ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Recently I posted an essay about the comic "Superman: Grounded." It got me thinking about the tension between Ham and Clement introduced in "Weaving Damask," which you need to read first in order for this to make sense. Conversations with [personal profile] rosieknight about Clement and Farce played into the development too. This poem also fills the "wishing" square in my 8-13-13 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] technoshaman. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING: This poem contains verbal abuse, interpersonal and intrapersonal tension, and vulgar language. If these are sensitive topics for you, please think carefully before deciding whether to read ahead. Other people step in with comfort after the conflict, in case that affects your decision-making.


"That Kind of Hero"


Ham

"I can't believe that
you let Farce get the drop on you!"
I snarl at Clement.

The headspace we share
is much like a house,
each of us with our own room.
Clement's door is a deep green
with a round brass handle,
currently shut tight.

I thump my fist against the door,
but Clement doesn't come out
or even respond to me.

"What were you thinking?!"
I demand. "Did it honestly not occur to you
that a captive might reach for a weapon?"

No answer.

"Are you listening to me, boombots?"
I say. "How am I supposed to become a hero
if you butt in when I've got an opponent on the ground
and then she gets away because you've got
a head and a heart as soft as marshmallow?
If you don't want to help me,
you could at least stay out of my way."

We are not very good
at talking with each other yet.
There always seem to be walls in the way.

I lean against the doorjamb.
"I wish I could fix this," I mutter.
"I wish I could go back and catch Farce
so she can't cause any more trouble,
like a proper hero is supposed to do.
I wish I could get Clement
to fucking talk to me."

Keane's door rattles then.
It's dark walnut
with an iron handle
embossed with a pattern.
There's a screw loose under the handle
and if you're not careful,
you can cut yourself on it.

-----

Keane

"Hey, man," I say,
because Ham's harsh words
are ripping Clement to ribbons.
"Let it go. You're not doing anything
but hurting Clement's feelings."

Ham's door is made from knotty pine,
golden wood streaked and spotted with red-brown.
The knob is fluted black ceramic
with brass ribs and base plate.

I walk past it to knock softly
on the deep green door.
"Clement? You okay in there, bro?"
I ask him.

He doesn't say anything,
but I can feel that he's not okay,
because he's pouring off enough pain
to keep me pinned at the front of our mind.

I wish that emotional pain
was as straightforward to handle
as physical pain, but it's not.

"It's safe to come out now,
if you want to," I say.
"I shooed Ham away."

The door remains closed, silent.

Well, fine. I can deal with this.
"Don't worry," I tell Clement.
"I'll take care of it."

I walk toward the Student Health Center
because that's a place I know.
I can remember going there for injuries,
and Clement knows it from first-aid training.

Maybe if I take him somewhere
safe and familiar, then he will
stop hurting so much,
come out and look around.

-----

Clement

A familiar voice pulls me forward,
though it's calling for Maisie
instead of my own name.

"You look pretty wrecked,"
Jason says. He's an undergrad
who teaches first-aid lessons.
He has a kind face with a scruff of beard,
golden eyes and a long straight nose,
wavy brown hair falling to his shoulders.
People say he looks like Jesus,
which always annoys him because
he is Greek rather than Jewish.

"It's been rough lately,"
I admit, because it has,
what with Mindflare kidnapping Maisie,
then me meeting Dace on the roof,
tangling with Farce in the theatre,
and finally Ham shouting at me.

"Care to talk about it?"
Jason offers.

I try to answer him,
but my throat closes around the words
and it's all I can do not to cry.
I just nod.

Gently he leads me into his office.
It's quiet there,
and it smells of the pine oil
used to polish his wooden desk.

Jason locks the door behind us,
then sits down -- not behind the desk --
but in one of the two chairs in front of it.
I settle into the other one.

"I'm sorry that you're having a hard time,"
he says, "but I'm glad to see you again.
It's been a while."

"I've been using what you taught me, though,"
I tell him, and it's the truth.

"Oh?" Jason says,
his rising tone an invitation.

"Drunk guy on a roof,
probable alcohol poisoning
and possible suicidal thoughts,"
I say, thinking about Dace.
"Then there was a fight
that ended in an asthma attack.
She mentioned a previous suicide attempt."

