Thinking of Randall Jarrell

I’m growing old now Randall
And all I want is a little oakum
To put myself back together.

I’ve lived in a broken way—
A soul lost in a field of flowers
Waiting for kindnesses.

I swear I’m trying to get to the point.
The spruce in my yard
Looks like the hand of a clock.

Alright. That’s about it.
“The ways we miss our lives are life.”
Almost autumn, I can smell leaves

Touching the very air.
Blindness is a perfection.
I can live in this voice.

Disabled, Walking Around in Public…

Like it or not, even with your beloved dog beside you you’re still an outsider in most public spaces. Moreover, you’re “the show” and there’s no help for it. You’re the guy riding the old wooden escalators in Macy’s Department Store, while a hundred people stare. “I feel like I have a fried egg glued to my forehead,” I once said to my wife as we were navigating an airport. “You do,” she said. You can count on your spouse. When I think more deeply about this I think in terms of history. I belong to the first generation of public disabled. We’re not in the institutions. The laws of the land welcome us. Of course I’ll be stared at. 100 years from now, when everyone will have wild looking quasi-electronic rubberized appendages attached to their bodies this era will seem like ancient history. I hope for that.

Meanwhile one walks about. And you know you’re a symbolic father or mother. A political symbol if you will. In a way, every space you enter is a frontier. You’re clearing the road for others who may follow. I often think about the business of clearing. I’m not just asserting a right to inhabit public space for the disabled but for all my brothers and sisters who are still outsiders.

I took to whispering into my guide dog’s ear: “What’s an outsider?” Perhaps being a pack animal she knew, but she only said: “It’s something in the past.”

Dogs eat grass, just to know what’s in it. They eat the past. A lesson. Get over yourself.

And you do for a minute. You imagine you’ve eaten the grass; the here and now has fallen; you can taste a pure democracy. But the here and now is like rain at the windows, just persistent enough to haul you back from utopia. You’re in the Seven-Eleven again, being stared at by absolutely everyone. “What’s that man doing?” says a child to its mother. “Shush,” says the mother. “No Mommy! What’s that man?” “Shush,” she says, “Or there’s no birthday for you!”

You’re innocent. You are standing beside a rack of Twinkies and Hohos, just trying to figure out where the coffee is located, and now your the un-indicted co-conspirator behind the ruination of some kid’s birthday, all because you entered the damn store.

“You’ve entered the damn store” became a personal tag line. My father who served in World War II used to say, “You’re in the Army now, you’re not behind the plough….” His way of saying you’re screwed and just get over it.

In Macy’s I was once followed by a store detective. I was walking just to walk. Working my dog around mannequins and racks of clothing, mostly because it was something to do and it was a good exercise for the dog, and you know, what the hell. Sam Spade was about ten feet behind me wherever I went. What’s an outsider? He’s whatever they say he is. He doesn’t look like the other crayfish. Let’s eat him.

AAPD Celebrates the Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the House

AAPD Celebrates the Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the House

For Immediate Release: August 25, 2021
Contact: Rachita Singh, rsingh@aapd.com


 WASHINGTON, DC – The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) celebrates the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4) in the U.S. House of Representatives. This action represents the first step in making this critical piece of legislation law and preventing further state-level attacks on voting rights — attacks that target disabled people, people of color, and disabled people of color.

This year, many states have restricted voting rights and limited access to the polls, further undercutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and showing the desperate need for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. In Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Arizona, and elsewhere, state legislators and governors have enacted policies to restrict access to drop boxes, curbside voting, vote-by-mail options, and more. These laws attempt to diminish our political power and restrict our right to have a say in the policies, people, and decisions that govern and shape our lives.

The Voting Rights Act helped protect the voting rights of people with disabilities, people of color, and disabled people of color. Some of the Voting Rights Act’s key protections came from the requirement that states with a history of discrimination receive permission before changing voting laws. Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck the formula that determined which states fall into this category,  many states have enacted laws that restrict the right to vote. Even now, the Texas state legislature is trying to pass a sweeping anti-voting bill with restrictions on vote-by-mail, drive-thru voting, and more.

“As disabled people, we understand deeply how our well-being, our ability to work and live in our communities depends on the policies, people, and funding that our votes impact. Restricting our right to vote is tantamount to restricting our ability to self-direct our own lives,” said Maria Town, AAPD’s President and CEO. “Protecting our right to vote and advancing accessible voting methods could not be more important.”

AAPD urges the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Our access and right to vote must be protected.***AAPD is a convener, connecter, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As one of the leading national cross-disability civil rights organizations, AAPD advocates for the full recognition of rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities. AAPD’s programs and initiatives have been effective in mobilizing the disability community through communications advocacy; cultivating and training new and emerging leaders with disabilities through leadership development programs; increasing the political participation of Americans with disabilities and elevating the power of the disability vote through the REV UP (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) Campaign; and advancing disability inclusion in the workplace through the Disability Equality Index (DEI) — the nation’s leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability equality and inclusion. To learn more about AAPD, visit www.aapd.com.Copyright © 2020 American Association of People with Disabilities, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
2013 H St NW 5th Floor Washington, DC 20006

Someone Falls Overboard now Available!

