbi,"
he said, and while that
was easier said than done,
they succeeded in the end.

Over the next four decades,
Zeph and Chava had 22 children,
half of them boys and half girls.

They worked diligently to see
Nazi war criminals brought to justice
and discriminatory laws repealed.

They put all of their children
through college and watched them
become doctors and lawyers
and in time, parents.

Zeph and Chava took delight
in spoiling their grandchildren.

In 1975, their daughter Leeba
whispered that she was
in love with another girl.

"That's good," said Zeph.
"You may not be able to marry,
but you can be dear friends and
maybe find a man to help you out."

He knew that some men were
starting to settle down with each other,
just as women were pairing up, and
so sometimes they traded partners
for a night if they wanted children.

Zeph had found his own way to
happiness -- against all expectation,
he had fallen in love with his wife,
even though he did not desire her body
and had to look at pictures of pretty men
before coming to her bedroom.

In 1988, their son Haskel
got beaten up for having
a queer sister -- but stood up
without a scratch on him, and
casually slapped his assailant
straight through a brick wall.

When the principal complained,
Zeph told war stories until she
threw up and left them alone.

In 1992, Leeba nervously announced
that she had -- somehow -- knocked up
her girlfriend Eliana. Yes, they were sure.
Perhaps it had something to do with
the fertility treatments that they had
lied their way through to get
their first two children.

Only her mother got to see
the weird little schmeckel that
had sprouted between her thighs,
but apparently it got the job done.

"You're not mad?" Leeba asked
her mother, fidgeting a bit.

"No. I love babies," Chava said.
"Why don't you and your sweetie
go make some more of them?"

"Daddy, what do you think?" Leeba said
as she turned around to look at Zeph.

"Remember that your mother and I married
each other for our agendas," Zeph said
with a smile. "Falling in love came later."

"We're not kicked out of the family!
You can come in now!" Leeba yelled
to Eliana, who had been hiding
outside on the front porch.

"I believe this calls for a celebration,"
Zeph declared, and headed for
the basement to fetch a bottle of wine.

"Grape juice, papa!" said Leeba,
reminding him of Eliana's condition,
and so Zeph came back up with
a bottle of each in his hands.

Leeba and Eliana might not
ever be able to smash a glass
under the chuppah, but everyone
could still toast the approach
of the next little blessing.

* * *


The Bulletproof Jew (Tzephania "Zeph" Cavanagh) -- He has fair skin that tans well, black eyes, and short auburn hair. He is tall and strong, with a triangular face and a big beak of a nose. His mother was Jewish and his father was Irish, and he had eight siblings. As merchants, they traveled around Europe making business deals and selling things, but got caught up in World War II. Zeph is the only known survivor from his mother's side of the family, and he lost most of his relatives on his father's side too. He actually fits a number of targeted categories: Jewish, gay, a traveler, a political dissident, and an intellectual.
Zeph is homosexual but biromantic. While not sexually attracted to women, he can perform in bed with them, and form ties of affection with them not founded upon copulation. He did not discover most of this until after he married his wife Chava, whom he rescued from a Polish ghetto during the war. Later they had 22 children, half boys and half girls. Their daughter Leeba is a lesbian and a hyena; she and her girlfriend Eliana go on to have several children. Their son Haskel has Average (0) Invulnerability and Average (0) Super-Strength.
Origin: The Schutzstaffel rounded up Zeph's family as part of a raid, herded hundreds of people into the woods next to a giant pit, and opened fire with machines guns. Everyone died, except for Zeph, who climbed out of the pit, Invulnerable. And then proceeded to massacre the stunned Nazis.
Uniform: Variable, but he's especially fond of wearing a three-piece suit and a greatcoat.
Qualities: Master (+6) Father, Master (+6) Unflappable, Expert (+4) Activist, Expert (+4) Jew, Good (+2) Businessman, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Gay, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Shattered Family Past
Powers: Good (+2) Invulnerability
Motivation: To walk through the fire, unburned.

Chava Cavanagh -- She has fair skin, black eyes, and long black hair. During World War II, she was rescued from a Polish ghetto by The Bulletproof Jew (Tzephania "Zeph" Cavanagh). Later they married and had 22 children, half boys and half girls. Their daughter Leeba is a lesbian and a hyena; she and her girlfriend Eliana go on to have several children. Their son Haskel has Average (0) Invulnerability and Average (0) Super-Strength.
Qualities: Master (+6) Mother, Expert (+4) Constitution, Expert (+2) Survivor, Good (+2) Jew, Good (+2) Journalist, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Resistance Fighter
Poor (-2) Curbstomp the Germans into Paste
Motivation: To repopulate the Jewish race.

* * *

World War II is infamous for the Holocaust against Jews.

Caches allow people to store valuable items in case of future need. This one was made for WWII saboteurs. Individuals and families may also stash supplies, especially in times of unrest.

The Resistance in WWII included Jews and other people in every occupied nation.

Übermensch means "overman" or "superman." The Germans had a very literal interpretation of racial supremacy. It completely failed to account for superpowers.

Ghettos were established to oppress and kill Jews throughout Axis territory including Poland.

Mixed-orientation marriages are more common than many people realize. Gay men choose to marry straight women for various reasons, many of them sad ones, but some gay men are happy in such arrangements. Conversely, some straight women knowingly marry gay men, which can be a fraught issue for Jews.

Sexual orientation and sexual behavior tend to match, but are not identical and sometimes diverge. Some gay men are sexually functional with women, just not excited by heterosex; some are impotent with women; some are repulsed by the idea of sex with women. Gay men who are comfortable with women in bed may choose to engage in procreative sex -- or even simply attend to their partner's pleasure out of kindness and platonic or romantic affection rather than sexual attraction.

Schmeckel – Yiddish for small penis, and possibly derived from schmuck.
-- Yiddish Words for Penis

Jewish wedding customs include a canopy called the chuppah. At this point in history, same-sex marriage was still a long way off, and even committed relationships were newish in terms of being at all visible to the public in most cultures. Zeph's perspectives are shaped by the time he grew up in, and are about as enlightened as it was possible to be in that context.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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