Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Where Your Powers Live"

This poem is spillover from the May 7, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It also fills the "Ten of Bows - Responsibility" square in my 4-30-19 card for the Tarot Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony and Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It comes after "Comfort Always." You need to read the raid storyline starting with "When You Strike and Overcome Him" for this to make sense.


"Where Your Powers Live"

[Friday, April 17, 2015]

They were unloading the last
of the stall dividers from the truck
when Frank asked, "Y'all think about
where you're gonna put these poor kids?"

"We're keeping them together for now,
the ones who want to stay with each other,"
Filly said. "I know what you mean, though --
they won't fit in a house. They'll need
something like a farm, a pretty big one,
and not too far for them to travel."

"I've got an idea," Ansel said.
"My grandfather offered to help
with the raid, and I promised that
I'd call him if we needed anything."

"Sounds like you found a way
for him to help, then," said Filly.
"If anyone around here has
a good place to put centaurs,
it'll be Conrad Nicholson."

"Do you folks still need me
to move stuff, or can I duck out
to handle this?" Ansel asked.

"We got this," Filly said,
waving him off. "Go set up
crash space for the survivors."

So Ansel walked toward the edge
of the gate camp for privacy
and made the phone call.

"Hi, Grandpa, it's Ansel,"
he said. "I need a big favor."

"Are you in the hot zone?"
Conrad barked. "I can get there
with a grenade launcher in --"

"The signal's a little wonky,
I didn't hear that last part,"
Ansel said, trying desperately
not to think of which veteran
might have a grenade launcher.
"I don't need backup here, I need
a place to board trauma survivors."

"Can do," said Conrad as he
switched tracks in an instant.
"How many souls on board?"

"I don't know yet," Ansel said.
"A lot. I've seen a couple dozen
myself, and there are still new ones
showing up that I haven't seen before."

"Well, we don't have that many rooms,
but we can pitch some tents in no time,"
Conrad said. "It wouldn't be the first time,
and we got plenty folks here who know
how to set up a proper base camp."

"Yeah, about that ... don't gab it around,
but these aren't ordinary humans. They're
centaurs," Ansel said. "We need to keep
the herd together, put them somewhere
close and comfortable. Can you still help?"

"O ... kay ... then," Conrad said slowly.
"Centaurs, that's half-horse and half-human?"

"Correct," Ansel said. "Wait, no, one of them
has a zebra half. I can't swear the others
are all horses, but most of them are."

"Close enough," Conrad said. "There are
barn tents, portable barns, that sort of thing.
It'll do until we can get a regular barn up
once we know who's staying long-term."

"Thank you," Ansel said. "We need
all the help we can get right now."

"They got a medic? EFA?"
Conrad said. "Those matter too."

"They're touchy about it, no surprise,"
Ansel said. "So far, the centaurs have
a few paramedics they'll tolerate, and
some people doing EFA. They don't
have assigned personnel, yet."

"I'll call in a few favors, make sure
we've got folks here who can handle
an emergency if need be," Conrad said.
"Any idea what they like to eat?"

"Not in enough detail," Ansel said.
"Some of them have mentioned issues;
I think there are special diets involved there.
I can tell you they'll eat a lot, but I don't
know exactly what they've been eating."

"We'll make do with what we have, then,
and buy more when we know more. They
might want a kitchenette in the barn, some
folks do. Conrad decided. "Meanwhile,
we got plenty to eat for man and beast,
so everyone can take their pick."

"All right, I'll send you more details
when people are ready to share,"
Ansel said. "They're shy for reasons."

"Understood," Conrad said. "Have they
expressed potty preferences yet?"

"Not that I know of," Ansel said,
although somebody better address
that pretty soon for the gate camp.

"Well, we've got straw bale pissers
and outhouses on the farm already,
so it's no trouble to build a few more,"
Conrad said. "In a barn, hm, maybe put
a manure trench in the shower stall
to turn that into a real bathroom."

"That's a good start," Ansel said.
"I'll let everyone know that we have
a place to put the centaurs now."

"How do you plan on getting them
out here?" Conrad asked him.

"The same way as we got them
from the main compound out to
the gate camp," Ansel said. "We'll
ask them who wants to walk or ride."

"Do you even have a way to transport
anyone wanting a ride?" Conrad said.

"Not yet, but it has to be possible,"
Ansel said. "We just put them in trucks
for the ride to the gate. People travel
with horses all the time, or in campers.
We'll probably need to modify something
for centaurs, but we've got resources."

That got Ansel thinking about requirements,
and he'd have to send requests for them.

They'd need a big truck and a way to let
a human or two ride with the centaurs.
They'd have to mat the floor, too -- Arun
couldn't walk all the way to Bluehill, but
he couldn't ride on bare steel either.

"I'll start getting ready here, then,"
said Conrad. "I'll do my part."

"Thank you," Ansel said. "This
isn't really your responsibility --"

Conrad snorted. "I couldn't
see what nutjobs were doing
four counties away. I can't fix
what they did to Turq. But I got
a place to put the survivors, and
Norma Jean bought this place
to be a sanctuary. Soon as I
got better, I started sharing it."

That was true. Conrad had been
helping other veterans for longer
than Ansel had even been alive.

"Yeah, I know," Ansel said.
"I hope that helps the centaurs.
They need people who understand
what it's like to feel that your mind and
body are coming apart at the seams."

"You got to balance responsibility and
authority, is all," Conrad said. "Know
what is actually in your own control,
what's up to somebody else, and
what you gotta leave in God's hands.
You can only change the stuff that's
in your own reach, and that's all
that you're responsible for. But you
are responsible for your fair share."

