Time Makes Old Formulas Look Strange

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

Asleep I’ve begged for admittance to Noah’s ark. By day I give no ground to those who underestimate me. Make no mistake: blind I’m often dismissed by the still functioning eyeballs society.

**

I wonder if Noah allowed any disabled animals on his ark?

I wonder if Noah had a disability, either visible or invisible?

Was he obsessive compulsive?

What about Mrs. Noah? Did she suffer from seasickness? Agoraphobia?

I can say for sure that religious organizations are as dismissive of the disabled as the faculty clubs of universities.

The trick as I see it is to remain fresh, optimistic, grounded, kind, and unyielding in the personal and collective fight for dignity.

I don’t need permission for that.

Nor do you.

**

The past is much like weather: I see where it hindered or helped. There were novels that set me back—Knut Hamsun; Malraux; and some that furthered—Ben Okri; George Eliot; The Adventures of Augie March… One recalls seasons of learning…One winter day in Finland I discovered Neruda’s trick—how to make a wall of memory fall away. On the other side, the eyes, all the eyes were bright, wide, and curious. Again I’m spinning the globe in secret while my family sleeps. The worn objects of wisdom are all about. As Auden said, time makes old formulas look strange.

**

In Eric Wiener’s review of John Zada’s new book “In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch” we learn that “you see a Sasquatch only if you’re undergoing a personal crisis.”

Alright. I admit it. Though I’m visually impaired, I’m seeing Sasquatches everywhere.

Yesterday in the elevator of a suburban Washington, DC Hilton I saw a tiny Sasquatch with a head like a hairy anvil. He was having trouble pushing the buttons so I helped him. He was checking into the executive suite.

**

Now it’s true that when people are distressed they see things. The blind are no different. I once saw a Russian businessman eat an entire bear in a Helsinki restaurant. He pocketed the claws.

**

Lacrimae rerum—or Disability 101

Always the doctor leaning close, saying you’re different. You raise your hands. The doctor is shabby. He’s asymmetrical like a Roman Emperor. There’s something wrong with the doctor. And even though you’re the monster—hence, proprioceptive, fast and clear, you know you’ll never get the doc to admit his shortcomings.

**

Maybe Sasquatch are defrocked doctors roaming the hinterlands. Plastic surgeons who ruined boobs and noses.

**

When I was eleven I fell onto a pricker bush. It’s hard to say how I did it, but I was impaled on hundreds of thorns. My sister who was six at the time, and my cousin Jim who was maybe nine, fell to the ground laughing as if they might die. I begged them for help which of course only made them laugh all the harder. I remember tears welling in my eyes and their insensible joy. I also knew in that moment they were right to laugh—that I was the older kid, was a bit bossy, disability be damned. I was the one who told my sister and cousin what to do. Now I was getting mine. My just desserts. In the end I tore myself from the monster shrub and stormed into the house. I sulked while they continued laughing outside.

Now sulking is an interesting thing. The word comes from the mid 18th century, from the obsolete word “sulke” which means “hard to dispose of” and is of unknown origin. In general I love words that have unknown origins.

The verb “to sulk” means “to be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment.” The most famous instance of sulking in literature is in opening of The Iliad where we see Achilles sulking in his tent, refusing to fight with the rest of the Greeks. In America where there’s a lot of sulking, perhaps the most famous sulker of all was Richard Nixon, who said in a press conference after losing the gubernatorial election in California that “you won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.” If you’re a sulker you can’t deliver the Gettysburg Address.

In this way, successful sulkers know the cave of hard dispositions must be visited but only for the briefest of repairs—like a toilet on a moving train.

At eleven I pulled those damned prickers out of my arms and legs, my neck. I asked for no help.

And as a disabled kid this was always the way of things. I remember the day a substitute teacher (who must have been all of 20) made fun of my blind eyes in an eighth grade math class. “Who are you looking at?” she said, with what today they call “snark”—and my “Lord of the Flies” classmates burst into laughter. I got up and fled the room.

I sulked. All alone. I knew a good place in that school. In the bomb shelter. I wept among empty aluminum water cans with radiation logos stenciled on them.

After that I reported the teacher. Sulking has power if you know when to quit. Achilles knew.

**

I suspect Sasquatch are sulkers. Or better: they’re the archetypes of sulking. I’m going with Carl Jung on this.

**

However, existing as they there had to be a Sasquatch couple on the ark.

Mrs. Noah saw them.

Author: skuusisto

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

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