Honoring Recovery and Service

I received the following note this morning and I want to pass it along. The entire disability rights community owes a great deal to American war veterans who have pushed the envelope for disability rights and accommodations after each and every foreign war. Let's honor those who have served our country and in turn those who have worked assiduously to serve veterans.

The Veterans Health Administration has designated today, November 6, 2008, as the first annual National Prosthetics and Sensory Aids Service Day "Where Quality of Care Results in Quality Life!" At the end of World War II, no agency or method existed to provide quality prosthetics to America’s disabled soldiers. On November 1, 1945, in response to both Congress and veterans, VA created the Prosthetic Appliance Service. Its purpose: to develop a system through which artificial limbs of the highest quality as well as other prosthetic appliances would be provided to disabled veterans. Today, VA medical centers celebrate and recognize the significant contributions of Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (PSAS) personnel in delivering world-class quality service to disabled veterans. Observances include presentation of the Under Secretary for Health’s Award for Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service of the Year to the Togus, Maine VA Medical Center by Frederick Downs, Jr., PSAS Chief Consultant. Many medical centers will host presentations for staff and veterans on prosthetics and orthotics and display the unique services and high tech equipment PSAS provides. Wherever you are, stop by your Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service today and thank them for a job well done!


Helsinki, May 1980


A woman sat next to me on the metro and began softly talking to herself, talking like birch leaves at the summer house, talking and talking and I knew that she had no volition. My Finnish isn’t fluent but I could tell she was speaking a pre-war working class slang, a lingo that the old street horses would have known; the open grained speech of her husband and her children. Of course you can see where I’m going. It didn’t take long to learn they were dead and long ago, long ago. There have been so many times I’ve felt how little I know. My capers and satires are thin in these moments. "yes," I think, "I have suffered but my sorrow is a mechanical thing like the pulleys in a dumb waiter, willy nilly window up and window down. But there is something other: wilderness of the thistles, thistles with the worms under the spikes, thistles from which their soup is made, thistles in a dictionary of soldier slang. It was a short train ride. That train couldn’t take me where I wanted to go.

Baltic Classicism

We stood on a quay talking of illness,

Of a friend’s discomfort, the long solo of our age

Now people have the luxury of slow death.

A wooden shack leaned on the sea wall

Like something one finds after walking

All night—the house in a Russian tale,

Its windows open to admit souls.

Anyone can talk of dying, the measure

Of tongue and footfall, of boats in darkness.

But groaning, incapable as men are

We talked in the rhythms

Of singers from Tallinn:

Men who stayed up all night,

Turning their sleighs into coffins.





11 O' Clock at Night

Half in the manner of St. Augustine and half in the sotto voce of Linus Pauling who hoped to live forever the clock hints of lives unfulfilled. The northeast window takes it up: these asides and hand wringings until dull matter reflects our wishing like a Mexican mirror. There’s nothing we can do to hurry ambition. Tonight my good friend Dr. S goes to bed thinking about post-molecular medicine. All day he has seen children who are going blind because there are pin-point spots in their respective genes. We are so close to curing blindness. We have advanced one hundred years in the past decade. We need only five more to restore sight. The FM says the world is ending. Everywhere evidence mounts for the end of culture. The great laboratories will be overrun by looters like the libraries of Mesopotamia. And while the winter stars rise fat and imperfect war merchants are planning the destruction of hospitals with American taxes. We are so close to making the young firm; the old see; the broken mind calmed; the old Rosicrucian marriage of light and dark; the very promise of matter; soul clap its hands; going to sleep is like rolling up a scroll, hiding it among stones for the ones who surely will arrive. Tonight I say they will come: the builders and doctors; the mathematicians and young artists from the orchards. 11 O’clock at night & we have work to do. Let it be said we stood upright in our age.


The Inheritance

I met a man recently who was twice divorced and recounting his woes he allowed that when his first wife left him he inherited her cat. As I endeavor to pose as a moderate man I withheld my approbation for privately I saw that the possession of a cat was simply another straw on the camel’s back. I kept mum. I held my measure. I made no moue of disgust. Oh but inwardly I thought of the injustice of the matter. In fact I thought of the terrible affliction that’s represented by leaving a cat to anyone–whether you like that person or not.I shall stand firm with this view no matter the tidal wave of feline hysteria that will assuredly come my way. Oh yes.



Yes, I'm a blind customer.

So it was a rainy day in Iowa City and I was late for a meeting and I ran through the wet streets with my guide dog and we got to the fancy coffee and take out food emporium just a little late. The people we were to meet had gone. Speaking for ourselves the guide dog and the man were drenched. I made my way to the coffee counter hoping to discern whether there might be another seating area where my friends might be waiting.Now here’s the strange thing (or one of them) about being blind. You can sometimes see just enough to know you are being dissed.

The girl behind the coffee counter stared at me. She just flat out locked her eyes right at me and she

did so as if I was a mannequin. The counter was high enough that I suppose she might not have seen my guide dog. But a customer, sighted or not should be addressed I would imagine. Was her silence a reflection of the fact that I was standing there and not making eye contact save that I was holding my head up and first in line and surely that ought to be enough for a minor acknowledgement? Yes? I decided to seek out the manager and to politely suggest that blind people are customers too.

Ah but the manager upon being ever so politely summoned was also rude. “Yes,” he said, standing suddenly in front of me.

“Hello,” I said, I’m Steve–what’s your name? He told me he was Jim but not without some radiance of malediction.

So I told him I’m not certain that the folks at the coffee bar know how to be polite to a blind person–and before I had a chance to continue he turned on his heels and muttered something about having a talk with them and he walked away as fast as he could.

So needless to say I’m not shopping anymore at the Bread Garden in downtown Iowa City.
IN my world view, two strikes and you’re out.