Diabelli

I’m listening to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on a windy November day when the last leaves are falling from the trees.

Did the ghost trains come through already?

All of a sudden he checks himself as if he’d said too much.

I wanted to buy flowers yesterday but didn’t.

When sighted people talk about blind certainty I wonder what they’re talking about.

About my other side, it has a lonesome house.

Everywhere, directions, possibilities, but still rain at the windows.

Where else would I walk?

I don’t like your smile sir.

Up river where they eat song birds.

I’ll lend my heart to you but only to make you hear.

Autumn, more ancient than my recklessness….

I Ran Straight Out of Myself….

I ran straight out of myself. I’m certain that’s what death will be.
I ran straight into myself. Birth. How it was. Once while on acid I saw my birth doctor.
He had eyebrows like antennae.

I ran straight around myself. Like blowing leaves all my selves whirling around the street lamp of my body.

I ran through myself more than once, often jacked up on alcohol and guilt. My clumsy feet broke the delicate toys inside me.

Down the road, down the road, all my friends live down the road.
Ain’t got a letter since I don’t know when.

Older now I run to catch up with myself. Mind goes very fast these days.

In this life inside the falling a long sweet glide.

**

There was a time when every hour was whole.
Part of Beethoven’s wisdom is how he incorporated this knowledge into his late quartets.

For my part I have a childish psyche with a porous understanding of time.

The child inside me is wishful because of a leaking hourglass.

I’ve lived my life for my twin brother who died at birth.

The doctor had terrifying eyebrows.

**

I wasn’t a poet by choice but by the bardo.

I am however a citizen by choice.

Are you disabled? No I’m a citizen.

The smell of smoke from my neighbor’s houses….

The Discords

I could tell you things
But I’m not old enough—
Just walking over a large and shining ice patch

**

Did I eat Prufrock’s peach yesterday?

**

Of the bumblebee Lars Gustafsson writes:

“A flying man who lives far within the wood
Has folded up his wings and sleeps in the rain.”

**

Up river and down
My childhood
But unlike Huck
No Jim, no friends

**

“So that’s what made you a poet!”

**

In the forest there are still signs of the old mill.

**

Terry Eagleton says pessimism is the most difficult moral condition to obtain.
Silly. He never ate frozen strawberries with a 100 year old monk in rural Finland in winter darkness. In general academics need to get out more.

**

If I knew so much parataxis would occupy me
I’d have (instead) invented the shoe horn.

**

Everyone has a debt to death
But on clear mornings you can hear them thar pianos…

I didn’t exactly begin my life. I suppose I was always riding out
From the big bang; show time dust; the carbon democracies.
Vedas say we’ve been here before but I don’t think it.
We were here and then gone and there’s no analogy.
This morning on the first cold day of autumn
I “saw” (the way blind people do….very close….
On hands and knees….)
A tiny wasp emerge unsteadily
From a frost apple—
Though I was only in the grass
Looking for my keys
Sorry for myself.

A Valediction of Fainting

The surgeon plucked at my eye with a forceps. I said I was fainting. Then I fainted.

It was a textbook instance of the “vasovagal reflex”. You can ask the CIA. Touch the lenses of the eyes and you can induce loss of consciousness.

Reader: perhaps you’re a frequent fainter and are familiar with the poetry of the matter. I doff my hat to you.

I woke in a chair. Although I couldn’t see I heard a nurse say: “I can’t hear his pulse.”

The neo-cortex (mine) which thinks fast (yours does too) said inwardly: “Merd! Je suis mort!”

(The neo-cortex it turns out, speaks only French, as it was in fact discovered by Denis Diderot. You don’t have to know French to understand the neo-cortex. The translation process is automatic. It does not matter if you are a Finn or a Croat or Laotian.)

(Theory: the French language was invented by and for dead people.)

(Proof of above: Diderot: “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”)

The nurse said next: “Okay. I can hear his pulse but it is very faint.”

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: 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.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(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 

More About Hating Smokey the Bear

I don’t like Smokey the Bear. I’ve already written about it. He’s a slick defier of logic. Children are powerless to prevent forest fires and telling kids they’ve a singular moral responsibility fo forestall contagion is the kind of cartoon horse shit Americans are forced to grow up with.

