Portrait of Francois Le Sueur

3 Nov

by Paul Hostovsky

He’s being paid to be here.
After all, he could be out begging,
supporting his mother and two brothers
and three sisters on his blind beggar’s
salary. Which was more than you could earn
as a bell ringer, or town crier, or chair caner,
which were the only other blind professions
back in 1782 in Paris. But with begging
there was a kind of blind differential
marked by the white insignia they wore
which gave the blind the special status
of “aristocrats of beggars”, reserving for them
the steps of the churches and Cathedral. Begging
paid higher. Which is why Francois Le Sueur,
the first blind student in the first
school for the blind in the world,
is being paid to be here by his teacher,
Valentin Hauy, who is outside the picture.
Hauy paid Le Sueur to teach him—the teacher
paying the student—how to read and write.
He learned in three months. On the desk
are several wooden alphabet blocks,
an embossed print book, embossed
musical score, tactile map, and his hand
face down. Hauy paid Le Sueur daily
what he would have earned in a day
with upturned hand as a blind illiterate beggar
twenty five years before the birth
of Louis Braille. It was the only way
his mother would let him come to school.

Paul Hostovsky is a sighted Braille instructor in Boston. He is also the author of three books of poetry, Bending the Notes (2008), Dear Truth (2009), and A Little in Love a Lot (2011). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. To read more of his work, visit his website at www.paulhostovsky.com.


2 Responses to “Portrait of Francois Le Sueur”

  1. Jeff Flodin November 3, 2011 at 9:20 AM #

    I have read and enjoyed, even marveled, at Paul’s poems posted at Vision Through Words. I will pursue the web links for more of his talent.

    I appreciate the historical perspective of this poem. It’s good to learn how we got where we are. If November is Gratitude Month, I am grateful for all those who went that extra mile because it was the right thing to do, because helping others helps oneself.

    • visionthroughwords November 3, 2011 at 11:57 AM #

      In keeping with the month’s theme of gratitude, I’d like to thank Paul and all of our writers and readers. You have made this blog a possibility.

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