ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the July 19, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] lone_cat, [personal profile] ellenmillion, and LJ user Rix_scaedu. It also fills the "safe" square in my 6-1-16 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by LJ user Daisiesrockalot. It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It follows "Bearers of Witness with Justice," so make sure to read that first, or this will make no sense.

Warning: This poem deals with some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes odd cultural dynamics, references to past whaling, ambivalent emotions, surprising interpersonal dynamics, quiet acts of heroism, and other challenges. There are spoilers for "Bearers of Witness with Justice" too. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"To Do the Brave Things"


Aquariana and Irene were playing
with the whales when a call came through
from the President of the Maldives.

"We're receiving a diplomatic broadcast
from Japan," he told Aquariana. "Put it
on your viewscreen, you need to see this."

So Aquariana switched her screen from
navigation to reception and searched for
the relevant broadcast, while Irene
retrieved the balls that Steel and
Moderato had been tossing around.

Both whales swam close to the side of
the Jeanne Baret to see what was going on.

There on the screen was a boy
on the cusp of puberty, wrapped in
elaborate robes. The outermost layer
was a purple so deep it was almost black,
with a wink of brilliant red hidden beneath,
over white bottoms of densely pleated silk.
A family crest was worked in gold on
several places, gleaming in the light.

His long hair was folded up into
an elaborate, box-shaped hairdo and
his eyes were a startling deep blue.

"Wow, that's Toyotama-Hiko," said Irene.
"He almost never makes appearances
beyond Japan. This must be big."

The boy spoke Japanese, but
subtitles appeared in a banner below.
"Today I am apologizing to the People
of the Sea on behalf of all Japan. We
did not realize that you were people, and
in our ignorance we have wronged you."
He bowed, long and low, the silk robes
whispering against the wooden floor.

"You have no reason to believe our words,
and so we will offer deeds instead, which are
less easily dismissed," said Toyotama-Hiko.
"Sincerity is a witness to truth."

A map replaced the boy's image,
which showed first Japan, then
the Wakayama prefecture, and
finally zoomed in on a bay.

"That's Taiji," said Aquariana.
There was no mistaking the shape
of the bay with its distinctive fork.
"What in the world ..."

The view returned to Toyotama-Hiko.
"Japan cedes the bay of Taiji to
the People of the Sea," he said.
"There will be no more hunting or
fishing within that sanctuary."

Aquariana whistled through her teeth.
She and other environmentalists
had spent years trying to pry Taiji
away from its whaling traditions.

Evidently this boy had a longer lever.

"This is our apology, made not in words,
but in water, which is precious to both
of our peoples," said Toyotama-Hiko.
"We humbly beg your forgiveness
for our transgressions against you,
and hope for peace between us."

He bowed again, lower, and
his body curled in upon itself until
the air seemed to ripple around him --

and then the boy was gone, in his place
a serpentine dragon with nacreous scales tinged
silver along the spine and gold along the belly.
A prominent pearl adorned his forehead, and
long mustaches trailed from his mouth. He
raised a three-clawed foot in salute as
his coils twined in a graceful knot.

With that, the transmission faded out.

Aquariana closed her mouth and
tried to gather her wits.

"That was very well done," Irene said.
"I bet that makes a big splash."

"Can he do that?" Aquariana said.
"I thought Japan basically hated soups."

"I believe he can," Irene said. "The Japanese
have ... let's call it a complicated response to
superpowers. They dislike most kinds, but there
are a few with deep cultural roots they respect,
and dragons pretty much top that stack."

"Okay, so what does that mean in terms
of the politics?" Aquariana asked.

"From what I know about Toyotama-Hiko,
he belongs to an offshoot of the Imperial Family
and his abilities tie right in to their claims of
divine ancestry," Irene said. "The politics are
awkward, so the compromise has been to call
him the Emperor of Culture. The government
sometimes hands off announcements to him
in matters of culture and honor."

"That was quite an announcement,
all right," Aquariana said. Then she
leaned over the rail and asked the whales,
"How do you guys feel about this?"

At first all she got back was a tangle
of mixed emotions, like long strands of
kelp knotted together by the waves.

That is the Red Bay, Steel said uneasily.
We have learned to avoid the killing grounds.
I am not sure anyone would want to go there.


