It was the first time I was alone—I mean truly alone as my parents couldn’t find me and the knowledge of this was joy to me. I was four years old and while my mother and father slept aboard a great ocean liner I slipped from our stateroom and ran in total freedom. By the time I was found hours later far below decks wandering aimlessly I’d discovered the thrill of random escape. You will never forget it once you’ve lived it.
Can you be a poet at four? The question is absurd. You’re an artist the first time you feel love calling you forward and no one else is around.
Some children are more gifted in this way perhaps. My first spoken word was “door.”
I don’t want to remember the flip side—the loneliness of boyhood, a solitude that I can only describe as a taste like milk and iodine.
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