ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Well, the general fund poll was tied, but more money came in, so I decided that the logical thing to do was post both the shorter poems and put the rest into epic poetry.

This poem came out of the August 5, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "Relative Values: Families" square in my 7-30-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem was selected in an audience poll to be sponsored from the general fund. It belongs to the Danso & Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains some very difficult family dynamics and emotional!whump. Readers who are sensitive about relationship distress should consider their tastes and headspace before deciding whether to read onward.


"Cuántos Niños"


It was hard on the whole family
to stay in Onion City where
Rosita was living with
the people who had taken her in.

Amada and Faramundo
tried to make up for it by
spending extra family time together
and making home-cooked meals.

When they shopped at the Mexican grocer,
the cashier asked with a smile,
"¿Cuántos niños tienen?"

"Tres," said Faramundo
at the same time that
Amada said, "Cuatro."

The question cut between them
like a knife dividing an avocado,
leaving behind the hard seed of truth,
which for each of them was impenetrable

but not the same.

In the car, Faramundo said,
"We have three sons.
We never even got
to take Consuela home."

Amada unclenched her jaw
enough to say, "We have a daughter.
It does not matter where she lives.
I gave birth to her and that makes her mine."

They drove back to the hotel,
not looking at each other, not speaking,
each lost in their own thoughts

still feeling the cold steel question that divided them.

* * *

Notes:

"¿Cuántos niños tienen?"
How many little ones do you [plural] have?
-- Spanish dictionary translation

Family issues are a natural part of life; every family has its challenges, but some families get overwhelmed. Know the common triggers and signs of serious trouble. There are general tips on solving family problems and more detailed steps on how to develop a problem-solving process.

Faramundo's answer

Date: 2014-08-12 04:47 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
He's worked out the answer that he thinks is "real." They can't take Consuela home, because she /isn't/ Consuela. Through no fault of their own, she ended up far from home and bonded with other people. She's still FORMING a bond with Hannah, and to sever that, on top of the more solid bonds with Danso and the other children... well, someone with a much darker storytelling mode just MIGHT explore the whole "born or created" dichotomy for sociopathy.

Honestly, I think you /could/ eventually show that dichotomy in a different story arc without stooping to the level of the DC Universe; dark due to the conflict and innate tragedy, but NOT hopeless or angst for its own sake. I sincerely doubt that is the story you want to tell with Rosita and the kids, though. The implication is that you've already planned ways for Danso to make it into college, which is practically impossible for a foster kid in our world. The actual statistics are terribly, terribly depressing.

Back to Faramundo and his truth-- Does this mean he'll begin withdrawing from Rosita, opting not to visit, heading back to their hometown on that day to make sure everything's going okay, or to talk to his boss, etc.? You know, excuse after excuse to limit his interactions with her. Oddly, I'm picturing this as his defense mechanism; it hurts TOO much to try, when he feels like he won't be able to bring her home.

I hope this is actually a fairly long story arc, because you haven't gone for the "easy ending." In any of this. Danso, Lakia, Haydn, Rosita, Nathaniel... NONE of them are in a situation which /can/ be fixed quickly. Some problems can be fixed more /easily/ than others.

Re: Faramundo's answer

Date: 2015-02-26 05:03 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'll support stuff about Danso's family pretty much indefinitely, although Danso himself is the one I like to read about most, and Lakia after that. Rosita's situation is kind of interesting, but since she herself hasn't had time to grow into much of a character of her own yet, I don't care enough at this point to throw money at it. I'll buy at least part of any Danso poem you write. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-12 05:02 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
That is a very difficult question. My own family situation is extremely complicated. Mostly, though, it's people claiming more kids than what some people would expect. 'Step-mother' and 'step-father' are not words that get much use in my life, though some people would say I should use them every day.

I don't know how I feel about this, but it is interesting.

