ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is from the July 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] wyld_dandelyon. It also fills the "positive affirmations" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest, and the "crank call to SPOON by angry ex" square in my Superhero Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"An Art of Balance"


Callista Nystrom was a competitive gymnast,
slim and flexible, her pale skin and blonde hair
standing out boldly against the dark blue mats.

She loved being able to practice an art of balance.
She had a wall full of ribbons and trophies
and high hopes for college-level competition.

I am a coiled spring, she said to herself.
I am a palm tree in the ocean breeze.

Then one day she fell off the trampoline,
landed badly, and cracked her skull.
It destroyed her world.

Callista spent months in the hospital
recovering from her injuries.

She missed her high school graduation --
although she did earn her diploma --
and her boyfriend Ajax dumped her.

Worst of all, though, she lost her balance.

She could no longer tumble and twirl.
She could barely stay upright,
and on bad days needed a walker.

Callista also had dizzy spells.
Everything would be fine, and then
suddenly she felt like the room was lurching,
even if she was lying down. It was awful.

I am a disaster, she thought,
and then firmly stomped on the thought.
That much, she could still do.

I am a work in progress,
Callista told herself.

Just as disorienting, she started
to sense the emotions of others,
dimly at first and then a bit stronger.

Her ability to project was more powerful,
but that made the vertigo so much worse,
which meant that mostly what people received
from her was the pitch and yaw of dizziness.

Callista learned to lie down before practicing
her superpower, and not to try it right after eating.

I am the ocean, she decided. I am going
to learn how to dance with the moon.


When Ajax found out about her superpower,
he started making crank calls to SPOON,
which put him on everyone's shit list.

However, it also brought her to the attention
of more people than just her empathy mentor Pax.

Callista got to meet Cheersquad, who worked
out of the Eastbord base and knew most of
the soups with disabilities who were
connected with SPOON somehow.

So that's how she learned that you didn't
really have to be able-bodied to be a superhera.
Callista started trying to imagine what she could
do with her talent even though she couldn't
keep her balance reliably anymore.

Cheersquad couldn't move more than
his head and a bit of one hand, and
he was one of their best dispatchers.

I am a link in a chain, Callista thought.
I am a spider sitting at the center of a web.

Then she crossed paths with the speedster Stilts,
who needed crutches to walk after a supervillain had
warped his legs; and the teleporter Handspring,
who had been born without any legs.

Stilts tried to teach her what he called Criptaedo,
so that Callista would know how to use
her walker for self-defense.

She wasn't very good at it, but
it was interesting to explore and
good practice for her balance.

I am not much of a pogo stick,
she thought, but I can make
a very good doorstop!


Handspring invited her to move into
a fully accessible house that she shared
with several other disabled soups.

It had an open floor plan and even an elevator,
although they gave Callista what had been
the guest bedroom on the first floor because
the second floor would be risky with her balance issues.
She had a private bathroom and a picture window
that overlooked a beautiful palm garden.

It turned out that Handspring was also a gymnast,
and she never minded spotting Callista through
wobbling attempts to regain lost skills.

I am the ocean, Callista reminded herself.
It is all right that I have tides.

She got to know her new housemates, too.
Lorenzo and Analena Saenz had the master suite
on the ground floor, including a nursery for
their daughter Nelia. Lorenzo used to be
a SPOON fighter, but after a building fell
on him, he became a home teacher.

Haru Kimura and Rei Moritomo shared
the master suite upstairs. They had been
paralympic dancers until Haru's Light Control
manifested. He was suing the organization since
the whole point of paralympics was to offer sport
opportunities to people with special needs.

Both of them were genderqueer, which made
Haru's family hate him, but Rei's family
thought she was amazing and swept up
Haru with equal enthusiasm.

There was one more bedroom upstairs,
whose owner was away on a long mission.

Rei's family often came over to visit,
and Analena invited friends and neighbors,
filling the house with good company.
They pulled Callista into games of go
and table tennis and all kinds of cards.

She began to volunteer at SPOON,
sometimes venturing out to help
them apprehend supervillains.

The other soups started calling her
Syncope, and she let them.

She wasn't any use as a fighter, and
she couldn't track people as well
as most other empaths could --
her new sense was hard for her
to understand -- but she could
project enough vertigo to lay
a supervillain flat on the ground.

That too was a balancing act.

Lorenzo -- whose cape name was
Rayman, for his Force Beam -- helped
Syncope to practice her superpower
and plan how to use it in the field.
As a former fighter, he knew some
different exercises than the ones
that Pax was teaching her.

When Ajax cranked SPOON again,
Handspring threatened to teleport him
if he didn't leave them alone.

