A Valediction of Fainting

planet of the blind

The surgeon plucked at my eye with a forceps. I said I was fainting. Then I fainted.

It was a textbook instance of the “vasovagal reflex”. You can ask the CIA. Touch the lenses of the eyes and you can induce loss of consciousness.

Reader: perhaps you’re a frequent fainter and are familiar with the poetry of the matter. I doff my hat to you.

I woke in a chair. Although I couldn’t see I heard a nurse say: “I can’t hear his pulse.”

The neo-cortex (mine) which thinks fast (yours does too) said inwardly: “Merd! Je suis mort!”

(The neo-cortex it turns out, speaks only French, as it was in fact discovered by Denis Diderot. You don’t have to know French to understand the neo-cortex. The translation process is automatic. It does not matter if you are a Finn or a Croat or Laotian.)

(Theory: the French language was invented by and for dead people.)

(Proof of above: Diderot: “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”)

The nurse said next: “Okay. I can hear his pulse but it is very faint.”

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Barnes and Noble

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Author: skuusisto

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

2 thoughts on “A Valediction of Fainting”

  1. “perhaps you’re a frequent fainter and are familiar with the poetry of the matter. I doff my hat to you.”

    Vision narrows. The mind lets go of the duties of the body. Things such as breathing, beating the heart, making words. Yet a part of the mind is still wide awake. It turns on the silent alarm. The flashing light atop the ship’s bridge. We are going down. Mayday. Abandon ship. That small part of the brain, buried in our evolutionary past like some fossil, triggers a little language. I say, I not good. You hear, uh-nuh-guh. Then even that small part of my mind comes to a stop. Your eyes widen, your heart beats a moment sooner, your brain synapses fire lightning without thunder. You reach for me. Catch me, maybe. Help me down to ground. I won’t know. You’ll have to tell me all this later when I return to the world. My vision coming back. As I look up into the light of concern, a candle flickering in the breeze of my returning breath.

    Thank you for your post. I couldn’t think how to respond for a while. I’ve read it several times. Then this morning, the above draft of a prose poem came about in my mind and it seemed the best I could do to send it to you.


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