Three Minute Grope

Cover of Planet of the Blind....man and dog....

“Some words are more important than others—I learned this, growing up in the Scriptorium. But it took me a long time to understand why.”

–Pip Williams. “The Dictionary of Lost Words.”

1.

Important is one of those malleable words like straw. It can be a plaything, a bed, a tube, a token of fate. Paired with language it means “far reaching” –one facet of discernment.

As a disabled child you learn a host of import-words.

2.

Thinking About Some Lines By Robert Bly:

“A man I knew could never say who he was.
You know people like that. When he met a monster,
He’d encourage the monster to talk about eating
But failed to say that he objected to being prey.”

(“Conversation with a Monster”)

I’ve had a disability all my life. Every now and then I meet a monster. What’s interesting about these moments is “the monster” is always a person of conditional authority–a bag man as they say in the Mafia. Once in awhile it’s a chief, but not often.

If you’re a veteran of disability advocacy and “self-advocacy” you’ve learned how to say “I object to being eaten” and then, by turns, you make yourself inedible.

It’s not easy out here in the forest.

3.

“But it took me a long time to understand why.”

There’s no clearer expression of what writing is about.

Do not neglect to say that you object to being devoured.

Advantage mine: eidetic blind childhood.

Aside: the great thing about monsters is that they lack logic. They’re so hungry. As an old Finnish cook book says: “Never pick mushrooms when you are hungry. Always use great care.”

4.

I once went to the home of Sergei Esenin in Tashkent. There was a Caruso record on the Victrola. One of Isadora Duncan’s scarves was framed behind glass on a wall. A book of poems lay open on a table. All three of these artists died tragically when young. The cramped apartment was a museum to arias I thought. Esenin wrote:

“I do believe in happiness!
The sun has not yet faded. Rays
Of sunrise like a book of prayers
Predict the happy news. Oh yes!
I do believe in happiness!”

Describing the ardor of dance Isadora Duncan wrote:

“Now I am going to reveal to you something which is very pure, a totally white thought. It is always in my heart; it blooms at each of my steps… The Dance is love, it is only love, it alone, and that is enough… I, then, it is amorously that I dance: to poems, to music but now I would like to no longer dance to anything but the rhythm of my soul.”

And then there’s Caruso singing “Donna non vidi mai” from Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut”:

“I have never seen a woman, such as this one!”, “To tell her “I love you”, my soul awakens to a new life.”

I pictured Duncan and Esenin whirling around the little room to the astonishingly beautiful aria sung by a tenor who was said to spin gold threads. And I thought of death at bay in that tiny room.

As I recall (but may have it wrong) Esenin’s book mark was a demitasse spoon.

5.

I played alone in an attic with a gramophone and Enrico Caruso stole into me. I sat beside the contraption with bandages on my eyes and listened to a man who’d been dead forty years, who’d come to America from Naples, the capitol of ghosts. Of course I didn’t know this. I knew a thrill instead which was the start of poetry, a door swinging open on the inner life.

Soon I had a game going. I’d play a record and while it played I’d finger the objects around me. The average opera record lasted three minutes. I’d play “three minute grope” while the tenor sang of heartbreak. I pushed my fingers into the fur of a raccoon coat. Touched an old spring loaded mouse trap, the mouse corpse long gone. I fingered an infant’s dress, inexplicably hanging from a nail. How many things could I touch in three minutes?

Import-words.

Author: skuusisto

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

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