Monday, February 09, 2015

Seeing Things

From The Year of the Deer: August 28, 2014.

After midnight last night, instead of sleeping, I read Maxine Kumin's account of the 1998 accident which broke her neck and the aftermath, Inside the Halo and Beyond; the anatomy of a recovery, Norton 2001. Kumin died last year, so this is another letter to the author that I cannot send. It is an excellent book, quite free of self-pity, accurately observed and extremely interesting. Lying there in the dark, with the lightweight and lighted Kindle in my hand, I just kept reading until I finished the book. So tonight, one of the poems I have been planning to use here is the perfect fit.


Why is my brain doing this? I ask the retinologist.
a specialist in the disease that wiped my central
vision away, leaving me with a landscape
through which a tornado had passed, taking my face
when I look in the mirror, taking words on a page,
hands on a clock, taking the great blue who guards
the pond, the spots that freckled the twin fawns
who were still fearless and came nearly as close
to me as you are at your end of this table. I see
a warm blur of your shape before you are crowded out
by visions, sometimes a great huddle of people,
ghostly presences flickering, on and offstage, sometimes
crowded patterns multicolored as a wash of banners
at a demonstration, sometimes cobblestone walls overlaid
with brick that haunt my foreground, middle- and background
sometimes mere fleurs-de-lys or enlarged asterisks.

What you have, he tells me, are harmless visual
hallucinations. They are the product of a mentally
healthy brain that is filling in the blanks in your sight.
Nobody knows the how or the wherefor. Nobody has a cure.
When I go blind, I ask him, will I still see them?
--They will always be with you, he said. Try to befriend them.

Maxine Kumin

And Short the Season, Norton, 2014, page 89. (Also on Kindle)

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