ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the April 19, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] alatefeline and an anonymous comment on Dreamwidth.  It also fills the "secrets" square in my 1-1-16 card for the Spies, Secret Agents, and Noir Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series An Army of One.


"Flying in Freefall"


Router had understood the principle
of turning Supply Base Bounty 3D3N
into a farming station, but he had not
expected to receive livestock.

Nevertheless when a distress call
went up from a secret laboratory
that had abandoned secrecy
in favor of survival, 3D3N was
the closest location where
the refugees could stay until
their home was repaired.

Dr. Syden Caermichael arrived
with cart after cart laden with cages,
her white coat no longer pristine.

There were mice and rats,
guinea pigs and rabbits.
There were chickens
and zebra finches.

Sam the Gardener made
grabby hands and said,
"I claim the manure. I'll
help you move your critters,
but I want all of their crap."

"You might as well,"
the scientist said with a sigh.
"All my experiments in progress
are invalidated anyway."

"This is going to be so much fun,"
he said as he wheeled away the cages.

An hour later, it wasn't.

"What's wrong with your birds?"
Sam said, peering anxiously at them.

Router looked up from his tablet
to see what was going on.

Some of the birds seemed fine,
but others were flopping weakly
on the floors of their cages, and
some seemed to be trying to fly
through the wire mesh.

"The white zebra finches on the floor
are my zero-gravity finches, so that's
why they can't move much in here."
The panicky gray ones are part of
an experiment on flocking behavior;
they're not used to being separated,
but we couldn't bring the big cage,"
Syden explained. "They're not sick."

"And the chickens aren't really drunk?"
Sam said as he watched them
stagger around the cage.

"No, they were raised in variable gravity,"
Syden said. "They're used to flying,
but they can't in full gravity."

"So we need to arrange ... what?"
Router said. "I think we can manage
a big cage for the finches, somehow ..."

"It might be easier to put them in a closet,
if you can rig an airlock for the door so
they can't escape," Syden said. "People
raise pet finches in aviaries like that."

"All right, that we can do," Router said.
"I'm not sure about the gravity, though."

"What about the lifeboats?" Sam said.
"Port said there are a bunch of those
stored here, all different kinds, from
big crew modules to one-man pods."

"Put them on a tether, program
the appropriate spin, and they'd have
their preferred gravity most of the time
except for caregiving," Router said.
"I'll think we can make it happen."

Then he noticed that Syden
was hugging herself and rocking.

"It's all right, Syden," he said.
"I know the life support emergency
was scary, but you and your stock
are safe here. The engineers will
fix whatever broke, and then
you'll be home in no time."

"But it's not a secret anymore,"
the scientist whispered.

"That's probably for the best,"
Router said gently. "With
the old supply lines gone,
we need new ones, and
that includes you. Besides,
we could really use livestock
if you have any to spare."

"I have earthworms," Sam said.
"I'll trade you some for chickens,
guinea pigs, and rabbits. Or ask
for whatever else you need, and
if I have it, then it's yours."

She looked around. "You have
a real garden. In space."

"Yes," the Gardener said proudly.

"We can talk," Syden said.
"Let's get the birds set up first."

Router discovered that it was
oddly soothing to watch
the closet full of finches.

He hadn't realized how much
birds depended on each other,
the way their flight affected
the air currents and changed
the path of the other finches.

It was kind of like the way
that supplies moved around
in the warehouse space, although
it was Router himself who had
to keep them organized.

If watching the finches
in the closet was fun, though,
seeing the flock flying in freefall
was nothing short of magical.

It reminded Router of
how he'd felt about space,
back before it became his job.

Sometimes, it was good
to let out the secrets.

* * *

Notes:

The most common wild-type laboratory birds include the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and the house sparrow (Passer domesticus). Chickens are also popular.

Research on birds in space has already begun.

Chickens are commonly raised for eggs, meat, and laboratory research although their feathers are also a useful byproduct. White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds are among the most prevalent breeds, especially for commercial or clinical uses. Chickens may be kept in rural or suburban areas.