Faramundo

Date: 2014-08-12 05:38 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I never actually thought of him as "shiftless" or any variety thereof; I was thinking that he's going to feel pressure financially to get back to work, to see to the needs of the three boys who will be coming home, et cetera. He may not be consciously aware of the ways he steps back, the fact that he isn't the one initiating contact with Rosita when they /are/ visiting, et cetera, but it's happening already in the poems like "De Colores."

Beneath the practical, very real-world issues, though, they /are/ excuses. Because trying to interact with Rosita-- the baby with soup abilities-- makes him uncomfortable at a deeply resonant level, probably deeper than he's ever looked into anyone or any thing in his LIFE. He's just not coming across as at all introspective. It makes me sympathetic to him, even as I wonder if the long-term solution will be wildly different than I've pictured.

Re: Faramundo

Date: 2015-02-26 05:07 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I wouldn't be surprised, if he and Amada do separate, if she found herself attaching herself on tangentially to the family her daughter has landed with. But in what role would be really interesting. They're not going to tolerate another adult-in-authority figure (it was hard enough to learn to accept Hannah as that), and I don't think she wants to go there anyway. She's capable of being an authority to her little boys, but it's not her favorite thing, and I can't see her wanting to add several older children to her responsibilities list just when she's falling to pieces at the erosion of her marriage. But an auntie of some sort might suit her.

Not that she'd need a title or anything; I just use the words to help me think out the dynamics of the emotional roles.

Sorry, wrong number.

Date: 2014-08-13 02:14 am (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
"¿Cuántos niños tiene [Usted]?"
asks "How many little ones do you have?", addressed to one person who you're not on familiar terms with. (The pronoun is generally omitted, as it's clear from the verb form and the context.) But since Faramundo and Rosita were together and both answered the question, the cashier was plainly addressing both of them, and the question would have been
"¿Cuántos niños tienen [Ustedes]?"

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-12 06:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
I'm confused. Is this one complete? What happened? Where is Consuela? Is she alive? Dead? What?

Okay...

Date: 2014-08-12 06:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I'm confused. <<

Sorry about that.

>> Is this one complete? <<

It's a complete episode of an ongoing storyline.

>> What happened? Where is Consuela? Is she alive? Dead? What? <<

Amada and Faramundo had a baby girl whom they named Consuela, who got scared by something and teleported away from them very shortly after her birth. So then she was found by Danso, who had no way of knowing her birth name, and he called her Rosita. By the time anyone was able to find the birth family, Rosita had already attached to her found-family and her new name -- and if separated, she teleports back to them. Amada is coping with this tolerably well. Faramundo is not, hence his tendency to stick with the original name. So now they're arguing over whether their daughter really "counts" as part of the family since they can't simply take her home.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2014-08-12 06:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
Wow. That would sure suck.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2014-08-12 06:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Faramundo's life has been sucking a lot ever since his daughter disappeared. He does not really have the coping skills he needs to deal with this in a healthy manner. So that sucks for the rest of the family, on top of the underlying challenges.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-12 06:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
Still, good poem. Engaging. The unanswered questions give it an interesting emotional flavor.

Yay!

Date: 2014-08-12 06:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked that part. The unanswered questions may be explored in later installments if folks are interested.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-12 03:13 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: (rose)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
A little hard for me to read, but only a little. I've mostly gotten over the urge to answer anything other than "two" when asked how many children I have.

*hugs*

Date: 2014-08-12 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
It can be really hard on people when the answer is more complicated than a simple number will cover. Divorce, miscarriage, SIDS, foster care, all kinds of things can alter family structure in ways that make an ordinary question painful to navigate.

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2014-08-13 02:23 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Fortunately it's not painful anymore, but there's a bit of hesitation there a lot of the time. It occurs to me that if I ever have to make a web form that asks "number of children", I should put a checkbox next to it labeled "it's complicated".

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2014-08-13 02:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That would be an excellent place for such a box, yes.

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2015-02-26 05:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is why I answer differently when asked, "How many children do you have?" or "How many children have you had?"

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