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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One Response to “Diseased”

  1. Jeff Flodin May 3, 2013 at 6:59 AM #

    Powerfuul and inpressive. Please submit more. Meanwhile, I’ll check out other venues.

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