ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is from the September 2013 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by some sculptures by Choi Xoo Ang. See images of Modesty and Humility (side and front); these include nudity so are NSFW. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony and Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Diminished Expectations.

WARNING: The following poem contains descriptions of birth defects, prostitution, abuse, exploitation, and other disturbing motifs. Readers sensitive to these topics should think carefully before clicking through.


"Good for Something"


Modesty has been trained for this,
told it is all that she's good for.

She kneels, not very gracefully,
but she is lucky to be able to do it at all,
since many of the Diminished
don't even have legs.

Modesty has arms, too,
human almost to the elbows
before the skin pales
and clots like soured milk.

Her face is a featureless mask --
no mouth, no nose,
only ragged holes
where her eyes should be.

She has ears,
so she can listen
for the arrival of a client.

When she hears the footsteps,
she shifts into a pleasing position,
offering up the swell of her breasts.

Behind Modesty's hips,
her perfectly human hands
clench together until
the knuckles turn white.


Humility's body is almost whole:
he has feet and legs,
a little blob of genitals,
even arms although
they end in blunted paws
instead of hands.

The problem is that
his body stopped growing
when he was a child.

It remains small and thin,
stunted to less than half
the height it should be, and
only a fraction of the weight.

By some people,
this is seen as an asset.

Humility's head, after all,
is full-sized and fully featured,
the skin smooth and pinkish-gold.

He has brown eyes,
a straight nose, fine ears,
and red lips drawn like a bow.

It is generally agreed
that his mouth is his best feature.

Humility has a mind, too,
blunted though it is
by abuse and
lack of education

but the clients don't care about that.


The conquerors
are proud of themselves
for finding work that
even the Diminished can do,
because everyone needs to be
good for something.

Wouldn't it be something,
they begin to whisper,
if the defects could be controlled
so as to produce workers
with exactly the features desired
and nothing extraneous?

Some of the damage,
after all, is genetic --
breeding eyeless to eyeless
might well produce more.

Then again, it might be possible
to do better with genetic engineering
or perhaps robotics.

It's not like anyone
is going to complain.

Those in the conquering class
have become inured to the ethical shades,
blasé so long as the benefits continue.

and as for the conquered, well,
one who has no mouth cannot scream.

* * *

Notes:

The Diminished are often named from a list of virtues, such as Modesty and Humility.

"You're not good for anything else anyways so you might as well use what you are good at" is one of many lies abusers tell.

People with mental and/or physical disabilities may be forced into prostitution, or turn to it for survival. Prostitution can harm practitioners, especially if it starts in childhood. It may also have negative effects on society. Disabled people are at higher risk for abuse, neglect, and exploitation; civilized countries have protections in place, but these are often insufficient.

Utilitarianism is a cluster of moral systems judging an action by its outcome. The emphasis falls on instrumental value (what something is good for) rather than intrinsic value (what something is). Compare and contrast some moral systems. Consider whether humans have intrinsic or instrumental worth. Valuing humans only for what they can do, and not who they are, pretty consistently causes problems.

Genetic engineering raises moral questions.

Robotics includes the production of humanoid constructs, which has ethical concerns. Artificial intelligence also brings up moral issues.

Moral numbness can come from a pervasive atmosphere of unethical activity. People become inured until nothing shocks them anymore. This also applies to masses of victims more than individuals. These factors raise the frequency of abuses.

(WARNING: This story is nightmare fuel involving captivity, body horror, and other mayhem.)  "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is a famous story by Harlan Ellison. Read it online.

Warnings Request

Date: 2013-09-25 02:39 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is ameerachia. Normally I just lurk and read evrything that you post as soon as it goes up but I really needed to say this right now.Normally I love everything that you write because it is socially conscious and difficult in agood way so I don't expect fluff from your stories or notes unless it is in you tags but you really fell down on the story at theend of this post. There are no warningappended to the story itself so I thought it would be equivalent in feel/tone/darknessto the poem but g-d was I wrong. I can't stop reading something onceI start so I am sitting here having hysterics feeling like I was hit by a hammer. Please add appropriate warnings to the story so otherpeople aren't tricked into thinking itis safe to read. I feel kind of betrzyed. Not your fUlt really but trusted you to warn properly.

Re: Warnings Request

Date: 2013-09-25 03:30 am (UTC)
thnidu: Red pen. Text: The red penis the editor's friend; editing mark "insert space" in "penis". from lj:stormsdotter (editor's friend)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I had to reread that post before I spotted the problem. anonymous/ameerachia wrote [bolding added]:
There are no warning[s ]appended to the story itself so I thought it would be equivalent in feel/tone/darkness[ ]to the poem
Their problem was not with your poem, but with "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", which you didn't describe or warn on.
Edited Date: 2013-09-25 03:30 am (UTC)
(screened comment)

Re: Warnings Request

Date: 2013-09-25 12:48 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I love your stuff really. You are so good about warnings for even mild triggers that this came completely out of left field. I am a huge bookwyrm so tell me something is a classic and I will read it. I also have a huge problem with people who tell me or show me stuff that makes me think I attract psychopaths. Somehow they are always a victim loking for validation it is wrong/saying it is normal cool/people I liked or respected so I feel wrong for being mad violated at being forced to see hear and remember it forever and can't express at them. You got the backlash cuz I respect you and it hurt and I can be sort of anon and tell myself you don't have to read it. Sorry about that.

So maybe a story about someone cleaning out their mental horror show but maybe not at another person. Half the stuff that was shoved in my head I refuse to share with other people in case they get it stuck too. Misery does not want company.

Speaking of, if you can delete or edit my second post. I used some strong images that might trigger someone else and I am starting to feel guilty about it now that I am more sane. Thank you.

Re: Warnings Request

Date: 2013-09-25 03:42 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

I read the story many, many years ago. I just now clicked your link to the online copy and skimmed the first and last paras.

My God! I did not remember any of it, and I am glad I hadn't remembered from before. I do not wish to revisit that story under any circumstances I can expect to occur.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-09-25 01:04 pm (UTC)
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
From: [personal profile] raze
Wow. This was powerful and effective, and those sculptures are AMAZING.

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