This is the first time any of the landers have
apologized to us, though,
Moderato said.
I think that, at least, is good progress.

"It's an unexpected opportunity,
a silver lining," said Aquariana.
"What happened was horrible, but
some good may still come out of this."

"In order for a relationship to begin the path
of reconciliation and healing, somebody must
be willing to do the brave things," said Irene.
"First, one must apologize; and then,
another must accept the apology."

I do not know if I can, Steel said
with a ripple in his mind like
cross-currents in the water.

"Well, we've always got Moderato,
he's good with people," said Aquariana.
"He could make a statement, if he
agrees the apology is valid."

I could, said Moderato,
but I think I would prefer not to.
I am not the one who has been
wronged the most in this. I feel
that it is Steel's place to accept or
decline, to forgive or not.


Aquariana could feel how much
Steel was taken aback by that.

He was -- they all were, really --
accustomed to relying on Moderato
for the diplomatic interactions.

It was uncommon for Moderato
to move aside and insist that Steel
make the choices in a case like this,
but on further consideration,
Aquariana could see why.

Only part of it was because
Steel had the greater claim here;
the other part was that he needed
to learn how to handle his own emotions
and choose whether to deal with humans.

"Okay," Aquariana agreed. "Steel,
it's your move now. How does this fit
with your feelings and your goals?
How do you want to handle it?"

Long, thoughtful rumbles echoed
through the hull of the boat as Steel
took his time to frame an answer.

Aquariana was glad that he did that
instead of making a snap decision.

What I have wanted the most --
what I thought I could never have --
was safety,
said Steel. If the offer is
sincere, then a place of death would
become one of sanctuary. That is not
something to cast off lightly. Yet I
do not know much about forgiveness.
It is very new to me still.


"Forgiveness is about healing
damaged relationships," Irene said.
"It means letting go of the bitterness you
harbor toward someone who hurt you before.
When someone regrets their mistakes and
offers an apology, tries to make amends,
then that is a great time to forgive them
so that you can all do better in the future."

"You know, the Russians have
a fantastic saying for occasions like
this one: 'Trust, but verify.' You don't
have to take it on faith that the bay is
safe now. You could send scouts who
can defend themselves in case of
emergency," Aquariana suggested.
"Nautilus comes readily to mind."

From the spark of interest,
Aquariana could sense that
Steel liked that idea.

The old tales say that place was
very romantic,
said Moderato.

That startled Aquariana into a chuckle.
She had known that whales migrated from
cold feeding grounds to warmer places for
breeding and calving, but she had never
looked at it from their perspective before.

That woke a ripple of memory for Steel,
too, a surprising surge of passion and
affection that he quickly concealed
to avoid flooding the link with
overly intimate history.

The fondness lingered, though,
like a trail of something sweet
moving through the water.

If there is to be safety for anyone,
then someone must swim down into
the darkness and find it,
said Steel.
Even a hurricane must run out
of fury sooner or later
.

Aquariana recalled the accident
that had nearly killed her, but that
also led to her developing superpowers
which made her much more formidable
in protecting the waters of the world.

"Yes, that's often true," she said.
"It is up to each person to decide
whether it's a trip they want to make,
and when they're finished feeling angry."

"Whatever you choose to do, Steel,
let us know, and then we can pass along
the message to the Japanese for you," said Irene.

Tell the white dragon, said Steel, I accept his apology.

* * *

Notes:

Toyotama-Hiko (Tsuneo Yamato) -- He has golden skin, blue eyes, and long straight black hair. He is twelve years old in 2014. He belongs to an offshoot of the imperial family; his blue eyes come from his great-great grandmother (Sachiko, Princess Hisa) having been raped by an unidentified American soldier back in World War II, hence the isolation from other branches of the family. But the imperial connection became rather obvious after Tsuneo's powers manifested. He is considered the Emperor of Culture for Japan, a position conflicted between Japan's reverence for dragons and its loathing of superpowers. There is a growing argument that Tsuneo should be placed on the Chrysanthemum Throne by proof of divine right (i.e. physical shapeshifting congruent with the family's genealogical claim to divine ancestry) as well as his complicated ties across several family lines. However, he has declined to take a stance on that personally, so "Emperor of Culture" is the current compromise. The government sometimes hands off announcements to him in matters of culture and honor. Tsuneo enjoys strategic board games such as Go and Shogi. His youth and small size work against him in trying to guide older, larger people.
Origin: Tsuneo was near the Fukushima Daiichi reactor for a school field trip when the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011. He was nine years old at the time. Although not seriously injured, he was very shaken up, and everyone in the area got some exposure to the radiation leaking from the damaged facility. He developed superpowers about a year later. First a strange floss emerged from his skin, hardening into an egg-like cocoon. Out of that hatched his dragon form, and then he turned back into human form.
Uniform: Tsuneo wears his school uniform at school, and street clothes when off duty. For formal occasions he wears a very elaborate imperial kimono, and after making an official proclamation, he customarily turns into a dragon.
Qualities: Master (+6) Wisdom, Expert (+4) Japanese Culture, Expert (+4) Leadership, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Shintoist, Good (+2) Strategic Board Games
Poor (-2) Still Young and Small
Powers: Good (+2) Imperial Dragon
His dragon form is long and sinuous, with three claws per foot, and a prominent "mustache" on the head. His scales are pearl-white along the back, almost silver; and pearl-gold along the belly. A prominent 'pearl' on his forehead is actually a third eye which perceives only light and dark, and is intended to warn of danger. In dragon form his meta-power functions at Good level; in human form, only Average. Subsidiary powers include Flight, Healing, Invulnerability, Regeneration, Shapeshifting, and Water Powers.
Motivation: To guide Japan along the path of honor.

Hime means "princess" in Japanese, and hiko is "prince." Toyotama-hime is a legendary figure.

Note: In L-Japan, Sachiko died as an infant. In T-Japan, she became very sick but recovered dramatically and never had another significant illness in her life. It has been suggested -- and the family always objects vociferously -- that Sachiko had some kind of superpower which allowed her to survive.

* * *

"I wonder how many relationships would begin the path of reconciliation and healing if one person were to do the brave thing: apologize."
-- Unknown

The history of the kimono includes different styles for women and men. Toyotama-hiko is wearing an Imperial kimono of deep purple with red underrobe, white hakama, and five gold family crests. This historic picture shows a gold kimono with a red underrobe. A more modern style shows a red overrobe with white hakama.

"Sincerity is a witness to truth."
-- Shinto Sayings

Taiji, Wakayama, Japan is a fishing village famed for its gruesome dolphin hunts. Here is a map of Japan showing the location of Taiji. This closeup map of Taiji shows its distinctive forked bay.

Here is a video of a dragon dance. I have seen onstage, but could not find an exact copy of, the type of dance where the dragon really tied itself in a knot.

Apologies are intended to heal damaged relationships. They have a lot of power. Follow the steps for making an apology.

Apology and forgiveness are crucial tools in conflict resolution.

Some whales breed near Japan. It seems logical that whatever places they like to congregate in for this purpose must put them in the mood for it, a quality human languages describe as "romantic."

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-21 07:25 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Yaaaaaay!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-21 07:47 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Agreed.

Whew. I was not expecting a dragon to show up! But it makes sense. That kid has a lot of work ahead of him, I think.

"Trust but verify," indeed.

I don't know if the bay can ever regain its romantic beauty for this generation of cetaceans; it will always have a complicated history going forward, but hopefully, now, it will be safe. I have "In Flanders Fields" running through my head...though it would be more like visiting a Holocaust memorial... Natural loveliness, but with blood in the landscape and whispers in the air. For those future generations less involved, that doesn't have to poison today; it can inform it and deepen appreciation for life instead. For Steel, it would be an act of terrible courage to go even if the scouts report favorably; but it might be worth it.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-08-22 02:37 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Looking forward to it!

Memories

Date: 2016-08-21 05:54 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Loiosh)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Veering off topic, "In Flanders Fields" has special memories for me. In the 1990s and early 2000s I was Senior Linguist for Dragon Systems (heh!). When it was bought by Lernout & Hauspie I was sent for a week to their HQ in Ypres. I had enough free time to visit the memorial at the Menin Gate, where I walked the stairs, scanning the names of the Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found, and saying Kaddish for the occasional Jewish name.