When he showed up at their house,
Handspring grabbed him and dumped him
in an empty lot clear out in Eastbord.

After that, Ajax stopped bothering
Callista quite so much, which
made Handspring happy too.

I am a solitary jewel, Callista thought.
I don't need the likes of him.

Then one day Stilts showed up
and asked them for their help.
The SPOON base in the Heights
had managed to track down Warpcore,
the supervillain who ruined his legs.

Everyone wanted a piece of her, because
she tended to leave permanent damage;
even the other supervillains disapproved.

So Syncope went on her first major raid,
tucked safely into a tac van with Handspring
there in case they needed to bug out.

The van was a fabulous rolling fortress with
armor on the outside and surveillance gear
on the inside, a command chair for Handspring
and even a bench seat along one wall
so that Syncope could lie down.

Handspring monitored the area
until the fight broke out, and then
sorted through the chaos to target
a muscular woman with vivid red hair.

So that was the infamous Warpcore.

I am a whirligig beetle,
thought Syncope.
Spin, spin, spin!

Her whole world spun,
balance gone, only empathy
remaining to anchor her to
her intended target.

The bench seemed to sway and weave
underneath her, but Syncope hung on until
Handspring said that Warpcore was down.

Then Syncope leaned over and threw up.
Handspring got the bucket to her just in time.

The mission was a success, though,
despite its embarrassing conclusion.
SPOON took Warpcore into custody
and Stilts banged on the tac van
with his crutches in celebration.

I am a bell, thought Syncope.
Ring out the changes!

* * *

Notes:

Syncope (Callista Nystrom) -- She has pale skin, light blue eyes, and long straight blonde hair. She is tall and slim. Her heritage is Scandinavian. Callista has a background in gymnastics, but after a training injury, she can't do much of that anymore. She gets dizzy spells and has difficulty balancing. On bad days she needs a walker to get around, and she's sensitive about that, because she's so young and beautiful that people routinely accuse her of faking it. She can't drive a car or carry fragile things either. Fortunately she has a good support network of friends and family to help her compensate. Callista lives in Westbord, sharing an accessible house with several other SPOON employees who have disabilities. She has the second bedroom on the ground floor. Her housemates include the Saenz family in the master suite downstairs. Handspring has the fifth bedroom on the upper floor, while Haru Kimura and Rei Moritomo share the master suite upstairs.
Syncope has empathy, but can't use it very effectively. Her receptive ability is minor. Trying to project anything causes so much dizziness that it's all she can usually send out. So she has learned to use this as an advantage: a SPOON team will stash her in a protected location near their intended combat or ambush site, where she can strike at their opponents from safety. She is determined to keep going and accomplish things despite her limitations.
Origin: She was a competitive gymnast before she fell off the trampoline and cracked her skull. When she recovered, she had superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes. She prefers feminine clothes in pastels or pale neutrals, usually business casual level.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Flexible, Good (+2) Ethereal Beauty, Good (+2) Positive Thinking, Good (+2) Sequencing, Good (+2) Support Network
Poor (-2) Balance
Powers: Good (+2) Empathy
Limitation: Her receptive Empathy is only Average (0) rank. Using her projective ability makes her feel dizzy, and that vertigo is most of what people receive from her.
Motivation: To keep moving forward.

Ajax Ramibez -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and brown hair. He has a long face with a square jaw. His body is muscular and powerfully built. He has several tattoos, including a letter A on his right bicep. His heritage is primarily Greek and Hispanic. His emotional skills leave much to be desired.
Ajax was the boyfriend of Callista Nystrom. After her accident, he dumped her. When he found out that she gained superpowers, he started harassing her and making crank calls to SPOON. This has put him on pretty much everyone's shit list.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bodybuilder, Good (+2) Confident, Good (+2) Handsome, Good (+2) Manipulating People
Poor (-2) Boyfriend