Meanwhile the forests are being systematically cut down by Weyerhaeuser and fried by acid rain from “clean coal”—a phrase I’m sure Smokey the Bear would approve.

Now you will say: “But Kuusisto, is it Smokey the Bear you don’t like, or is it the fatuous, bloated, running dogs of the bourgeoisie who created him who you dislike?”

Of course I dislike Madison Avenue. But it’s the cartoon Bear I hate. He’s the kind of anthropomorphic dungaree wearing shovel toting ranger hat wearing dingus who will pick your pockets if you’re not careful. He’s out to mess with your conscience. He wants you to feel responsible when bad things happen in nature.

Only you can prevent hurricanes.

Only you can prevent global warming.

He’s anti-democratic and the purveyor of superstition.

Thomas Jefferson would have despised Smokey the Bear.

Why am I “on” about this?

Because when you make a woman who’s survived sexual abuse stand alone before a room fool of smug, pink, hostile men on Capitol Hill, you’re saying, “only you can prevent sexual assault”—the American social lie…the idea that the culture isn’t responsible, only you, only you.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: 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.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(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 

This is the Smokey the Bear Social Lie Complex.

The corridors of power depend on this.

Oh, the Poor Sighted People, etc.

I will tell you how to be blind but only when first you tell me how it is to be sighted. You will tell me what you see which has very little to do with the matter. You cannot help yourself. To see, seeing is this sail turning before the wind, this nearly transparent orchid. When your thoughts turn atavistic your vision has much to do with being a prey animal for humans have a great deal in common with horses.

So by turns, given this is what you believe about sight—that it is the sum of its contexts and each “peep” stands for something universal—you must believe the absence of sight is nothing more than a mineral blank.

You think there’s a tribe called “the blind” and we are pulling off a sinister trick by our very attempt to live in the world. You want to ask: “how can you live if you can’t see?” You know you want to ask it. A famous fiction writer once asked me during a job interview: “How can you write so clearly if you can’t see?” Translation: “How exactly are you fooling us? Maybe you can see? In any event you must be dishonest.”

Blindness is dishonesty to many sighted. If I can be called “blind” you can be called “sighted” though I prefer mis-sighted for you. In any event you believe you’re the sum of your sights however poorly apprehended.

Yes, you see as through a glass darkly. Most of you know it and are afraid. “Why if I lost my little peephole it would be like death itself.”

The blind are, to the poorly apprehended, the walking dead.

Yes. The blind are zombies to the P.A. kids.

Yes. The poorly apprehended are just kids.

Children who believe they’re the sum of their toys.

Seeing is toy collection.

Wouldn’t life without toys be impossible?

You’d have to be a zombie.

**

Not long ago while visiting a famous arts colony I heard a notable writer say that henceforth the famous arts colony would no longer be blind and poor when it comes to appreciating outlier forms of art. He said it twice during a formal speech.

And there I was with my guide dog. I’ve spent the last thirty years writing six books which argue that blindness is a rich way of knowing.

I was insulted and remain so. Yet this is business as usual for the poorly apprehended who can’t describe sight but imagine they know it thoroughly and think the blind are among the sighted “on sufferance” and yes, we make the P.A. tribe nervous by our very appearance.

I share with my black and LGBTQIA pals and all my foreign friends a capacity to make the poorly apprehended nervous. All of us are believed to be “here on sufferance” but there’s something especially dishonest about the blind, the lame, the halt.

The dishonest thing is that you, the sighted, unable to tell me what vision means, and only able to describe your toys, you fascinations as it were, the majority of you have no spiritual center. Without this you can’t imagine the glory of life itself. You think sight seeing is the secret to living.

And if you believe this, then you also must believe that language isn’t much of a thing.

My answer to the famous writer who wanted to know how I could write about the world with clarity was simple: all nouns are images. Horse. Battleship. Rose bush.

All I have to do is jot down a noun and voila! I saw what you saw little dude.

Or: of course I didn’t see it. But according to neurological findings, neither did you.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: 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.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(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