I like walking, and I walked each day between my hotel and the company offices. Once a passing car stopped and the people in it asked for directions, in French. By then I'd been around enough to direct them to the city center (or wherever it was that they wanted), besides explaining «Je suis américain». I don't remember if I gave directions in my passable French or if they switched to workable English, though.

And as I half dictate, half Swype this into my smartphone, the occasional mistaken stroke brings up a reminder that the input interface I'm using is "Swype + Dragon": the Swype keyboard (drag your fingertip across the letters instead of tapping them one by one) with a "microphone" key that turns on automatic speech recognition based on Dragon technology, now owned by Nuance since they bought it after the collapse of the Lernout & Hauspie* scam. (This and this and much more.)

* Recipient of the 2002 Ig Nobel Prize in Economics "for adapting the mathematical concept of imaginary numbers for use in the business world"

Re: Memories and Technologies

Date: 2016-08-21 08:05 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Awesome!

On topic, I brought up that poem
http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields.htm
even though the overall message of “take up the torch” is perhaps not quite on point for peacefully reoccupying a place that was previously a site of slaughter
because the image of the blowing poppies and the peace that comes after had always stuck with me since hearing a recitation with video imagery that I have never been able to find again. Over time, the meaning of memorials shifts as the danger of forgetting becomes more prevalent than the danger of really remembering. The peace and beauty of a calm place that was once the site of tragedy is striking in a way that is, yes, cliched, but I think it’s a cliche because people regularly have that striking experience. I’m reminded of visiting a museum that I have mostly failed to remember coherently - I think I know it was on a family trip in Spain but I can’t recall the name of the town or the museum - but the age of the worn stones that had seen their people live there for centuries, and be driven away, and be gone for centuries, and have their descendants come back … it was as if they were whispering. “Don’t forget” and “we are resting now” and “it can happen again” and “peace is temporary” and “peace is forever” all at once.

Re the speech-to-text software and the Ig Nobel debacle you linked information about - it’s just sad and ruefully ironic to me that people with really good software weren’t willing to stake their company’s economic future on that, and instead tried to falsely improve their economic outlook at the cost of so many jobs and dreams.

Re using the Dragon software today - I hope it’s satisfying. Somehow I keep getting slim lightweight modern computers, and then by the time I’ve gotten used to using them, they are bulky and clunky and I am a dinosaur; and I’m not yet thirty. I like having a sizable screen and physical keys, but I know I’m out of step when I look at my computer (purchased, again, for being small and lightweight) and think “wow that’s big.” I wish I could load all the new and old software I like on one great interface and keep it forever, not being primarily a tech person, but that’s not going to happen until there are at least a few centuries worth of exploring the potential of computers for people to circle back to looking at the user-interface end of things because the content is effectively infinite, and settle on styles with some lasting value - like a paperback book methinks. The Culture novels of Iain Banks offer some good suggestions as to what computer input/output might look like in a world where that’s basically arbitrary on the tech end and constrained on the “this has to work for a featherless biped with hands” end; and I enjoyed a recent video about temporary tattoo touch-pads, although like terminals on one’s eyes and in one’s ears that seems to have the potential to go horribly wrong in painful ways.


Re the poem - I have never been to Ypres or Flanders or indeed most of France, just barely over the border in Basque country as a student abroad in Spain. But my imagery associated with it is a striking display at the National WW1 Museum in Kansas City, where one walks over an aerial bridge over a stretch of artificial ground inside the museum to enter the exhibit galleries, and the ground was filled with scarlet artificial poppies.

Re the travel - you are indeed fortunate to have gone there. I think I need to both plan more trips, and organize my memories of trips while on or just after them, and revisit the mementos of trips I’ve already been on - because those experiences are precious.

Re: Memories and Technologies

Date: 2016-08-21 08:58 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
«people with really good software weren’t willing to stake their company’s economic future on that»

It wasn't really like that. What happened is an aspect of small companies getting larger. There gets to be a turnover point, somewhere around 200 people working, where the informal methods of operation start to get cumbersome and ineffective, as there are too many people for someone to be in touch personally with everyone they need to be in touch with. *If I recall correctly*, this resulted in some financial straits, which Lernout & Hauspie were more than happy to offer to alleviate with a purchase offer, payable to the founders in stock. And I am pretty sure that Jim and Janet Baker, the founders, explained this to us, the staff, as largely motivated by not wanting to put our jobs at risk. That was entirely consistent with the way they related to us from the very beginning.

