Archive | April, 2013

Diseased

26 Apr

by Ana Garza

I 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.

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Blind Traveler

19 Apr

by Stella De Genova

Sitting at my home computer in the Midwestern, American city that I was born and raised in, it feels a little surreal this morning to think about where I was for the last 12 days.  Nonetheless, the reality of it all is that I just got back from visiting family and touring London, England and to top it off, a 2-day jump over to Paris, France.  As a legally blind person, white cane in hand, along with my son who was my traveling companion and my brother who has lived in England for a few years, I’m just as amazed at the blurry, beautiful sights I saw as I am at how many “tubes” and trains and buses we maneuvered to get around.  A savvy traveler I am not and I would not suggest doing this alone to any other blind person but I feel some accomplishment about having been able to run through the streets and train stations of London and Paris.

We literally walked 10’s of thousands of steps and took in medieval castles and homes, art museums and cathedrals and must-see spots like the Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey in London and its midlands; and the Eiffel Tower, Arc d’Triumph, Musee d’Orsay and Mont Martre in Paris.  We gazed upon the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Holbein, Bellini, van Eyck, Seurat, Cezanne and Van Gogh in the museums.

Sighted people go on vacations and make sure they see the sights and my family took me to all of the required tourist hot spots.  But with my failing eyesight, I’ve found that there is much more to the travel experience than what we see and that is to be savored as well.  It’s true that what I saw was far from crystal clear and many times what I saw was mostly through descriptions but I used my other senses to enjoy my trip.  My visual blurriness gave me the feeling of being part of an impressionist’s painting in Paris.  And I thoroughly enjoyed listening to British accents and the French language that I’ve loved since high school.  The feel of centuries-old cobblestone streets under my feet and the smells of the native cuisine along with the plethora of international flavors and languages feels like all of the senses having a party.  And it always awes me to be in buildings or places that hold infinite stories of told and untold history.  We don’t need our eyes at all to see the bustling ghosts of ancient times all around us.

I also appreciated that wherever we were, the understanding of the universal symbolism of the white cane was apparent and there was a general kindness and consideration communicated by all.  In a way, even though my blindness can make for its share of inconvenience in life, it can also bring comfort to find that most people in this world are inherently kind.  There may be a point in my future when I will not be able to see the photos taken on my trip but all of my senses will help me to hold treasured memories well beyond the sense of sight.

To learn more about Stella De Genova, click on the Statement tab on this blog site.

Blindness

12 Apr

by Valerie Moreno

Stepping in to the world,
my white cane taps lightly
on ground, grass, making music.

As I walk, I am
confronted by assumptions-
“Oh, that poor thing!”
“How does she survive?”

Someone grabs my arm,
begins to tell me of
an operation or prays for my sight

I’m embarrassed, humiliated, irritated-
am I such a intolorable object,
only damaged eyes?

I shake my head,
no, it’s not being blind I contemplate
each hour , every day…

It’s the sound of music,
children laughing,
the purring of my cat,
the voice of a friend

I am not helpless or hero,
triumphant or tragic-
I just want you to open your eyes
to realize I am like you.

Valerie Moreno is 58, a mom, grandma, “mommy” to a mischievious blind cat and a writer. She is totally blind.

Symbolic Transformation

4 Apr

by Jeff Flodin

Last night, I took Randy (Jeff’s guide dog) to his first poetry reading. He remained attentive throughout.  Only once did I catch him with his paws over his ears, and that was during a sonnet, so it didn’t last long.I too struggle with poetry.  While prose poems are accessible, the fancier ones baffle me.  Their meaning goes beyond the page, into the land of symbols and metaphors where I lose my way.

Here in Vermont, among poets and artists, I seek clarity.  I explained my problem to W. B., a modern Renaissance man.  W. B. employed an engineering analogy to explain things.  “I’m lucky,” he began, “to be able to look at something, a machine for instance, and see its inner workingshow the gears, springs and belts create output.  Poetry is similar—words work together to create output.Output in machines is work; output in poetry is concepts. Concepts are not tangible, they reach into another dimension.”

“This is helpful,” I said.  “For starters, I panic at ‘Some Assembly Required.’Must be because I fail to see the interrelationship of physical components even when provided with instructions, diagrams, and audio tutorials.  No wonder I have trouble with concepts.”

“Understanding the process is what I call ‘symbolic transformation,’” said W. B.

“Aha!  I think I’m having an ‘aha’ moment here, “ I said.  “Here’s how.I figure batting averages in my head.  I calculate how many square inches of cherry pie are in a 9-inch pie tin.  I even do cubic inches if I’m really hungry.  Arithmetic and geometry have purpose and meaning. They’re like words.  But calculus and algebra baffle me the same way poetry baffles me.  Does this mean I’m short on symbolic transformation?”

“I like cherry pie, too,” said W. B. “But where I really kick it into gear is when I consider the abstract, the theoretical pie, if you will.”

“I wanta pie I can sink my fork into,” I said.  “So, I guess I’m challenged in the area of symbolic transformation.  I think I’m stuck in two dimensions.”

“Being two-dimensional is valid,” said W. B., sparing my feelings.  “But I find it too black and white to dividethinking unequivocally between two-dimensional and three-dimensional.Why, there can be five, six, ten, twelve dimensions.”

“Now you’re scaring me,” I said.

“The point is that being two-dimensional does not mean that an object lacks value.”  said W. B.

 “Right you are.  Even Freud said, ‘Sometimes a pickle is just a pickle.’  At least, I think he did.  Still,” I continued, “I’m certain even a small dose of symbolic transformation will make me a better person or, at least a better poetry listener.”

“You needn’t feel you need to be a better anything,” said W. B.

“Now you’re getting humanist on me,” I said.

“A nice balance, wouldn’t you say?  Next time, we’ll discuss whether or not zero is possible,” said W. B.  “One school says an object is divisible down to a minute fraction, but never to zero.  Another school says zero is possible.”

“I’m of the school that says when you divide a cherry pie among your dinner guests, you end up with zero pie, unfortunately.”

“Whereas,” concluded W. B., “with my theoretical pie, the pleasure can become infinite.”

Jeff Flodin has RP.  He lives in Chicago and writes the Jalapenos in My Oatmeal blog for Second Sense blind service organization.  This awakening to poetry came to Jeff during his writing fellowship, courtesy of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Access Writing Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT.  February in Vermont encourages writing—indoors, warm, dry and well-fed.  Who says creativity requires suffering?  (You can also learn more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog.)