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Poem: "A Haven in a Heartless World" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "A Haven in a Heartless World"

This poem is spillover from the September 2013 Crowdfunding Creative Jam.  It was inspired by a sculpture from Choi Xoo Ang.  It has been sponsored by DW user Kengr.  This poem belongs to the series Diminished Expectations.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: DW user Kengr, Shirley Barrette

FULLY FUNDED
191 lines, Buy It Now = $95.50
Amount donated = $5
Verses posted = 3 of 40

Amount remaining to fund fully = $90.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $1
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2


WARNING: This poem contains many disturbing topics.  Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers.  It contains references to past warfare leaving a devastating wake of birth defects along with disability, abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, medical issues, homelessness, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.



"A Haven in a Heartless World"


They are five
and they are one.

Five individuals,
one family.

They are related
not by chance but by choice,
united in their condition.

They all have
the white clay-clod skin
of the Diminished;
they all lack
noses and mouths.

They all have legs,
and this too is important:
it is how they escaped the orphanage
to survive on their own.

It is difficult, of course:
two of them have no arms
and three of them have no ears.

They help each other
as best they can;
they learn to make do.


Concord is the oldest;
he is tall and thin,
missing arms and ears.

His almond-shaped eyes
are blue and level,
marking him as a halfbreed;
there are many who were born
between conqueror and conquered.

He is the one
who first assembled them
and led their flight to freedom.

Now he keeps them together,
looks after them, leads them
as gently as he can,
a calm influence
to smooth over their disputes.


Prudence is just
a little younger and shorter
than Concord, slender and stern;
she has arms but no ears.

She is pure conquered
and proud of it;
her brown eyes
are sharply slanted
in her narrow face,
her expression often
one of scorn or anger.

Her body language
is mixed more than straight,
feet apart but arms crossed
protectively over her chest
under her small high breasts,
head held high but
face turned away.

She is quick
to reject others
before they can reject her

but she follows Concord,
because getting by alone
is just too hard.


Amaze is tall and muscled,
missing arms and ears
like Concord is.

His feet, however,
are large and human
to the base of the calves,
toes agile enough to write easily,
the skin smooth and supple,
a rich golden tan

where everyone else has
feet with thick white skin
barely tinged with peach in places.

The ankle veins are easy to see
but so sensitive that
it makes feeding unpleasant.

Amaze is a halfbreed too,
his oval eyes a dark gray;
he looks at the world
from a different angle,
often doubling over
to peer back between
his own legs, or
tilting his head sideways.

He surprises the world
as often as it surprises him.


Endurance is short and fat
with ears set close to his head
and arms that often hang limp.

Alone of them, he is
pure conqueror in ancestry,
one of those unfortunates
born to two veterans
just after the war,
before the victors realized
what they had done
to themselves as much
as their intended targets.

It shows in his squat body
and huge rounded eyes, although
their color is a more normal brown;
there is a sorrow that follows him
for what his parents have done.

He is timid by nature,
easily startled or stunned
by danger, but
his senses are acute
and he is good at deciphering
who wants to hurt them.

Almost everyone,
almost -- but not quite --
and they have to trust
someone, sometimes,
besides each other
because there is
so much they need that
they cannot make on their own.


Tolerance is the youngest,
short and slightly curved
now that her hips are spreading
and her breasts coming in.

She has arms and ears,
her brown eyes
just slightly tilted
in a heart-shaped face;
she too is a halfbreed.

She is patient and sweet,
if a little worn
by the weight of the world;
it is her compassion
that gets them through
when everything seems
beyond bearing.

She is curious, too,
like Amaze,
but she looks more
to people than
the world around them.

Despite her youth,
Tolerance is the one
who most often feeds them;
her tiny hands are
deft and gentle
with the equipment.


Feeding is always a challenge
for the mouthless ones,
but at least in this
their Diminishment
is as much blessing as curse;
with their dense white skin
they can barely feel
the push and pinch of the needle.

Once a day,
this is what they do
to get the fluid and nutrients
that they need to survive.
They are fortunate that the supplements
and their own altered metabolism
minimize the frequency.

It is harder for the armless
who cannot do
so much for themselves,
and who have fewer
veins to trade between.

They do what they can to get by,
bartering work or goods
for essential supplies --
what the Diminished need
is not often cheap
but is usually plentiful
just because there are
so very many of them.

There is always someone
who knows someone.

It could be worse,
they tell themselves;
they have all seen the limbless
inching along like worms
or lying on their backs
on the pleasure mats
beside the road.

That is one thing that
none of them will do,
not for themselves
or even each other,
and on this they are agreed:

their bodies may be
imperfect and incomplete,
but at least those bodies
belong to them and them alone.

* * *

Notes:

"The family is a haven in a heartless world."
-- attributed to Christopher Lasch

Virtue names have been used by the Puritans and other cultures.

(These pictures are not work-safe at most jobs.  They contain artistic nudes.)
See the whole family together.

Concord -- male, tall and thin, with legs but no arms, almond-shaped blue eyes but no mouth, nose, or ears.  See his body and his face.

Prudence -- female, average height and thin, with arms and legs, sharply tilted almond-shaped brown eyes but no mouth, nose, or ears.  See her full figure and her closeup portrait.

Amaze -- male, tall and muscular, with legs but no arms, oval gray eyes but no mouth, nose, or ears; his feet are large and human to the base of the calves.  See his full figure and his closeup portrait.

Endurance -- male, short and fat, with arms and legs, large rounded brown eyes and ears but no mouth or nose.  Here is his whole body and his facial closeup.

Tolerance -- female, short and slightly curvy, with arms and legs, almond-shaped brown eyes and ears but no mouth or nose.  Look at her whole body and her facial closeup.

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