Zebra Finches are popular both for laboratory research and as pets. They are quite well suited as pets in space because they can fly and they are so tiny that they don't need much space. Their lively fluttering and (for the males) singing helps brighten up what can be a very drab environment.

Zebra Finches come in many varieties. See a picture of their color types. Here is a gray pair. Here is a white pair.

Large flocks are often kept in a closet-style aviary.

Prompt attribution

Date: 2016-04-23 07:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Please, please add "and another anonymous user." I didn't write the original parrot prompt, just the reply to it. --alatefeline

That said, yay poem!

Re: Prompt attribution

Date: 2016-04-23 08:48 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
It is fixed now.

Note to self, shared for any interest it may have for you: Less need to headdesk makes everyone happier. Communication may sometimes reduce the need to headdesk. Consider also that talking does not equal communication. Plan on using accurate tags and attributions for myself as one aspect of good communication.

Thanks.

--alatefeline

Shiny Poem, Here Is Feedback

Date: 2016-04-23 09:13 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Ysabetwordsmith, you've mentioned that specific audience feedback is a good thing for you, usually. Right? (If I’ve misinterpreted please set me straight.) I noted some parts of this poem that I found to be especially effective for me and a bit on why or how. Some of it is just squeeing and rambling, though.

“Sam the Gardener made
grabby hands and said,
‘I claim the manure.”

The vivid sensory input of the phrase “grabby hands” worked well for me. It functions as a mental image of Sam in this scene, as an imagining of what it might be like to move that way if I were in Sam’s shoes (is there a physical/kinesthetic equivalent for the vision-centered term “mental image”?), and as a clue with which to begin understanding his thoughts and how he is interacting (successfully!) with others.

"What's wrong with your birds?"
Sam said, peering anxiously at them.

Again, you include a body-specific description of the action that helps me to understand it.

(Sometimes, with the right author, I can “read” body language better in a text than in face-time. There isn’t *all the other stuff* going on and the hands/posture/facial expression doesn’t go away if I am looking the other direction for a second! But I think reading descriptions like this also taught me to watch for them outside a book. Learning by reading is possible!)

I feel for Sam here. He’s just got these *new live things* and now they are *not okay* and what can he do!

"So we need to arrange ... what?"
Router said. "I think we can manage
a big cage for the finches, somehow ..."

I love, love, love, that Router’s instant reaction is, “How do we accommodate this need?” He is a good person with some practice in flexible thinking.

Then he noticed that Syden
was hugging herself and rocking.

This seems familiar. As if the character is noticing the emotional response well into whatever the situation is that triggered it, and now of course wants to help but can’t make the situation go away. Router, summon up those coping skills!

Router discovered that it was
oddly soothing to watch
the closet full of finches.

Yay, fezzery critters! (Fezzery = A bird-specific variation on “fuzzy” my partner and I came up with when we realized that it didn’t cover all the different sorts of cute we like to point out to each other. Think “feathery+fuzzy.”)

Watching birds can be trance-inducing. (Except sometimes it is pounce-inducing, and then I have to remind myself I can’t actually catch or digest whole, raw small animals very well in this body. I’m a vegetarian, dangit! But I am also a cat.) It is soothing and beautiful. All the small, precise movements.

It reminded Router of
how he'd felt about space,
back before it became his job.

Yes. :)

I am now wondering...
What does Backup think of the finches???

Re: Shiny Poem, Here Is Feedback

Date: 2016-04-23 09:33 pm (UTC)
thnidu: glowing light bulb. tinyurl.com/33j2v8h (light bulb)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
(facepalm) I've been seeing your comments for a while, but I only just understood your handle. And me a linguist!



(Image from link in "Tiassa (animal)" in Dragaera Wikia.)

Re: Shiny Poem, Here Is Feedback

Date: 2016-04-25 02:13 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
You got it! Thanks for posting the tiassa picture. I enjoy the Dragaera series. I also have a nearly loved to death t-shirt of Mercedes Lackey's character Skandranon the Black Gryphon (later the White Gryphon) as depicted by Jody Lee.

