I’m lonely yes damned sad
And green deChirico sky
Follows my blind walk
What a steep life
Almost Li Po:
Sad, sky, walk, life
What can you say?
“Just like sighted people,” says the announcement from a blindness organization, touting electronic access to talking newspapers. You can read just like sighted people. This troubles me. When I read I’m not like anyone else.
Herakleitos, I’m shadow within shadow and the river is inside that. I know why you made a string clock.
Four generations back: thistle soup
You’re hungry so you enter a field
Grab two handfuls of spiky thistles
Though you don’t have gloves
Chop and boil them
Until the water absorbs the sap
And you have two quarts of very green juice
Add two quarts of stock
Two wild onions — tops and all —
Now add 1/2 pound of fish
(Heal-all, Poore Man’s Jewell…)
So I fell in love with a tenor—me, a blind kid. By the age of eleven I was hooked on his voice, a voice like milk and iodine. The scratched 78s which produced the curious effect of a man heard singing from a cellar were the only records I loved. Who cared about the astronauts? I had a Victrola and the private red tent of Caruso. “The Great Caruso” who, as I learned, sang in the streets of Naples as a boy. I played Neapolitan love songs. I saw the boy Caruso in my blind head clear as day. I could see him in a tangled city I did not know. He was small like me. He was singing for strangers.
Yes I fell in love with a dead stranger. He was mine.
Wallace Stevens had rhythm but it was often unbalanced, like a yoke burden with two jars of water, one only half full.
Didn’t you love two places more than others?
Didn’t you favor the provinces?
Weren’t you bothered by vast cities?
Didn’t you walk everywhere mumbling to yourself?
Your honor, I throw myself before the mercy of the court.
Yes, Herakleitos, as a boy I took a clock apart and buried its innards in the yard.
Yes, I imagined a tree.
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