Ansel had heard him say similar things
when talking about racism or sexism or
other nonsense like that. You weren't
responsible for the dumb mistakes that
your ancestors made, only for your own.

"It's still kind of you to take responsibility
for this when you don't have to," Ansel said.

"Always take responsibility for what
you control, Ansel," said Conrad.
"It’s where your powers live."

Ansel thought about how much
influence Conrad had, spread over
veterans throughout Missouri --
enough to get a grenade launcher
if they had wound up needing one.

It was really all about taking responsibility
for helping other soldiers pull themselves
back together after a hard tour of duty.

No one had put that on Conrad.
He had decided it for himself.

Then again, it hadn't been
Ansel's responsibility to help
Turq recover from his trauma.

Ansel had just done it because
it needed doing and he was there.

Now Turq was one of his best friends,
and willingly walked back into hell
to help the centaurs out of it.

Ansel rubbed a hand through
the pink ruff of his hair and said,
"Yeah, you're right. Thanks, Grandpa."

* * *

Notes:

"Take responsibility — it’s where your powers live."
Will Craig

In "Sacrificed Part of Himself," Conrad offered to help deal with the people who hurt Turq.

One thing I noticed about quotes on responsibility is how overwhelmingly white, male, and otherwise privileged they are. Responsibility is a thing hyped by people who have resources, choices, and agency. So for them, taking personal responsibility makes a difference in what happens, and they think that's true for everyone. But they forget about all the things that make concrete differences in what people can actually do, which winds up blaming the victim. Things that happen early in life -- before a child has any power whatsoever -- can determine what happens later, beyond all ability of an adult to change it. If abusive parents throw a child into a wall, shattering his legs, he may never walk again and that is their fault, not his. The same is true of abusive parents shattering a child's spirit. Similarly, discrimination over race, gender, class, sexuality, trauma, etc. can undermine people's ability to accomplish things. If not fixed, these problems compound over time. Authority and responsbility must always be equal. You are responsible only for what you control; you are not responsible for what other people control, nor for what happened in the distant past. But if you dislike what's going on, you can look for things within your own reach that you can change. If you actually have power, you can use it to take barriers out of someone else's way, instead of pretending they aren't there. Conrad couldn't prevent the supervillains from torturing people, and was asked nicely to let the authorities handle the raid. He does have a farm suitable for housing traumatized centaurs, and that's where his responsibility as a citizen kicks in, to use his own plentiful resources to help people who have nothing. That's responsibility in perspective. And that's where Ansel got his moral compass from.

An average (15 hands tall) horse can be comfortable in a 10' x 12' or even a 10' x 10' stall. An inside width of 6' (a trailer quoted as having a 6' width may vary by a few inches) with a height of 7' (square sided roof rather than rounded), and a total stall length of 10', will fit a horse from about 14 hands up to about 16 hands.

The small portable barn will comfortably house about four centaurs inside if they want to block out personal space, more if they prefer huddling together. It's not really big enough to make stalls a good idea.

This barn is big enough to be divided into six individual stalls, with common space at the end of the barn. It also has a hayloft overhead for storage.

Although most of the centaurs prefer sticking together, stalls are available for whose who want more privacy. These modular stalls are assembled from panels that can be fitted together as desired. The stall front has a wide grill on the door, a small metal door for the water bucket, and a tall grill for the hay rack. All can be closed and locked for security. These have been modified for control by the stall's occupant instead of by a human groom standing outside. Here you can see that the grill on the sliding door flips down, while the water bucket and hay rack both rotate out. This gives the centaurs more control over access.

On a large farm, it is not feasible to run plumbing everywhere, nor to interrupt work on the outskirts to find a toilet. An excellent solution is the use of outhouses and dry urinals. While it is certainly possible to make these permanent installations, it is cheaper to build temporary ones from round or square straw bales. (See how to assemble a urinal from square bales, and various configurations to use.) When the receptacle fills up -- or the work moves to another location -- simply remove the hardware and let the straw rot down to compost. It may also be collected and moved to a central composting location, if the site is accessible for hauling. Another advantage over standard plumbing is that facilities can easily be built in any configuration required. While it is very difficult to modify a standard toilet for nonhuman users, modifying a straw bale outhouse requires nothing more than a discussion of desired features and the ability to lift bales.

Some barns, particularly for dairy cows, use a gutter for waste disposal. This can be adapted to create a toilet stall for centaurs who prefer a water-flushing toilet.

A shower stall for horses can be upgraded to a full bathroom for centaurs by adding a toilet trench and a sink. The same shower hose can provide water for flushing the trench, or a separate flush handle may be installed. Either solid doors or shower curtains provide privacy.

Barns may also have amenities such as a standard human toilet and a kitchenette.

Traumatic stress can manifest in different ways. Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but involves a long span of torment instead of a single brief incident. In this case, it's too early to tell which of the centaurs will suffer from traumatic stress, but after mad science torture for years, it is likely that most or all of them will have problems. Understand how to cope with traumatic stress or help a friend with it.

Torture produces terrible long-term effects. Torture survivors often have difficulty recovering, even with help. There are ways to recover from torture and help trauma survivors.

Shared pain can forge tight connections between people, as in the centaur herd or Turq's cohort. Trauma bonding can be positive or negative. There are many aspects of bonding associated with traumatic experiences, and it helps to support healthy connections among survivors or between survivors and caregivers. Keeping the centaurs together is a good idea, for those that wish to stick tight, which is most of them.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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