I like reading your comments, particularly the grammar and etymology aspects. I am a bit of a language nerd, but my training in formal linguistics is limited to a couple of classes taken while working on my degree in TESOL. On the other hand, instead of paying attention in boring middle school classes, I was trying to invent an orthography for English that included single letters for ŋ and ʒ and θ. Thank gods I eventually found out about IPA (not the drink). So the interest is there, just not all the training.

Just wondering, thnidu. if you were a critter or chimera, what would you be? (Don't feel obligated to answer if that is too personal or anything.)

Re: Shiny Poem, Here Is Feedback

Date: 2016-04-25 02:44 pm (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I'm glad you like my nerdy stuff. As to your question, I've honestly never thought about it. And trying to think about it right now, I draw a blank.

Re: Shiny Poem, Here Is Feedback

Date: 2016-04-26 04:34 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I love the link! It is put together in an organized yet breezy way, with a decent level of detail for what I have actually retained (as opposed to encountered, discussed, and mostly forgotten) about the history of English spelling. It makes a great refresher on the topic. Thanks!

Re: Shiny Poem, Here Is Feedback

Date: 2016-04-26 04:30 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I am smiling about "Yay! A new manual...!" and "mental impression" both. Your explanation of Router makes sense.

I want to pounce those bird pictures! And admire the pretty, pretty birdies with my paws (=hands). I have to remind myself that they *do not like that* and it is *not good* for feathers.

I was that kid who took forever to learn to respect people's boundaries around hair because *texture,* dangit. Meanwhile I would shriek at anyone who tried to touch me and set off my oddly-calibrated inner alarm system. Life lessons learned...but temptation is ever-present. Nowadays I ALWAYS take the opportunity to playfully bat at ribbons and scarves around friends/family, because who knows how many things I will have to NOT bat at that day.

Yours in feline fellowship,
Alatefeline

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-23 09:27 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
IIRC NASA's experiments on birds in freefall [back in the Skylab days] proved that it takes them between 3 and 15 days to adapt, otherwise they just roll and tumble in the air.

Oddly enough, chickens adapted really quite well... probably because you don't need much of a wing to fly when you're not fighting gravity.

Side-note, you know your classic western dragon with the ridiculously un-aerodynamic wings? That would fly quite well in micro-gravity.
Edited Date: 2016-04-23 09:27 am (UTC)

Thoughts

Date: 2016-04-25 06:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>IIRC NASA's experiments on birds in freefall [back in the Skylab days] proved that it takes them between 3 and 15 days to adapt, otherwise they just roll and tumble in the air.

Oddly enough, chickens adapted really quite well... probably because you don't need much of a wing to fly when you're not fighting gravity. <<

It's also the wing shape. Simpler, blunt wings seem to do better than pointed wings meant for fancy maneuvers. Just scooping air is a lot easier than acrobatics -- and if you've learned the fancy maneuvers, it's harder to cope with how different everything feels.

>> Side-note, you know your classic western dragon with the ridiculously un-aerodynamic wings? That would fly quite well in micro-gravity. <<

It's mainly about steering, since you don't need to lift. You DO really need a paddle-tip tail.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-05-07 04:03 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Chickens aren't just for *sub*urbia anymore... I know of at least two small flocks within the City of Seattle, and I figure there are LOTS more where that came from... one's just down the block; we sometimes have to slow down going down the alley as they often fly the coop.... and [livejournal.com profile] talis_kimberley keeps chooks in front of her studio-house in Wiltshire...

Let's put it this way; it's mainstream enough that I walked into True Value just over in the Junction - less than a mile from here, in a mixed single- and multi-family building neighbourhood - and saw a ready-to-go coop right in front of the door.

BWAAAK! :)

Yes...

Date: 2016-05-07 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I have heard about city chickens. It's interesting. Used to be, pigeons were the bird of choice for cities.

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