"No wonder you're upset,"
Jason says, leaning forward a little
to rest a hand on me knee.
"That's some pretty intense stuff."

"I was actually okay until ...
someone started yelling at me
about what went wrong," I say.

"Did you keep everyone alive?"
Jason asks.

I have to think about that.
Dace survived -- I checked on him --
but I have no idea about Farce.
"As far as I know," I say.

"Did anyone else get hurt in the process?"
Jason asks, watching me closely.
I can tell that he's worried about me.

"Yeah," I admit.
"I was more concerned
about someone's health than
making sure she couldn't reach a weapon."

"Anything that wouldn't heal?"
Jason asks.

"No," I say, hoping it's true.
The pepper spray washed off,
but whether Ham will ever tolerate me again
remains to be seen. It hurts
to think that he might not.

"Then you did okay," Jason assures me.
"Emergencies can be scary and confusing.
We give the best help we can.
Sometimes it works out,
but other times there are complications."

"I wish ... someone else understood that,"
I say softly, my hands twining in my lap.

"Does this someone else
have first-aid training?"
Jason asks.

"No, more like self-defense training,"
I say. "That's kind of where we disagree."
I suspect that Ham gets about as much
carryover from me as I do from him,
but it's not helping,
so it hardly matters.

"Well, different backgrounds can do that,"
Jason says. "Not everyone
is cut out to be a hero."

A bitter laugh bubbles up.
"That's also where we disagree," I say.
"Someone thinks that being a hero
is all about the fighting."

"What do you think?"
Jason asks.

"That's not the kind of hero I want to be,"
I say. "It's not wrong, exactly ...
it's just not me."

"There are many ways to be a hero,"
Jason says with a nod.
"I wouldn't want to be a fighter either.
What did you have in mind?"

"I don't know," I say,
shifting restlessly.
"I wish I did.
I wish I could explain it."

Jason is patient as well as gentle.
He doesn't rush or pressure me,
just waits for me to gather my thoughts.
The clock ticks quietly on the wall,
measuring out seconds like grains of sand.

I cross my legs, toes twitching.
My gaze roams around the little office,
snagging on this and that --
the peace lily on the windowsill,
the desktop aquarium with a trio of steel-blue guppies,
the stack of comics left on the end table.

The back cover of one comic book intrigues me,
with a worried-looking hero holding a girl
as they float above the city.

I flip it open and discover
that it's an anthology volume.
The first several stories are typical:
muscled figures hitting each other with their fists,
heroes smashing through walls to save the day.

The last story is different, though.
It's like a collage of what I've been doing --
there is the hero flying up to the girl
as she threatens to jump from a building.
He doesn't grab her, but instead
spends all day talking and listening
and guarding her while she thinks silently

until she feels ready
to step into his arms
and let him carry her safely down.

It's not the kind of story
that comic books usually tell,
but I love it at once.

"That's it," I tell Jason,
but Ham is the one I'm really thinking of.
The taut knots of pain
in my throat and chest finally loosen up.
"I want to be that kind of hero."

Jason smiles at me, warm and sweet.
"The world could sure use more of those,"
he agrees. "We've got plenty of people
who like to solve problems with their fists."

"Thanks for helping me figure it out,"
I say as I stand up.
I hold out the comic book.

"Keep it," Jason says.
"You need it more than I do."

So I thank him again
and walk home slowly
with the comic book
clutched in my hand.

There will be time enough
for me and Ham to talk.
We'll work it out somehow,
now that I understand ...

It isn't that he's a hero
and I'm not, just that
we're meant to be different kinds.

* * *

Notes:

Verbal abuse is a type of emotional abuse. Ham doesn't really mean to be so harsh; he's just frustrated by what happened and doesn't have a better way of expressing it. There are steps for resolving hostile communication in a relationship.

Dealing with anger can pose a challenge. Understand how to let someone know you're upset, deal with an angry friend, and forgive a friend who has upset you.

Headspace is an inner realm for a plural person, where the members of the collective can interact. It often takes the form of a house or other set of rooms. For Damask, headspace is a house, similar to the conventional residence shared with other students. Each headmate has their own room with a door that reflects their personality.

Clement's door is plain deep green with a round brass doorknob.

"Boombots" is Italian-American slang for "idiot."

