Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Transmigration of Soulmarks"

This poem came out of the 100th [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam in April 2021. It was inspired and sponsored by [personal profile] nsfwords. It also fills the "Soulbond AU" square in my 4-4-21 "Genderplay AU" card for the Genderplay Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the series Eloquent Souls.

Warning: This poem contains intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes transgender issues, relationship problems, soulmarks fading as people become less compatible, transition-driven breakup, struggling to learn a new skill, meeting a new soulmate under unusual circumstances, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"The Transmigration of Soulmarks"

[2017]

At first it was subtle,
like the niggling doubts
that had led Charity
to become Charles.

The Words that wrapped
around his left wrist were
still brown, but no longer
the color of strong coffee.

I’m not a professional photographer,
but I can easily picture us together,

they had read when they came in.

Now the last word was ... fading.

Charles watched his husband
checking his right wrist for the Words,
That's the silliest pickup line I've ever heard.

They were still there, but they weren't
the bright cinnamon they had been.

The soulmarks were fading,
and with them, the bond
that held them together.

They fought against it,
because they still loved
each other, but Charles
was a man and Frank was
as straight as a board, so
they were just ... drifting apart.

Soon Charles could only read,
I’m not a professional photographer,
and out of sheer stubbornness
he went and bought a camera.

He wasn't very good with it, but
it gave him something to focus on.

Frank rubbed his wrist where it said,
That's the silliest pickup line, in
soft loops of fading peach.

When the last Words
melted away, Frank
packed up and left.

Charles was heartbroken.
They both were, really,
but they'd have to make
their own way now.

He didn't know if
he would ever find
another soulmate, or
if he'd stay blank forever.

He watched his left wrist,
but it never showed any sign
of writing him a new chapter.

One thing Charles knew:
he didn't want to go looking
for romance at this time.

Losing Frank hurt too much.

Charles couldn't stand to look
at all that blank skin, but he
couldn't bear to cover his wrist.

Instead he got a skeleton
tattooed on his right shoulder.

As he began to adjust, though,
that one seemed too morbid,
and so he added a moth for
transformation underneath it,
then a hand of sad cards.

He wanted to wash away
his regrets, so he got
a Hokusai wave tattooed
around his left shoulder.

Then he realized that
he might have a bit of
a fixation on tattoos.

So Charles concentrated
on studying photography,
and slowly got better at it.

He also worked on transitioning,
learning what manhood meant to him.

It was an exciting journey of discovery,
if sometimes also a bit terrifying.

Charles didn't go out as much
as he used to, instead frequenting
an online support group for transfolk.

He made plenty of cyberfriends
and showed them his photographs.

His new friends encouraged him
to try selling the pictures to magazines,
which hadn't panned out so far, but
that did tip him to the contests,
which he found quite inspiring.

He liked taking pictures of
other transfolk to document
their gender affirmation journeys.

When Charles won a photo contest,
he got a tattoo of laurel branches
crossed over his collarbones.

Not long after that, a new soulmark
unfurled below the rounded leaves:
-- IT HURTS TO BECOME --

Well, that was painfully true.

His whole life was different now,
but the only thing that hurt less was
that his gender expression wasn't
stabbing him in the heart all the time.

That had been bad before. It wasn't
exactly good now, not yet. It was
just life. Maybe someday, his life
would get all the way up to good.

Still, Charles enjoyed his new friends
and his new hobby, which might
eventually become a career.

He used to be a secretary.
He didn't really want to do that
anymore, and needed to replace it.

According to the chats he saw
on the transfolk support group,
this wasn't a rare experience --
plenty of people felt a need
to change careers after they
changed gender expression.

Then one day, a new member
responded to his post with,
IT HURTS TO BECOME

ESPECIALLY IF NOBODY USES
THE RIGHT WORDS FOR YOU
.

Charles checked the user icon
and replied, SHE HER.

There was a long pause.

The next post was a picture
of a smiling Asian lady with
her pronouns written proudly
across her high cheekbones.

Below that, another soulmark
scrolled across her throat
above a tattooed skull,
saying, Seize the Day.

Charles took a picture
of himself to send back.

He tried to smile, but
he probably just looked
like he had indigestion.

He hadn't really been able
to smile since Frank left him,
except for winning the contest.

Thinking about the transmigration
of soulmarks, though, Charles
hoped that he could relearn it.

* * *

Notes:

Charles Armstrong -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair. Both ears are pierced with tunnels, and he has a horseshoe ring through his septum. He has a Hokusai wave tattooed on his left shoulder. The right has a skeleton, a moth, and under that a hand of cards with sad faces. He has laurel branches over his collarbones. Raised female, Charity was the soulmate of Frank Augustin. After Charity transitioned to Charles, though, their marks faded and they broke up. Later Charles gained a new soulmate, Maeko Nylund, while using an online support group for transfolk. He used to be a secretary but is becoming a photographer.

His old soulmark (around his left wrist):
I’m not a professional photographer, but I can easily picture us together.

His new soulmark (under his collarbones):
-- IT HURTS TO BECOME --

I Sing The Body Electric; Especially When My Power Is Out
by Andrea Gibson

I said to the the sun
"Tell me about the big bang"
The sun said
"it hurts to become"


Frank Augustin -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and dark blond hair cut short. His heritage is French-American. He is completely straight. He was the soulmate of Charity, who later came out as transgender and transitioned to Charles, which ended their relationship and erased their soulmarks because they no longer matched.

His old soulmark (around his right wrist):
That's the silliest pickup line I've ever heard.


Maeko Nylund -- She has tawny-fair skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight black hair. She has two rings in her left nostril. A skull tattoo covers the base of her throat. Maeko is a transwoman. Her heritage is Japanese-American. Her first soulmate is platonic. Her second is romantic, Charles Armstrong.

Her first (platonic) soulmark (on her throat):
Seize the Day

Her second (romantic) soulmark:
SHE (right cheekbone) HER (left cheekbone)

* * *

Drifting apart can happen for many reasons. There are ways to reconnect, but they don't always work. Sometimes it is better to let go of a relationship when people are no longer compatible.

Researchers think cisgender women are a lot more likely than men to stay with transitioning partners. As Helen Boyd, a gender-studies professor at Lawrence University who has studied married trans women, put it in an email, the number of men who stay with transitioning partners is "abysmally low."

Changing careers is a popular way to make a fresh start after a big life transition, like a breakup or gender affirmation. Here are some tips on launching a new career.

After a breakup, it's best to take time for yourself and avoid a rebound relationship. Focus on recovery. Once you feel ready, then take steps toward a healthy new relationship.

Some people like to use gender pronoun icons.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, romance, weblit, writing
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