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Poem: "ssessu" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "ssessu"
This poem was prompted and sponsored by minor_architect. It's all about what a former shifter misses.


is the sound of skin shedding
and the emotion of the snake shedding the skin:

As a shifter, I have known
as many emotions
as I have skins, and many more.

mrau, the cats’ name for the moon,
is also the name of the mystical mood that comes with it –
I-am-contemplating-the-enigmas-of-the-universe-by-moonlight –
for to view the moon through the eyes of a cat
is to sense mysteries that reveal themselves only via that lens.

ffa … huu
is a word all shifters love,
the dolphins’ word for spouting after a long dive
and that feeling of release and refreshment,
and they use it for talking about relationships too,
which I think is why dolphin romances are such strange stories.

is the gleam of sunbeams weaving through the ultraviolet vanes
of a hummingbird’s feathers, not only during display but all the time,
and the boldness that goes with it, bright and rich and nimble:
In that word is a hummingbird’s whole awareness of the world
but in human form I can hardly recall what it was like
to be such a jewel falling through a jar of honey.

There is danger in the world
as well as beauty,
and those who love to take what others hold
do not care about the damage they do.

This is the rhythm of a horse’s hooves, cantering,
hakoka, hakoka, hakoka
and the bodyfeel of speed and the glee of it,

But I was not fast enough.
The skinhunters shot me down
and stripped the mystical skin from my body,
leaving me beached on my human bones
forever beyond reach of the tide.

Those emotions are lost to me now,
as surely as the shapes that gave them:
I can remember feeling them all,
but I can no longer feel them,
except for one.

I need to shed my skin,
but it won’t come off.
Snakes have a word for this, too,
the emotion of soul-itching-for-change-when-skin-is-stuck:

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36 comments or Leave a comment
miintikwa From: miintikwa Date: October 14th, 2009 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
This is really beautiful. I love it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 15th, 2009 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm happy to hear that.
From: minor_architect Date: October 14th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think this just became one of my favorite poems of yours. <3

And I'll be re-posting it to my own journal very soon.
tuftears From: tuftears Date: October 14th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Indeed, it's a lovely poem!
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: October 14th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: October 14th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
So painful. -_-
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 14th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)


The world is full of ways in which people reduce each other's choices and adaptability. The imagery in this poem is speculative, but the problem is real.
reileen From: reileen Date: October 14th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beautifully sad.
e_scapism101 From: e_scapism101 Date: October 14th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 14th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you like this one.
dormouse_in_tea From: dormouse_in_tea Date: October 15th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I know ssessu.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 15th, 2009 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)


So do I. It makes me want to rub against things until I scrape off what's stuck.
siege From: siege Date: October 15th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
fayanora From: fayanora Date: October 17th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of one my shapeshifter side did some time ago:

"Daemon of Air and Darkness"
By svaenohr (Tristan A. Arts)

I float light as a breeze.
A Daemon of air and darkness,
I dance through the sky.
Stars are my stepping-stones,
And I sing with the trees.

I dance like a breeze-blown drape.
A Daemon of heat and flame,
I radiate power into the night.
Logs are my roots, my bones,
And I am devoid of set shape.

I sink into the soil and stone.
A Daemon of earth and rock,
I rest from my exertions.
Within the earth I alight,
And here I make my nest, my home.

I slink serpentinely, I flow.
A Daemon of liquid and life,
I quench the thirst of my brethren.
My patience wears down even rock,
And I have power few can know.

I move at the speed of thought, I Am.
A Daemon of spirit and energy,
I dance through the universe.
Galaxies are my stepping stones,
And formless, shapeless I am.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 17th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)


This is beautiful! The last two lines are my favorites. I love flying formless through the deeps of space.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: October 17th, 2009 07:11 am (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 17th, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

This is really appreciated. I think the networking is starting to boost participation in fishbowls.
From: darkoshi Date: October 18th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Very nice!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 18th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you like it.
settecorvi From: settecorvi Date: October 20th, 2009 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is gorgeous and heartbreaking. Thank you.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 20th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm so glad you enjoyed this poem.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: October 22nd, 2009 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
What a lovely way of expressing something unpleasant. Well done.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 23rd, 2009 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad this poem worked for you.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 12th, 2015 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
"leaving me beached on my human bones
forever beyond reach of the tide."

I just wanted to let you know that these two lines have stuck with me for some years now - four or five, I should think. Such fantastic use of language. So evocative.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 12th, 2015 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you found this so meaningful. I love it when my writing sticks in people's heads!
36 comments or Leave a comment