Soundings

I am sad today because
Crippled men and women
Crippled children
The globe itself
Are merely
Wallowing
In the shadows
Of a hill
Created long ago
In a furious hunger

No room here
For the imperfections
Shadows
Feel more real
Than our bodies
One wants a shirt
That reads
“Fuck you, Plato”
Though he was
More a symptom

I’m told
Being blind
I’m a dark picture
On the water—
Hence
Incorporeal
Unlike
So not of confluence
With the hill
Gods say: let him go…

Notebook, May 16, 2022

Song

In the cave of orphans
I sing to the walls
The taste in my mouth
Is like winter rain
If you know, you know
So go on—
Accuse me
Of what I’ve become
I’m busy…

**

I was a small child when I first glimpsed the madness in my family though I’d no name for it. My mother, enraged by fallen spoons, my father silent for days, then dancing across the living room singing snippets of vaudeville.

**

I took to running off. I was tiny in those days. I hid inside a neighbor’s gutted upright piano—the piano in a barn, the mice drawing dark pictures.

**

Haaviko: keep yourself warm when the pools are freezing…

**

My poor mother, abused as a child, addicted to pain killers by the time I was five. Pregnant with my sister and in withdrawal she threw a hairbrush just missing my head because I asked for a glass of water. The solution was to send me to live with my maternal grandmother who occupied a massive Victorian house with the ghost of her dead husband. Think of me as Little Boy Heidi.

**

Early in my life when I saw that falling notes are the optimistic ones.

**

Haaviko: and yet we must have a word with happiness/build a house to catch the sun’s light…

**

An invisible bell is lifting and ringing. That’s the magic of living in the metropolis. Those bells: audible mirages…

**

Now now. No blank spaces sallow cheer…

It may not be much but there’s never an end to play. Even as we fall, sailing back to the stars, there’s a Gobelin weave…

**

If I want to tell you how much I love you I must first—what? Oh shut up. I’m climbing from the river to tell you…

**

Song

I lie down under the apple trees
Because I’m also living up there
Where blossoms are designing
The fruit to come—
They won’t let you say this
In school; it’s no good
In the office—
Meanwhile,
In the apple roots…

**

He was central to he-ness which meant hiding from him…
He knew he was the product of alchemy
Didn’t much like it
Never could find the right wizards
He stood under the starry sky
Him was coming

**

Meanwhile in the apple roots
Digging with the mind
The ur-worm has a secret
I’m certain

Someone, somewhere is building another cross…

Christ crucified is the perfect metaphor for disability suffering—inner doubt and pain; merciless public contempt. One may say it’s a depiction all sorrow and that’s true but his public death is really a story of madness—it’s Nerval’s “Aurelia”—the winged angel who has fallen into a shabby Parisian courtyard.

**

I think the thoughts of a depressed man. The disabled no matter their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation are ten times more likely to die early from lack of access to health and wellness programs. “Lack of access” is too polite of course; we’re talking contempt. Structural ableism.

**

In the disability communities we say “nothing about us without us” and for good reason—the disabled are often left out of critical discussions about our needs. If you’re black and disabled you’re left out of multiple conversations. It matters who we are. Lives are in the balance.

**

It’s spring. I hear hammers in my neighborhood. I think, “someone’s building another cross.”

Of Blindness and Teamwork

I’ve been thinking a lot about team work lately. When I was a child they wouldn’t let me play sports owing to my blindness. This made sense when the only games for kids were baseball and basketball. But somehow the physical education instructors believed it would be good for me to sit on the sidelines and so I’d daydream to the sounds of sneakers on wood floors or the vaguely pastoral whispers of baseball. I did a lot of daydreaming. It was easy because no one talked to me. Talking was reserved for those who were in the game and I was for all intents and purposes in Valhalla. The truth is I never had a team experience, never had camaraderie, reliance, the sense that somehow someone had my back. Never had someone who made me better because he or she was there. This quality of unsporting isolation in childhood was the most painful thing about being blind. When I recollect the isolation and enforced solitudes of boyhood I see how my first guide dog not only gave me confidence in traffic–she also gave me the first sense of being on a team. We might only have been a team of two, but we were a powerful and mobile team and yes, we had each other’s backs. Corky dog brought me this spirited physical and emotional bond that had always been missing from my life. Dogs are teamsters through and through.

Everyone knows that in a team sport you can’t win without others. I saw this for the first time when Corky and I were crossing Columbus Circle in Manhattan. From a traffic standpoint the area is a nightmare. It’s a lethal circus of combined avenues and cross streets, the traffic moving so fast it makes a zithing sound. We plunged together into the maelstrom with her good judgment and my faith in her. I once tried to describe the moment when we left the sidewalk’s safety there on the upper westside of Manhattan as embracing the emptiness between stars. Now that’s teamwork. “Who is your team mate?” “Blaise Pascal.”

To My One True Reader

The day draws to a close and I feel
The losses of childhood, the boy who was sent away
Too blind for games.

Now the furniture grows heavy as the light goes.
This is why the trees stand like numbers.

At five I sat alone in the woods.
Our neighbor–a lawyer
Whose house was behind a stockade—
Went to the fields
With a pistol and a flock of children.
He planned to display heroism by shooting snakes.
I asked if I could come
But he said my blindness would prevent it.
The children taunted me:

"You can't come because you're blind!"
"Yeah, you might get hurt!"

A pine cone hit me in the face.

"Look! He didn't even see that coming!"
"A snake will bite him!"

Then they vanished.

Some nights in the cold I start to fly.
I mean it.

Tercets

Don’t become a poet of summer
Until you’ve sharpened
The small knife of loss

Play Mahler on the gramophone
Thinking in twilight
Of the terrible freedom to come

Now and then, says the knife
Symphony, F minor,
Says the knife

Look closely at stones
Think of Bruckner’s grave
His carved church organ…

America…

America with your history of eugenics.
With your hostility to the global charter on disability rights.
With your jails, stocked with psychiatric patients—worse than the Soviet Union. We are Gulag Los Angeles; Gulag Rikers Island; Gulag Five Points in Upstate New York.
America with your young Doctor Mengeles.
With your broken VA.
With your war on food stamps and infant nutrition.
With your terror of autism and lack of empathy for those who have it.
With your 80% unemployment rate for people with disabilities.
With your pity parties—inspiration porn—Billy was broken until we gave him a puppy.
With your sanctimonious low drivel disguised as empathy.
With your terror of reasonable accommodations.
With your NPR essays about fake disability fraud, which is derision
of the poor and elderly.
With your disa-phobia—I wouldn’t want one of them to sit next to me on a bus.
America when will you admit you have a hernia?
When will you admit you’re a lousy driver?
Admit you miss the days of those segregated schools, hospitals, residential facilities—just keep them out of sight.
When will you apologize for your ugly laws?
When will you make Ron Kovic’s book irrelevant?
America, you threatened Allen Ginsberg with lobotomy.
Ameica you medicated a generation of teenagers for bi-polar depression when all they were feeling was old fashioned fear.
When will you protect wheelchairs on airlines?
When will you admit you’re terrified of luck?