Of course, the stock became almost entirely worthless as L&H collapsed. and just last year the court finally *somehow* decided that Goldman Sachs, which was overseeing the deal, had not violated their obligation to due diligence, despite much evidence to the contrary. (The only imaginable reason for that decision — apart from corruption, which I am not willing to accuse the court of without evidence — is that Goldman Sachs, probably having done this many times before, could afford very very clever {we celluloids purulent} ... Wow, what I dictated was "very very clever weasely lawyers". This is why unsupervised ASR can never be relied on.)

By the way, my default icon up there, Loiosh, is from a series of small "Pound Puppies"–type stuffed figures that we used as souvenirs at tradeshows. They proved enormously popular. When the shit hit the fan and Dragon Systems was on the verge of ceasing to exist, I took a whole bunch of these from the cabinets, as they wouldn't be wanted there anymore, and I wanted them. Loiosh has been through several reincarnations as his old bodies wore out.
Edited Date: 2016-08-21 09:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Memories and Technologies

Date: 2016-08-22 02:26 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
>> What happened is an aspect of small companies getting larger. <<

Thank you for clarifying. I apologize for misunderstanding.

>> Loiosh has been through several reincarnations as his old bodies wore out. <<

Bunbun (that's the public name), my stuffed rabbit friend that has been with me since I was born, is still *bits* of the same bunny but has been re-covered over and over again with my very inept fabric-crafting skills. Bunbun is tattered and textured and overdue for a new layer of fuzzy, but still good company.

Re: Memories and Technologies

Date: 2016-08-22 02:38 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Kind of like that, yes. :)

Re: Memories and Technologies

Date: 2016-08-22 02:47 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
«Thank you for clarifying. I apologize for misunderstanding.»

Pas du tout. You had no way of knowing. A not unreasonable surmise.

Re: Memories and Technologies

Date: 2016-08-22 03:02 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Thank you for your courtesy, then. I do believe that's always appropriate.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-22 02:10 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Wow!
Toyotama-Hiko can do a lot to help Japan accept people with superpowers -- I hope it works.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2016-08-22 02:39 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Yay! Dragons for tolerance!

I missed this before

Date: 2016-08-22 10:34 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
• but in water, which is precious to both
of our peoples," Toyotama-Hiko ^. "We

^ said


What happens to the robes when he transforms?

Re Imperial Robes

Date: 2016-08-23 10:36 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
My mischievous kitsune answer to your question is: what happens to yours? :-)

Otherwise, while risking a tail meddling in the affairs of an Imperial Dragon, I have 2 ideas:

1) They become his scales

2) He trades them to an Ethereal Plane in exchange for the Dragon form.

Ysabet may have other ideas. :-D

Re: Re Imperial Robes

Date: 2016-08-23 10:44 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

Or, they get absorbed, and then restored when he resumes his human form.

Now that is a Japanese answer to shame!

Date: 2016-08-23 10:45 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
I liked this. Also, what hasn't been mentioned and I love: Toyotama-Hiko is of mixed blood, and of the Imperial Family. The shame of being raped could have led to Sachiko being killed, committing suicide, or just quietly being married off and ignored. Instead, she bears the child, they are BOTH still considered an offshoot of the Imperial Family.

Not only is Toyotama-Hiko a living example of an acceptable soup, he is NOT of pure blood, and his transformation would give him the leverage to make such shaming as being construed as an insult to the Imperial Family and the Dragons, in much more tactful means than I have.

I bow to Toyotama-Hiko and his wisdom. :-D

Date: 2016-08-23 05:48 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
• "This is our apology, made not in words,
but in water, which is precious to both
of our peoples," Toyotama-Hiko.
> "apology, made not in words, / but in water" : A fine and strong concept and expression.
> Needs a verb of saying: said, continued, ...

• a gold kimono with a red underrobe
→ The woman has a red underrobe with her white kimono. The man's gold kimono seems to have a red lining.

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