It’s not likely I’ll ever get away from him. He’s “they”—mythically gender fluid—one of the incitements for his subsequent suffering as Greek myth is not only polysemous it’s ingrown in its cruelties. I once told a college class every Greek myth is an ingrown hair in the psyche. I’ve no reason to change my mind.
Tiresias made they fateful mistake agreeing to referee a divine game of sex trivia as high on Mt. Olympus Zeus and his wife Hera were arguing whether men or women gain more sexual satisfaction from heteronormative intercourse—or so one must presume—the story is a bit sparse on the details. We also know Tiresias was long prone to mistakes where the gods and goddesses were concerned for in a prior episode he was transformed into a woman by Hera because he struck a pair of copulating snakes with a stick. Hera loved snakes or at least copulating snakes and so the story is an ingrown hair. Once he became a woman he was forced to serve as one of Hera’s handmaidens.
Tiresias was the perfect “go to” when the matter of comparative gender orgasm satisfaction came up.
His second mistake was saying women have more fun in the sack because in her fury Hera blinded him.
One of the many ways to go blind in Ancient Greece was telling the truth as you understood it.
Once blind, Zeus took pity on Tiresias and gifted him with prophecy.
In Ancient Greece you could be blind and mystical.
I’ll never get away from Mystic T.
I’ll never get away from the presumption that any talent I may possess is a compensatory gift from the gods.
I’ll never get over the narrative of divine punishment. My blindness—all blindness—must owe something to cosmic missteps.
I’ll certainly never get over the idea disability is both a misfortune and a gift. Better I think to say all life functions this way. Better to let blind and gender fluid beings go about their business. Better to stop throwing superstitions at real humans.
But I cannot shake Tiresias.
In a taxi cab a driver tells me I must have done something to displease god.
“It’s wonderful you write so well,” says a woman in a public library, “it must take away some of the hurt.”
I imagine the private life of Tiresias, blind, fondling they sensitive breasts, alone for just a moment, and seeing that his fucked up story would last for all of history.
ABOUT: 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.
(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