|Jan/Feb 2003 • Poetry|
Blind Girl Blues
You may wake, startled in a darkened dawn,
the doctor says,
or it may take its time, a year, six months.
You understand that it's too late?
Of course, you mustn't drive now.
And you will use your hands to read.
Well, let's begin. Sit down, sit down.
He turns the light off
and I sit in the big chair,
my forehead firmly pressed against the bar,
and stare into the slivers of blue light.
You're doing fine, the doctor says,
his face as close as a lover's.
He's numbed my eyes
to keep me from flinching
when he singes them with burning white.
If this glaucoma doesn't blind me,
then you will, I say,
but apparently, he doesn't laugh at blindness jokes.
Sit still for me, he says. Don't move,
and I obey,
although I long to weep
while the machine
blows tiny hurricanes inside my eyes.
Now he wants to see what I can see.
He patches my left eye and asks me to read
the letters thrown against the door.
F L O something, I say. I think it's possibly a 3.
There are no numbers on the chart, he says.
Okay, I say. No problem,
but I am terrified of being innocent,
thrown back before I understood what meaning signifies,
before I learned that nothing's real to me
until it's written down.
F L O, I begin again, weak with shame.
It could be an S. Or maybe it's an E?
Blink for me, he says.
I blink for him, for me,
but even though I squint and
try to cheat by peeking all around the patch,
the secret letter is as lost to me
as Father's singing nursery rhymes.
It is the final letter Z,
the doctor says, turning on the light
and writing something serious in his little book.
Then suddenly I'm five years old again,
practicing my blind girl act,
my mother's blue Balenciaga scarf
tied tight across my eyes.
And it is lovely stumbling out the door,
my arms outstretched
like all the dead-eyed zombies on TV,
bumping into trees and saying, Sorry, tree!
And all the while
I roll the sweetest Jordan almond
on my tongue,
tasting a profusion of pink.