Handspring (Ramona Mahr) -- She has fair skin, dark blue eyes, and long straight brown hair. She was born without legs. She is very muscular with a thick waist and flat chest. As a child, Ramona took gymnastics classes, where she learned handwalking and many other stunts to expand her range of motion. She also studied how to use physics to her advantage. She hates using a wheelchair and only does so as a last resort. For most purposes, Ramona prefers to walk on her hands or to teleport. This starts a lot of arguments.
Because of her fearless exploration, Ramona has a lot of accidents, which has gotten family services called on them more than once. The toddler episode was resolved by displaying all the household safety features. The gradeschool one ended when she kept teleporting home. The junior high one ended when she teleported to the SPOON office and demanded that they make family services stop harassing her for her perferred methods of locomotion.
Ramona has been an enthusiastic traveler all her life. Now she works as a tour guide in San Francisco, teleporting handicapped tourists to places that would otherwise be inaccessible. Handspring also volunteers at the Westbord SPOON office. She lives in a large, accessible house shared with several other soups who have disabilities. She has the fifth bedroom on the upper floor. Her housemates include Callista, along with the Saenz family in the master suite downstairs, while Haru Kimura and Rei Moritomo share the master suite upstairs.
Origin: Her superpower grew in as a toddler, right when most babies learn to walk. It developed just like walking: first hopping up to grab something, or hopping a few feet forward, then higher and longer distances. Her parents put toddler latches on every cupboard in the house, padded or rounded all the sharp corners, bought her a safety helmet and elbow pads, and then encouraged her to develop her ability.
Uniform: Dexflan shorties sealed over the leg ends, and tank tops, in assorted colors. Her favorite color is sky blue. On duty, she has a name badge that clips over the shoulder strap of her top.
Qualities: Master (+6) Gymnast, Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Enthusiastic, Good (+2) Fearless, Good (+2) Making Friends, Good (+2) Physics, Good (+2) Tour Guide
Poor (-2) I Can Walk on My Hands If I Fucking Want To!
Powers: Expert (+4) Teleportation
Motivation: To go everywhere and see everything.

Rayman (Lorenzo Saenz) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short straight brown hair. He uses a manual wheelchair, usually pushed by his wife; he can also use his Force Beam to push himself, but only backwards. He is married to Analena Saenz. They have a daughter, Nelia, who is one year old. They live in a large accessible house shared with several other disabled soups including Syncope and Handspring. Theirs is the master bedroom on the ground floor.
Rayman used to work for SPOON as a frontline fighter. During a fight with the supervillain Thumper, part of a building fell on Rayman; he lost both arms and the use of his legs as a result. Thumper, who was appalled by the carnage, paid for his medical care and set up a support fund that dispenses a monthly stipend. Currently Rayman works for SPOON as a home teacher for children with new superpowers. He also enjoys storytelling both as a listener and as a performer.
Origin: As a teenager, Lorenzo volunteered at SPOON and other soup contexts. Eventually exposure to other superpowers kicked his from latent to active.
Uniform: Street clothes, modified for easy fit on his damaged body. Lorenzo likes earth tones and neutrals.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Home Teacher, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Optimist, Good (+2) Physics, Good (+2) Storytelling
Poor (-2) Mobility
Powers: Good (+2) Force Beam
Motivation: Just push through it.

Analena Saenz -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. She has large bones and a thick body. In the past she struggled with an eating disorder, but now it's down to disordered eating. She is married to Lorenzo Saenz. They have a daughter, Nelia, who is one year old. They live in a large accessible house shared with several other disabled soups including Syncope and Handspring. Theirs is the master bedroom on the ground floor.
Analena does much of the work taking care of the house and the people in it. She enjoys keeping track of things. Her skill with sandycrafts includes making sandcastles, sandcandles, and manipulating sand on a lightboard. She has a round lightboard that can spin for making mandalas, or sit still for telling stories.
Qualities: Master (+6) Homemaker, Expert (+4) Caregiver, Good (+2) Organized, Good (+2) Party Games, Good (+2) Sandycrafts, Good (+2) Sturdy
Poor (-2) Disordered Eating

Nelia Saenz -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and straight blonde hair. She takes after her mother's sturdy build. Currently one year old, she is the daughter of Analena and Lorenzo Saenz. They live in a large accessible house shared with several other disabled soups including Syncope and Handspring. Theirs is the master bedroom on the ground floor. Nelia actually lives in what used to be the larger walk-in closet, which has been converted into a nursery.
Nelia is clever and already babbling in both English and Spanish. A sweet, easygoing baby, she sleeps readily and almost never cries. However, she shows little interest in exploring and usually waits for adults to coax her into activities or toys.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bilingual, Good (+2) Sweet
Poor (-2) Initiative