Keane's door is black walnut with an embossed iron knob. Older door handles can loosen and make it easy to scrape your knuckles on them.

It's hard when your friends get into a fight. Know how to stop friends from fighting.

The situation is even worse for multiples. Uncooperative residents can undermine shared responsibility. Establishing a healthy internal family is often a goal of effective internal landscaping.

Ham's door is knotty pine with a fluted ceramic and brass knob. Italian doorknobs can be quite ornate.

Jason looks like this.

It helps to listen when a friend is trying to deal with stress. Understand how to notice that a friend is upset and how to offer comfort.

The peace lily is among the most popular houseplants.

Guppies are common aquarium fish; steel blue is one of many varieties. They are popular with college students because they're small enough for a desktop aquarium. Jason prefers guppies to bettas because he dislikes the aggressive aspect of Siamese fighting fish. Watching fish swim is soothing, a key reason why they appear in student housing and in health care centers.

Heroism is a complex concept. People often talk about what makes a hero. Explore the nature and characteristics of heroes. Saving people frequently plays a part; rescue workers are often portrayed as heroes. Different types of heroes appear in entertainment and everyday life. Some are better situated than others. Children have many ideas about who heroes are and what they do.

You can be a hero too. It doesn't require superpowers; you just have to notice that someone needs help, then be willing and able to step up. If you want to be a hero, then plan ahead by learning care, action, and problem-solving skills. Understand at least the basics of psychological and physical first aid.

Some Kind of Hero

Date: 2013-10-08 04:28 am (UTC)
thnidu: a dandelion plant, the symbol of filk (filk)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I thought of this filksong as soon as I saw your title. Not the same ... dimension of variation, but still, I thought it was worth posting here.

It was nominated for the 1999 Pegasus Award (the major award in US filkdom) in the category "Best Hero Song". Lyrics here downloaded from Angelfire.com and slightly corrected from memory. MP3 on YouTube.

Some Kind of Hero
by Leslie Fish and Mercedes Lackey

Will you do me a favour, piano man please?
I want you to write me a song.
They call me the hero of Antelope's run
And I've gotta show them they're wrong.

You see, it all started a week ago
In the bar down on Corridor 3;
There was nobody there but us regular bums,
Two losers, the barman, and me.

Floppin' up booze in the north corner booth
Was the old man they called Captain Jed,
'Cause he owned a tramp freighter, the old Antelope,
A ship that, like him, was half dead.

Now Molly, they say, was a crack pilot once,
A gal with a brilliant career.
But then she started doping on Regulus 1,
And finally washed out down here.


And me, well, I wanted the Navy bad,
But it seems that they didn't want me.
So I stopped chasing stars, started sweeping up bars,
For bed, board and all my drinks free.

It was quiet that night with the docks closed down,
There was nothing due in for a week.
Not a ship was in port but the old Antelope,
When the red alert started to shriek.

The whole station shook like a hurt living thing,
Then the lights dimmed and faded away;
Then the gravity went, then the air pumps cut out,
And the bartender started to pray.

"Aw, stow that bilge! Head for the Antelope now!"
Jed's voice cut the dark like a knife.
"The station reactor's gone critical load,
So run for the docks for your life!"


When we got to the docks we found waiting out there
Every soul that had been left alive.
They begged with their eyes for poor old Captain Jed
To tell 'em all how to survive.

"Break out the suits," said the captain to them,
"'Cause it's dark and it's airless and cold.
But I swear I can get you all of here safe,
Packed into the Antelope's hold."

"Molly," he asked, "Can ya navigate?"
"Aye," she said, "Who do we have for a crew?"
"The Antelope needs only three hands," he said,
"And I think our young friend here will do."

The confident look that he flashed at me then
Made my heart turn over with pride,
I never once thought of backing away,
I think I would rather have died.


Two hundred alive in the Antelope's hold,
And the captain, and Molly, and me;
We slammed the lock just as the station blew wide,
Jed hit the main jets to get free.

Now that kind of G-force is rough on the heart,
Too much for his ticker to take;
So when we came around and we saw how he lay,
We knew Captain Jed wouldn't wake.

So I took the comm and the engineer board,
And Molly took helm and the nav,
With the manuals spread out all over the deck,
And her mind for what they didn't have.