It’s here! We’re excited to offer Someone Falls Overboard from well-known poets Steve Kuusisto and Ralph Savarese. We think you’re really going to enjoy it. Click the button below and we’ll take you to a fast checkout.Someone Falls OverboardTalking Through PoemsBUY NOW

Praise for

Someone Falls Overboard Who hasn’t wanted to live that writer’s dream, eavesdropping on two great poets? For nine days, Steven Kuusisto and Ralph Savarese exchanged poems, multiple poems daily, and responded to each one: riffing, sampling, griping, cracking wise. The result is Someone Falls Overboard: Talking through Poems, a project suggested by the poetic dialogue between William Stafford and Marvin Bell, but unmistakably Kuusisto and Savarese. Water runs through this book: a paradise, a poem-drinker, a physical place where the poets boat together, “Two disabled men—this isn’t a joke,” on Lake Winnipesaukee. Ultimately water becomes the current that pulls between two powerful and poetic intelligences. The project is as kinetic and un-precious as it sounds. “I’ve banished irony,” writes Savarese, and Kuusisto responds, “Finnish underworld, a lake/where a swan glides.” Someone Falls Overboard is crackling smart, hilarious without losing its urgency, centered firm in this historical moment yet an instant classic in the long tradition of poetry in conversation. Reading is listening, ear pressed against an irresistible door.—Susanne Paola Antonetta, author of The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here 

Someone Falls Overboard is an effortless read and extremely funny! The poetic back-and-forth is brimming with wit, camaraderie and genuine emotion. It is an absolute treat, for us readers, to be in the audience as two good friends have a heartfelt conversation about themselves and everything in between. Savarese and Kuusisto have unlocked the secret to surviving a pandemic in style.—Siddharth Dhananjay, star of the film Patti CAKE$ 

Once in a great while, speed dating works. Something deep happens fast. So it is with Overboard, the rapid-fire exchange of two brilliant poets, Ralph James Savarese and Stephen Kuusisto. They go back and forth amid our current chaos and their own haunts like Ali and Frazier. It’s jazz. It’s chess. It’s a repartee of reverence and irreverence. It’s great.—Marty Dobrow, author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Six Minor Leaguers in Search of the Baseball Dream 
Written during the COVID-19 pandemic, Someone Falls Overboard is a poetic conversation and an answer to the isolation of lockdown. Tossing images and metaphors back and forth, riffing on each other’s ideas, acclaimed writers Stephen Kuusisto and Ralph James Savarese explore the meaning of age, disability, poetry, and memory; what emerges is a single long poem about friendship, witty, inventive, profane.—George Estreich, author of Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves 

A. R. Ammons once described two butterflies spiraling upward on each other’s air currents as ‘swifter in / ascent than they / can fly or fall’ (‘Trap’). And that’s what’s going on here with Kuusisto and Savarese, two masters of poetic improv soaring higher on each other’s drafts than any artist could hope to fly alone. Witty and moving in equal parts, their collaboration makes for a can’t-miss performance.—Julie Kane, author of Mothers of Ireland: Poems 
To open this book is to remember that poetry is playtime—in the right hands. Kuusisito and Savarese goad each along in a game of ‘look what you did, now look what I can do.’ They create a series of interlocking playgrounds, and you never know who you might meet there, or where you might find yourself. There’s George Eliot, Jay-Z, Jack Kennedy, Elizabeth Bishop. We’re flying through the sky on an airplane, we wake up on an operating table, we’re playing trombone like it’s having sex. There’s that kid peeing in the kiddie pool. Why is there shit on the church pew? Who’s got diarrhea now? This pair of poets invites us into their intimate playground, a place where they express the tenderness of friendship in a vernacular lyricism that reminds us, in their words, ‘We’re smarter than we knew.’ —Jason Tougaw, author of The One You Get: Portrait of a Family Organism 

Someone Falls Overboard is a back-and-forth between two poets that ranges from the goofy to the profound. The conversation is as far from the usual polished poetic fare as you can get; rather, it’s interested in the raw ingredients—memory and association—and the ways in which seemingly disparate things can collide and intertwine. Strung loosely together, the poems are rough, fast, unpredictable, and very funny. It takes both recklessness and courage to play in public, but that’s what these poets do, giving us a deep glimpse into a long friendship and demonstrating that ‘You must / Get lost / To live.’—Chase Twichell, author of Things as It Is.  

Dropped Dishes in a Dream

I dreamt I was moving somewhere and dishes were a problem. Dear Freud, Dear Jung, they kept breaking in my hands. There was tremendous urgency. Something sinister was happening. It was one of those offstage dreams. And I reached for the dishes and they fell from my fingers and shattered repeatedly. And someone who I couldn’t identify but who seemed to know me said: “leave the plates. You won’t need them where we’re going.” This is around the time I woke up.

