Blind Body, Blind Song

Pompei Sappho MAN copy

 

Image description:

 

Detail of the portrait of a young woman (so-called Sappho) with writing pen and wax tablets. The net in her hair is made of golden threads and typical for the fashion of the Neronian period. Roman fresco from Regio VI (insula occidentalis) in Pompeii.

Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples)

 

 

 

 

When you have a disability you’re always waiting for beauty—I don’t mean self-acceptance, that term is silly, a product of pop-psychology and tabloid TV, but something else, a fountain source, a sense of “beginning always”. The poet Olga Broumas writes: 

 

“I give my hand to justice

Transparent fountain source at the peak

My sky is deep and unaltered

What I love is always being born

What I love is beginning always”

 

The best in us waits for beauty but sparks its beginnings. 

 

So each day I go out with my guide dog, walking the operations of chance. 

 

People with disabilities take chances. 

 

Acceptance or non-acceptance by able bodied strangers is a thing of chance. 

 

Parking and entrance are things of chance for my wheelchair friends; my deaf friends know they might or might not be accepted in banks or college lectures—chance and more chance, rain falling, help or no help, its a hard knock life… 

 

As a poet I’m most interested in what Broumas calls the transparent fountain source—a figure at once neo-Platonic and Freudian. The gods and goddesses are rising; you’re about to have climax—but apprehension is clear, its never been clearer—you will be born again and again in a spirit of justice. Imagination has no value minus justice. 

 

Blind justice is a poet. Maybe you didn’t think so. Justice whispers Greek. I give my hand to justice and look, my hand opens.

 

Justice and beauty propose chance—make it a “beginning always”.  

 

The air is chilly in Syracuse. Transparent fountain source at the peak. Justice fountain, snow light, being born, walking blind, beginning always. 

 

Talk about justice. You’ll find poetry. 

 

Sappho:

 

 

He is a god, a man beside you,

enthralled by your talk, by your laughter.

Watching makes my heart beat fast

because seeing little I imagine much.

You put a fire in my cheeks.

Speech won’t come. My ears ring. 

Blind to all others, I sweat and I stammer.

I am a trembling thing, like grass, 

an inch from dying.

 

So poor I’ve nothing to lose,

I must gamble….

 

 

—translation by Sam Hamill

 

 

 In my first book of poems, Only Bread, Only Light, I published a love poem to my first guide dog “Corky”. The poem recounts a day of walking in Manhattan, the two of us alert to the operations of chance: 

 

“Guiding Eyes”

            –Corky, a yellow Labrador

 

It’s been five years
Since I was paired with this dog
Who, in fact, is more than a dog—
She watches for me.

Our twin minds go walking,
And I suspect as we enter the subway
On Lexington
That we’re a kind of centaur —
Or maybe two owls
Riding the shoulders of Minerva.
The traffic squalls and plunges
At Columbus Circle,
Seethes down Broadway,
And we step out
Into the blackness
That alarmed Pascal:
The emptiness
Between stars.

I suppose we’re scarcely whole
If I think on it —
We walk on a dead branch,
Two moths still attached,
The inert day poised above us,
The walls of the canyon looming.

Did I think on it?
A blessing opens by degrees
And I must walk
Both bodily and ghostly
Down Fifth Avenue,
Increasing my devotion full much
To the postulate of arrival —
To how I love this inexhaustible dog
Who leads me
Past jackhammers
And the police barriers
Of New York.

All day snow falls
On the disorderly crowds,
It clothes Miss Corky
Until her tawny fur
Carries the milky dirt
Of ocean and stone.
The centaur gathers
What passes from our flesh
Into the heart
Of animal faith.
Meanwhile
She guides me home.

Excerpt From: Stephen Kuusisto. “Only Bread, Only Light.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/1017I.l