After Reading John Milton I Lie Down in Sarah Bernhardt’s Coffin

You know how it is, late in the day
Milton’s angels in your throat—

Here comes the delivery van
Sturdy men lugging the thing.

My great-grandfather—a wheelwright
Built caskets from stray boards

But hers doubled as a coffee table
With this extra trick:

Guests went home, she played in her grave
Clutching one pink peony.

I remember my first undertaker’s smile,
Churlish, white–flash

Of exceptional teeth, then his lips
Remembering to cover the gravestones

But not before his awkward flex;
“You can’t afford the Conquistador,

The casket that conquers death.”
Sarah, drink your marl-ish ichor.

Milton, Sola fides, let’s play cards.

Forest Floor

Try all morning
Picking mushrooms in rain
And laughing—slow
Clumsy man
Ancestors beside him
Ferns ants black shoe prints
I take a bird as counsel
Say to my dead father
Something is coming
Hymn in mind
On a long trembling bridge
One migrates backwards
Into the emptying self
Yes I wanted to go some place
Walking with the slyness of good faith

Homage to Robert Bly

Nobody rests and that’s the truth friend.
I woke this morning
And with my blind eyes
Up close I saw the first buds
On the apple trees.
They were lit by their own stars.
I leaned against the porch
While my dog prowled
Counting silently
Because when I look at things
I lose them—
Do you know what that is?
Who doesn’t break into pieces
Watching the red winged blackbird
Solemnly raise one leg.
He’s like an old Slavic dancer.
I count backwards.
Fractions. Slow at first.
Then faster.
That’s all I know.

MAGA Dark Tourism

I can’t help but think of Tiya Miles’s book “The Haunted South” with it’s scrupulous evocation of dark tourism. She shows how whites travel to old plantations to experience sentimentalized ghost shivers which are, of course, the shivers of slavery’s effects.

“Dark tourism” is about entering contested or distressed spaces without empathy or serious engagement. It’s a Disney effect, a global phenomenon, made possible by both inadequate engagements with history and the long effects of television.

From Auschwitz to Chernobyl to Savannah the privileged tourists roam.

The jury in Kenosha was persuaded that Kyle Rittenhouse entered town without any real understanding of the events unfolding before him. He was a tourist with his AR-15. He was merely armed to the teeth and out for a little “look around.”

His was the ultimate MAGA walking tour with lethal effect.

The deadly reality of history is removed from dark tourism. You know the place where nothing is real.

Read Tiya Miles.

Year after year…

My parents in their graves.
I imagine their cares are lifted.
The branches of the yew are fragrant.
Birds I can’t name
Are high above.
“Why” wrote Ikkyu,
“Is it all so beautiful, this false dream,
This craziness, why?”
Morning smells of smoke.
The little dog raises his sweet face my way.
Walls of memory come down.
Again I’m a student
Translating a poem:
You came close. Hoar frost and snow…
Clouds and branches at the windows.
All night the stars like a song.
Busy sadness please
May my own children be happy

Elegy for Neil Marcus

I heard this morning that poet and disability rights activist Neil Marcus has passed away. Once, in Chicago, he put a radish on my nose. He was a lively and unceremonious rascal and by God I’ll miss him. We desperately need subversive humor in these times. The darker the jokes the better. I like this one by the Finnish poet Pentti Saarikoski:

“Elämä on ihmiselle annettu,
jotta hän tarkoin harkitsisi,
missä asennossa tahtoo olla kuollut…”

“Life is given to man
so he may consider
In what position he wants to be dead…”

Neil would have understood these lines as a benediction. Disability was always in his mind as a primary mode of imagination. If Saarikoski is correct, life affords us an opportunity to do our own jokes.

Neil’s jokes were better.

Plato:

“The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture. At the beginning of the journey to the next world, one’s education and culture can either provide the greatest assistance, or else act as the greatest burden, to the person who has just died.”

Neil I hope you and Saarikoski are in the great afterlife sauna with whisks made from birch leaves…

Hurry Apple! Blind Users Matter!

Not long ago I dug deep in my pockets and bought a brand new MacBook Pro computer. Lucky me to have had enough spare change. One should acknowledge privilege. The machine in question was quite expensive as it has Apple’s newfangled M1 chips which are fast. The new Macs are magnificent.

Why then do I feel cheated? Ah Grasshopper! The new Mac has the latest operating system called “Monterey” and somehow Apple’s engineers have rolled out a product that is flawed and I mean badly so for it’s remarkably blind unfriendly. Where formerly the onboard screen reader called “VoiceOver” could read Epub books it now gasps, gargles, loses its path, and gives up in despair.

This is a dreadful problem. As a blind reader who relies on accessible technologies I’m genuinely distressed. I’ve talked via phone with several Apple tech representatives and I’ve been assured that they’re working on it. I believe them. I’m sure they are.

The question I have is how could they roll out a software upgrade that ruins the fundamental experience of Mac ownership for the blind?

The answer lies in the disconnect between Silicon Valley engineers and the non-normative end user.You don’t have to be blind to know this. The algorithms that run facial recognition devices are designed with white Anglo Saxon male bodies in mind. Airport screening machines set off alarms when gender non-conforming travelers pass through. In other words, the non-normative body remains an afterthought in design cultures.

We don’t really know how many blind citizens there are in the United States and just so, we’ve no clear idea about global numbers. It’s not a material issue. If you promise your product is accessible then stand by it. Don’t run rough shod over accessibility because “those folks” can be taken care of later.

Hurry Apple. I’m holding a $3000 quasi functioning brick in my hands.