She worked at that comp like a crazy machine
While her hands shook like grass in the breeze;
But her skills were still sharp and she jumped us three times,
Never minding the shakes and DTs.


Three jumps made clean, only one more was left,
When the ship's alarm started to blast.
Her old worn-out seals had come loose in the stress,
We were losing our heat and air fast.

On the bridge there was only one vacuum suit left,
Well, they say Lady Luck is stone blind.
"Heads or tails?" was the question I started to ask
When I felt myself hit from behind.

When I came to again, I was sealed in the suit,
She was belted down tight in her chair,
With her hands on the console, a smile on her lips,
And the ice on her face and her hair.

"Here's the instructions to get us all home",
I saw she had left on the screen.
"If any old shipmates should ask after Moll,
Just tell them she finally died clean."


I made the last jump just like she told me to,
And I brought the ship in like she said.
They call me a hero now for what I did,
But they don't mention Molly and Jed.

So write me that song now, piano man please,
And sing it out often and loud,
So they all know the story of one kind of hero,
The kind that makes everyone proud.

'Cause some kind of heroes are lunkheads like me,
Who only do things that they're told.
And some kind of heroes are out for the glory,
They're heroes on purpose, and cold.

Some become heroes for bravery, sure,
And some just because all is lost.
But a few are the heroes like Molly and Jed,
Who give without counting the cost.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-08 05:32 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
This is slightly off topic, but I think all abuse is emotional abuse, it's just the details of how it plays out damages you in really specific ways. It's all this potent statement of "I can do whatever I damn well please to you, as I want, when I want" - it's just a matter of whether what they tell you as a reason why they can is because you're a fuck up, you're a [fill in ethnic slur], you're a slut and will like this, you're a nerd, you just happen to be around, whatever. It's that "you can't possibly be safe" aspect which is the thing that really sticks above and beyond specific triggers.
Edited Date: 2013-10-08 05:35 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-08 01:04 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
That was deeply, deeply satisfying. Thank you.

You're welcome!

Date: 2013-10-08 01:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed this so much.

One thing I'm discovering with this series is an opportunity to explore different types of heroes and villains. People can use their powers and ordinary skills in many ways, while facing all kinds of problems. Although those influence their choices, nothing is predetermined. You can be whatever kind of hero you wish to model yourself after.

There are so many more stories to be told than the usual ones.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-10-08 02:14 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
I really like how Damask is introducing psychological heroism as a storyline, and an important way to be a hero.

This poem and the discussion on "Superman: Grounded" inspired me to go back to an old story fragment called "Downtown Gaslight Dance" and post a part 2 for it. A new, possibly druglike technology features as a scapegoat. And Lamplighter, featured as the villain of Part 1, is apparently also a superhero. But is Twisted (a mind-twisting villain along the lines of the Joker) really to blame?

Thoughts

Date: 2013-10-08 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I really like how Damask is introducing psychological heroism as a storyline, and an important way to be a hero. <<

Thank you! This series seems to be developing a strong psychological aspect. Feel free to prompt for more if you wish.

>> This poem and the discussion on "Superman: Grounded" inspired me to go back to an old story fragment called "Downtown Gaslight Dance" and post a part 2 for it. <<

What a cool story -- I have linked to it.

>> A new, possibly druglike technology features as a scapegoat. And Lamplighter, featured as the villain of Part 1, is apparently also a superhero. But is Twisted (a mind-twisting villain along the lines of the Joker) really to blame? <<

This is weird and creepy.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-10-08 03:45 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
This is weird and creepy.

It is. The title refers to Gaslighting, and some of the characters refer back to that theme. We'll learn more about Twisted eventually, I'm sure of it.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-10-08 03:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I thought that might be going on! So then it raises the questions: How much of what happened was real, how much was unreal, and how were people's perceptions distorted?

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2013-10-08 03:51 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Yep, it does! :) Those are important plot points in the story that's been building itself in my mind, so I won't spoil them here.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-01 04:43 am (UTC)
pinkrangerv: White Hispanic female, with brown hair, light skin, and green eyes, against a background of blue arcane symbols (Default)
From: [personal profile] pinkrangerv
ZOMG I LOVE THAT COMIC!!!! SQUEEE!

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