Haru Kimura -- He has golden skin, brown eyes, and curly dark brown hair currently cut in a mohawk. Paralyzed from the hips down, he uses a sport wheelchair with canted wheels and no push handles. Haru has a female body but with wide shoulders, relatively flat chest, and narrow hips. He is genderqueer and uses masculine pronouns. His birth family disapproves of this and refuses to speak with him.
Haru is partnered with Rei Moritomo. They live in a large accessible house shared with several other disabled soups including Syncope, Handspring, and the Saenz family. Theirs is the master bedroom on the upper floor, bedroom #3. Haru is currently learning how to use Light Control for entertainment. He also wants to learn how to work with superkids.
Origin: A car accident in his teens left him in a wheelchair. Haru took up paralympic dancing. Recently his superpowers manifested, possibly due to his growing interest in the theatrical aspects of dance. That got him kicked out of competition. He is suing because the whole point of paralympic sports is to offer opportunities to people barred from conventional sporting events due to special needs.
Uniform: Formal wear while dancing. Nice street clothes otherwise. He usually wears trousers, but likes feminine shoes and often paints his finger and toe nails. He varies between masculine and feminine tops.
Qualities: Master (+6) Gender Activist, Master (+6) Paralympic Dancer, Expert (+4) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Expert (+4) Fabulous, Good (+2) Dexterity Games, Good (+2) Honorable, Good (+2) Sushi Cook
Poor (-2) Family Outcast
Powers: Good (+2) Light Control
Motivation: To break down the ban against superpowers in sports and entertainment.

Rei Moritomo -- She has golden skin, black eyes, and long straight black hair. She is genderqueer and uses feminine pronouns. Her body is male. Rei has used exercise, a little reconstructive surgery, and fashion expertise to create a subtly feminine silhouette. She has not removed her male parts and does not plan to do so. She enjoys both acting and dancing in the female role. Her enormous family thinks she is amazing, and they have welcomed Haru with equal enthusiasm.
Rei is partnered with Haru Kimura. They live in a large accessible house shared with several other disabled soups including Syncope, Handspring, and the Saenz family. Theirs is the master bedroom on the upper floor, bedroom #3. Rei helps take care of their home, especially the gardening. She can put anything edible on pizza and make it taste good. A household favorite is Doorstop Pizza, made with bamboo wedges.
Qualities: Master (+6) Onnagata, Master (+6) Paralympic Dancer, Expert (+4) Extended Family, Expert (+4) Gender Activist, Expert (+4) Pizza Cook, Good (+2) Elegant, Good (+2) Gardener, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Strategy Games, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Finicky

Stilts (Rodney Davenport) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy dark blond hair. He bruises easily and heals slowly. He lives in the Heights. Rodney has always been fast and agile, enjoying such sports as Tae Kwon Do and walking on stilts, which is where his nickname originally came from. On several occasions he actually used stilt walking to get past enemy defenses, while working for SPOON. Since he got injured by the supervillain Warpcore, it's more a reference to the fact that he walks with forearm crutches, although he is trying to figure out how to use hand stilts to walk upside-down. At home he uses a stander for tasks such as cooking, to remain upright while keeping his hands free. He has already adapted his knowledge to practice Criptaedo. He can use his crutches to trip or hit people, and to block attacks, quite effectively. Although Rodney has spoken to several healers, the nature of Warpcore's talent makes the damage difficult or impossible to fix, and so far nobody has been able to help.
Origin: His super-speed grew in during his teens. On reaching adulthood, Stilts joined SPOON. Several years later, he tangled with Warpcore in a fight that damaged his legs.
Uniform: On-duty, he wears a dexflan unitard, melon colored with white trim. Off-duty, he wears street clothes over it. His super-speed is enough to shred regular fabric if he exerts himself too much; better to be prepared than left naked.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Determination, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Criptaedo, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Poor (-2) Recovering from Injuries
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Speed
Motivation: "You're not seriously suggesting I should quit superheroing just because some bitch fucked up my legs? Come over here and I'll show you what I've still got!"

Warpcore (Magda Gallagher) -- She has tawny skin, gray eyes, and vivid red hair. She lives in the Heights. Warpcore works as a henchwoman providing hired muscle. As a fighter, she's highly effective and difficult to injure. However, her smoking undermines her health.
Warpcore is one of those supervillains who just really likes hurting people. Her superpower creates ripples in reality, twisting everything it touches. In air or water, it can obscure aim or block attacks. But when it hits anything solid, the effects are devastating -- it bends equipment out of shape, destroys buildings, or deforms flesh and bone. Injuries can be crippling, and they also tend to be permanent. It's difficult or impossible for a healer to fix what Warpcore has damaged. For that reason she's on a lot of people's Wanted list. So far nobody has managed to bring her in.
Origin: Magda grew up with her mother's boyfriend telling her that she was sick and twisted, that she ruined everything she touched. Either he was right, or it just stuck somehow.
Uniform: Usually muscle clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Street Fighter, Good (+2) Evasive, Good (+2) Tough, Good (+2) Underworld Contacts
Poor (-2) Smoker
Powers: Master (+6) Distortion
Motivation: "I'm gonna fuck you up!"

