Notes from My Disabled, Lutheran Closet…

Stephen Kuusisto, Letters to Borges

It is cold in the churches of my childhood. Mythology works this way. It will always be cold there, which is of course “here” insofar as my life is a place, insofar as any place will forever be a co-efficient of my consciousness. But then you see, it’s possible to walk over a patch of ground, your feet like dowsing sticks, and feel the chill of long buried churches—the spot, customary, nothing remarkable, maybe the tarmac of a gasoline station.

I’ve this blog about disability, about poetry, politics, really an exophthalmic notebook, and lately I haven’t been writing much. I’m chilled. I’m walking around and absolutely chilled. You see, the church of my childhood asks “what does God demand of you now?” As a boy, a blind kid, the question terrified me. Sometimes I hid in the closet where my parents hung the winter coats in portmanteaus. I pushed into the back. The world wasn’t friendly. God was impatient. And yes it was cold in that closet. That house still stands. I haven’t been there in years. But you see where I’m going—every locale is again that place, potentially, maybe because of an ideomotor effect, a trance in my backbone, a tip of the head. It doesn’t matter. William James would tell us it’s always cold in there—in vertebrae, among the moth balls.

I should say no one taught me to fear God. In fact, by the time I was eight years old my parents had largely given up on religion. I suspect church going interfered with their crapacious Sunday mornings. It doesn’t matter. The chill was perfectly inside.

Disability is lyrical, plastic, it expands and contracts in consciousness and unconsciousness. But in my life—the only one I can reliably plumb and explain with honesty, behind the blindness is a chill and it’s my job, insofar as I understand it, to take the top off that chill, to make the cabin marginally inhabitable. I must accomplish this despite the small town church in memory, in situ in bones; despite Medieval Christians who see graphic testimonies of divine punishment in my sightless frame; oh yes, and despite the topsy turvy ratiocinations of able bodied neoliberals.

I spend my days and nights warming up my God. I ask him for very little. I’m not sure what he gets from it. But it’s a thermal gas universe and plenty of transfers are going on.



Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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