I don’t know if he’d have been better
But I’ve always been sorry for Trotsky.
Meanwhile I build story-homes,
Apple houses, corral apartments
With signs out front—everyone welcome
And we mean it—shade elms,
Branches depending to and fro…
Up river the houses are bad,
No glass at the windows,
No gods in ambient sun.
What trick of mind shakes out carpets
Of misery, truly?
Here I create rooms with good light
And wicker chairs we can carry outdoors.
Years back my friend Jarkko
Of Turku, Finland, wrote:
Life is a rented room,
A phrase just a tad sinister
In Finnish as their word
For life opens
Your mouth wide
Makes your smile
Wiping that smirk
Off your face
Will manage our lips.
And I went my own way, deciphering….
Good old Neruda
Faint morning light now
Still, memory, moon, wind
So many broken hearts
Under this shirt
But my legs are strong
Autumn dreams begin:
My father plays Sibelius on a grand piano.
“I’m in the underworld,” he says,
“We got it all wrong.”
Behind him are the vast windows of Hades
Which admit light favored by the dead—
All the light inside our bruises…
If you’re disabled you’re used to the digs. The current term is micro-aggression—you know, the non-disabled administrator who says, “I had a disabled friend so I know all about it,” or the human resources officer who says, “we’re doing our best and I think you disabled people are just whiners.”
These digs place the disabled in a template. We become objectified and thoroughly reduced. This process is enacted and reenacted daily. Moreover the intersection between disability and other diverse groups is seldom explored. At Syracuse University where I teach the LGBTQ Resource Center has no wheelchair ramp. If the disabled complain we’re seen as a nuisance. Sometimes you have to laugh. We’re viewed by others as an inconvenient truth, to borrow Al Gore’s phrase.
As a blind faculty member I’m fantastically inconvenient. Some days I think I should wear a tee shirt that just says “universal problem” or something equivalent. Imagine you’re a problem all day long. The digs are relentless.
When outside consultants are hired by my university to assess everything from the workplace climate to the future of infrastructure you can bet their surveys will be inaccessible. One complains. Not much happens. The “system” just stores up more evidence that you’re a problem. You see how it works.
I am on the street in a conditional way: allowed or not allowed, accepted or not accepted according to the prejudices and educational attainments of others. And because I’ve been disabled since childhood I’ve lived with this dance of provisional life ever since I was small. In effect, if you have a disability, every location is a gated community.
Outside on sixth avenue in the rain paper bags flying over the sidewalk—death’s house pets maybe—and the stretched, symphonic strains of capitalism are all about, wheels persistent, air brakes, taxicabs and buses, a mad man howling as if he was King Lear, and why not think of Manhattan as a moor or heath? Why not shed tears of distress? Of course I decide not to. I will present myself to strangers as—as what? Benign? Ironic? Kindly about the eyes? Ginko leaves brush my face like butterflies from the underworld.