See the house description, exterior, and floor plan for the accessible sharehouse. Downstairs, the master suite belongs to the Saenz family. Bedroom #2 belongs to Syncope. The study has been converted to an exercise room with a multigym, a treadmill, free weights, and yoga equipment all accessible to both disabled and able-bodied housemates. The dining room serves as a gaming area, stocked with several different tables and cabinets, including the Alexandria Codex Game Storage Cabinet and the Keep Game Storage Cabinet. They customarily eat in the dinette, which is more convenient in relation to the kitchen. However, the Vizier gaming table converts to auxiliary dining space for large parties. The covered lanai adjacent to the outdoor kitchen has its own dining table. The covered lanai near the spa has an outdoor ping-pong table and a picnic table with two checkerboards and a backgammon board.

Upstairs, Haru Kimura and Rei Moritomo share the master suite, bedroom #3. Handspring has bedroom #5, and the owner of bedroom #4 is out of town. The upstairs A/V room has been converted to a library, lined with low bookcases and backlit stained-glass window emulators. The loft area serves as the upstairs living room with an entertainment center and clusters of furniture.

* * *

"What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter - a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue."
-- Henri Matisse

Positive affirmations help frame healthy self-talk. Understand how to use them effectively, and browse some samples.

Traumatic Brain Injury is a complex condition resulting from concussive force to the head. It can have many different effects; Callista's manifest primarily in the physical realm with imbalance and vertigo. Adjusting to a fresh disability causes stress because it may require not just accommodating the handicap itself but also major life changes such as switching professions or moving to a new home. There are ways to cope with a brain injury and help someone with TBI.

A bad boyfriend can turn into an even worse ex. Acquiring a disability puts strain on any relationship, and often ends in breakup.

Paralympic sports include wheelchair dance.

Genderqueer people have a different gender identity than their physical sex seems to predict. This can cause many challenges, including family rejection. There are tips on genderqueer etiquette.

Inclusion of people with disabilities means socialization as well as other areas. Know how to enhance daily life and plan entertainment to accommodate disabilities.

Read about whirligig beetles.

The Ford 4x4 Quigley Tactical Van has reinforced bumpers and armor outside. The interior includes a swivel command chair, a bench seat, and copious equipment.

"Ring the changes" is a phrase from bell music.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-15 04:20 pm (UTC)
thnidu: reply to car decals "26.2" and "13.1" (I don't run)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Oh, I LIKE these people, this family-of-choice who are being all they can be* and helping each other do so.

I also like this, as I've said before about your soups' not always being pure black or white vapor: «Thumper, who was appalled by the carnage, paid for his medical care and set up a support fund that dispenses a monthly stipend.»

* and I don't care if the US Army uses that expression, it's a great slogan for anyone

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-07-16 01:26 am (UTC)
thnidu: blank white robot/avatar sitting on big red question mark. tinyurl.com/cgkcqcj via Google Images (question mark)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Well, I can imagine imagining it, but no more than that since I know b*gger-all about Jack Union except what you imply. ;-)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-07-17 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lone_cat
Just out of curiosity, does the scene you mentioned take place before or after "Not the Absence of Fear?"

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-07-17 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lone_cat
Should be interesting. I can easily imagine Jack coming across one of those contests and trying to end it by hitting whoever he sees as the badguy(s) -- and both sides crying "Foul!"

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-15 03:55 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
The 1st time you nail a new trick, it's such a rush… even if poor Syncope didn't quite stick the landing…

I love a good handle choir.

Thank you!

Date: 2015-07-15 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> The 1st time you nail a new trick, it's such a rush… <<

Yes, exactly.

>> even if poor Syncope didn't quite stick the landing… <<

I suspect that she'll get the hang of it with practice. Even her balance may improve somewhat over time, even though it won't ever be perfect again. She's hardly the first person to lose her lunch after combat.

>> I love a good handle choir. <<

Syncope is like a big powerful gun that requires a well-built cradle to manage the action.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-15 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
Love the poem.

REALLY love this, from the notes: Thumper, who was appalled by the carnage, paid for [Lorenzo's] medical care and set up a support fund that dispenses a monthly stipend. It just tickles me that most of your supervillains have consciences.

Thank you!

Date: 2015-07-16 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Love the poem. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> REALLY love this, from the notes: Thumper, who was appalled by the carnage, paid for [Lorenzo's] medical care and set up a support fund that dispenses a monthly stipend. It just tickles me that most of your supervillains have consciences. <<

:D That seems to be everyone's favorite part. When a majority of the supervillains have some standards (however nonstandard) then it just makes for different and more interesting stories than "two guys beat up each other with cars."

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