by Ana GarzaI see the defective human bodies of the earth, The blind, the deaf and dumb, idiots, hunchbacks, lunatics, The pirates, thieves, betrayers, murderers, slave-makers of the earth, –Walt Whitman (“Salut au Mond” 1889-1892) When Whitman saw, probably I was dozing in a hand-planed chair, listening to my grown children and my toddling grandchildren speaking kindnesses in the parlor of some tucked away house, or maybe I was suckling my mother’s milk or cooing in my cradle, too caught up in my fingers, the silk side rails and the wool blanket I rubbed against my face, or I could have been sewing that afternoon in the window of a scrubbed house with lavendered women whose comfort was that Jesus healed people like me with mud from spit, or possibly I wasn’t caught up in the poet’s multitudes but set, like stone, along the bank–my palm turned up, a bowl, a bell, my call for alms above his song–or more likely, I just slept on a cot, fevered in tifus, warming my fingers between my thighs, until men or women versed in charity smudged rags across my hands and face to raise me for a meal. More likely, this is where I was: a school with broom handles to be sanded for sale, broken walls, drafts, bloated floorboards, loose straw, unfed minds and idle bodies for the babbling lookers-on to notice how the sloppy fingers of the blind stretch, reaching for a voice.
Ana Garza wrote this poem while taking a graduate course on Walt Whitman, a poet known for his amazing inclusiveness. When she came across the line quoted in the epigraph, she noticed that blind people, like herself, weren’t really included. Ana has an M. F. A. from California State University, Fresno. forty-four of her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, most recently in A handful of Stones, The New Verse News and The Mom Egg.