Viridity

Viridity

I want the boy who
first fell in love with poems
to come back

He was dishonest
He’d a stuffed hawk
Stolen from a glass case
And a billy club from old Boston…

No day after tomorrow, no tales
That couldn’t be right
And the bear of falsehood asleep in his forest
Spring was coming

I was something. If I was I

One Way

A few nights back
I dreamt of Robert Frost
Which meant a visit
To childhood
New Hampshire nineteen-sixty
Me blindly leaning
Into his pages
West running brook
Wood-cuts
Vision loss at five
So in love
With poems
The idea of them
Rare as animals from afar
Rain at the window
The walking wind

Of Kafka and a Blind Swim

“I can swim like the others only I have a better memory than the others. I have not forgotten my former inability to swim. But since I have not forgotten it my ability to swim is of no avail and I cannot swim after all.”

—Kafka

I’ve always liked this quote from Franz Kafka as it signifies the dilemma of blindness. I can see like the others, until I remember I’m not permitted. One then forgets his hoped for equality. Kafka would have perfectly understood the analogy. Only the best people are allowed to have the perceived advantages of sightedness or something like it. One knows the blind who have celebrity status, the mountain climber, the soul singer—they’re allowed an equal place in the public imagination. Most blind have not forgotten their former inability to swim.

Disability is excess, unbalanced, unrefined, offering troubles galore to the public nerve. Seeing is believing. Blindness is irrational. If you’re blind in the workplace and need accommodations you’re generally understood to be unbalanced.

Even Harry Houdini that old fraud knew how the audience loved the story of a man who could disable himself and get out of it without a lick of help.

What Does Disability Culture Mean?

Not long ago I was asked to contribute a poem to a literary magazine which was planning an issue on disability and the environment. This was an honor for when you’re a poet being sought after is a significant kind of recognition. Moreover the journal understood that the disabled have a critical perspective on the global climate crisis. The magazine arrived and its lovely with oversized glossy pages and lots of visuals and alas for me it’s impossible to read. As a blind reader I must scan printed material in order to turn it into accessible documents. It hit me then that disability culture is insofar as blindness is concerned not as inclusive as it ought to be. The majority of American poetry magazines, even if they have websites, are inaccessible to the blind. Poetry Magazine is a terrific culprit.

I ask therefore what does disability culture mean?

The Nucleus of a Syllable

This is personal—for me
And for you; if you
Show this to someone
It will be personal
For them—
It’s a Sumerian story
Sounds welling
In our throats
Falling down
The long slide
Of history
Each “A” and “O”
A gasp from
Lugalbanda and Ninsun
The parents of Gilgamesh
Who broke free
Of economy
To find the myth
Each syllable
Comprising
The world
Every gasp
Of dread or love
A planet

Once

I wrote a poem about the King of Sweden
I know nothing about Swedish royalty
That King was like the moon
I know nothing about the moon
I’ve heard the police
Pay strict attention to it
When its full
There are problems in the streets
I picture the King
With a falcon’s hood
Over his head
Waving to ghosts
Everyone needs
Minor amusements
When wars
Are described as heroic

Saarkikoski said…

Saarkikoski said
To me people are more like houses
Than the houses themselves
I know what he means
That ruined old man across the way
His sons dead in the war
Wife paralyzed
Or that’s how it went
Now no one’s there
The moon is new tonight
And looks like a boot
Tangible abstractions
Wood, stones, people
Let’s write a charm
For the houses, stones,
Disfigured spirits
The leafless branches…

Here Comes the Blind Boogeyman

“Witches are living projections of feelings that defy easy rationalization or reconciliation: amity and enmity, compassion and cruelty, self-confidence and fear.”

Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction
Malcolm Gaskill

So too with blindness. From Jose Saramago to Anthony Doerr; from Blind Pew to Dickens blindness is the living projection of the sighted. And if you’re blind like me you get to live it. Every day.

The sighted are terribly weak. I think of them as akin to children who must step over the cracks on sidewalks lest they break their grandmother’s backs.

Seeing is the superstition. Blindness is just life.

Jesus, don’t get me started.

Amity and enmity. Stay away from the blind at all costs.

Blidness is pestilence.

I’m the blind boogeyman who’s going to steal your sighted life.