Dish comes from the Latin “discus” which transformed in Medieval Latin to “desk” so maybe I was supposed to abandon my desk. I won’t need a desk where I’m going. I wonder if there are desks in the afterlife. Could there be a room of one’s own in heaven or hell? Would hell be ok if you had a study with a lock on the door? I wish I could ask Philip Roth. Meantime I’m reminded of the old “desk in the afterlife joke”:

“A writer died and St. Peter offered him the option of going to hell or to heaven. To help decide, he asked for a tour of each destination. St. Peter agreed and decided to take him to hell first. As he descended into the fiery pits, the writer saw row upon row of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes by demons. “Oh, my,” the writer said, “let me see heaven.”
A few moments later, as they ascended into heaven, the writer saw row upon row of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes by demons.
“Hey,” the writer said, “this is just as bad as hell.”
“Oh, no it’s not,” St Peter replied, “here your work gets published!””

Meanwhile I’m in mind of the old piece from The Onion about the pros and cons of “stand up” desks:

“Standing desks are becoming more popular in workplaces where employees would otherwise sit all day, but not everyone thinks a standing desk is right for them. The Onion looks at the pros and cons of using a standing desk.

PRO
Improves ability to talk about having a standing desk
Encourages more natural spinal curvature while staring at screen for eight continuous hours
Increases blood flow to your feet, where your best thinking is done
One step closer toward the ultimate dream of flying desks
Easy way to create illusion you actually give a sh*t about work

CON
Could wind up forgetting how to sit entirely
Might be happier not knowing how difficult it has become for you to stand up for longer than 30 minutes
More visible target for office shooter
Eliminates satisfaction of leaning back in your chair with your hands behind your head after sending a killer email
You’ll still eventually die.”

The dream was filled with broken dishes and a prevailing sense that a nameless but terrible enemy was coming.

I’m praying for refugees everywhere.

As Jung would remind us, our dreams ain’t always about ourselves.

Listening to Rain Outside a Hotel Window

This morning I unfolded the flower
That is my heart but I must tell you
I was thinking of something else
A boyhood house which was
In fact quite small
So it equaled me—
It was a garment
And one put it on.
I say, ambition
Is lovely, the light
Of the mind is like tea
In a glass
And it is mystic
In this strange room
And rain with its proficiency
Makes one dreamy.
I love you, my heart
Oh heart.

You say the world is less violent today…

This morning on seventh avenue
A woman cried on the sidewalk—
She wept into a paper bag.
I walked by not wanting to get involved
Which is violence also.
There are not enough perfections.
At first I thought I shouldn’t write this.
We call it ‘virtue signaling’
As if ardor and hope are vain
And poems are vain.
I wash my fingers in cold water
And think of Rachmaninoff who,
Learning he was dying,
Went to his study, shut the door
And said farewell to his hands.
Perhaps there’ll be music where we’re going.

Dreaming in the Conrad Hotel on West 54th St.

Last night I dreamt I was making balloon animals in a windstorm. I love the unconscious. Later the storm turned horribly intense. The unconscious has a limited sense of humor.

Meanwhile, it’s important to know what you love— especially the small things. I love the morning song from Peer Gynt, hot soup in winter, the sound of distant dogs barking at night, jazz piano any time.

Of course I love people, my wife, stepchildren, family, old friends, two horses in particular. But I talk about them all the time. I seldom say “I love that barn mouse.”

Back to the ballon animals. I love that barn mouse.

**

Oh America! Your swimming grows weaker and weaker, and the whale, just as Melville predicted…

**

Long ago I thought suede shoes were stylish—not the Chet Atkins variety, but the “Hush Puppy” kind, the beige ones. I was 13 and those were some good shoes. I say so without nostalgia.

Of the Hush Puppies I recall after you wore them for a day or two they tended to stink. I remember my father saying: “Your shoes smell like dead rats.” “How do you know what dead rats smell like?” I asked him. “I was in WWII,” he said.

I tried washing the shoes with dish soap and a rag. This ruined the suede and made them smell like the beauty parlor where my mother went for her “permanents” which were sinister since she was a drug addict and lacquered hair meant there’d be a burning sofa in the near future.

BTW I could never get my father to talk about the war. He fought in the Pacific. There were lots of rats.

**

It’s god’s trick, making me sadder as I grow older.

**

“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine, or idealism.” (Carl Jung)

Idealism is how I get out of bed. And it’s likely going to pull my strings until the end.

What’s the balloon animal for that?

When Your Dog Doesn’t Like Jazz

Last night I went to a jazz club in New York City and it was way too loud for my guide dog Caitlyn. She tried. She lay at my feet. But when a particularly hot squeal from the saxophone hit the room she stood up and I saw it was time to go. We left early. When you have a service animal you must be willing to compromise and know you’re not just you. Plenty of blind folks don’t want guide dogs in their lives for this very reason. Me? I’d rather have a creature who looks out for me in traffic and whose sweet life I have to reckon. A white cane is fine for everyone else. I gain a lot by caring for my canine companion. And really the jazz wasn’t that great. It sounded like an amplified fight in a lobster trap.

**

The above passage is okay as far as it goes. But if my dog wanted to visit a shit pile would I compromise, saying, well sometimes I have to admit I’m not just me?

**

Enough! We look after each other. And not all jazz is equal.

**

When you say you’re somebody think of your dog and subtract the ambitious fealties to super-ego which have held you hostage to pure life.