Disabilities as Ways of Knowing, Part II: The Disability Experience and Poetic Verse


WELCOME THIS EVENING. THERE I AM. GREETINGS, EVERYONE, AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US THIS EVENING FOR THE SECOND OF WHAT WE HOPE WILL BE MANY EVENTS TO BE HELD ON THE SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS ON DISABILITY CULTURES AND IDENTITIES AS EXPERIENCED AND EXPRESSED THROUGH CREATIVE WRITING AND EXPRESSIVE ARTS. I AM DIANE WIENER, THE DIRECTOR OF SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY’S DISABILITY CULTURAL CENTER AND A RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR IN THE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION’S CULTURAL FOUNDATIONS IN EDUCATION PROGRAM. I AM TRULY DELIGHTED TO BE HERE WITH YOU THIS EVENING AND TO WELCOME YOU ALL. TONIGHT’S EVENT, “DISABILITIES AS WAYS OF KNOWING: A SERIES OF CREATIVE WRITING CONVERSATIONS: PART 2,” FEATURING JIM FERRIS, LAURIE LAMBETH AND STEVE KUUSISTO IS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE CO-CURRICULAR DEPARTMENTAL INITIATIVES PROGRAM WITHIN THE DIVISION OF STUDENT AFFAIRS, AND CO-SPONSORSHIP BY THE DISABILITY CULTURAL CENTER, THE RENéE CROWN UNIVERSITY HONORS PROGRAM, THE CENTER ON HUMAN POLICY, LAW, AND DISABILITY STUDIES, THE BURTON BLATT INSTITUTE, THE DEPT. OF WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES, THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER RESOURCE CENTER, THE OFFICE OF MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS, THE SLUTZKER CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL SERVICES, THE CREATIVE WRITING PROGRAM, THE DISABILITY LAW AND POLICY PROGRAM, THE DISABILITY STUDENT UNION, GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE A REST, OY, THE BEYOND COMPLIANCE COORDINATING COMMITTEE, AND THE DISABILITY LAW SOCIETY. COME IN, MAKE YOURSELF COMFORTABLE. THANK YOU FOR THE SPECIAL DELIVERY, I NEEDED THIS. EXCUSE ME ONE MINUTE. SO AS YOU CAN UNDERSTAND AND SEE AND TELL AND DISCERN, A LOT OF COLLABORATION TOOK PLACE TO MAKE THIS EVENING HAPPEN. VERY SPECIAL THANKS GO TO RADELL ROBERTS, RACHAEL ZUBAL-RUGGIERI, CYNDY COLAVITA, MONIQUE GADOUA, ALEX UMSTEAD, NEAL COFFEY AND SEAN AND FOLKS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING THE VIDEOGRAPHY POSSIBLE FROM OUR VIDEO PRODUCTION UNION, OUR CART PROVIDER DOREEN RADIN, OUR ASL INTERPRETERS KIP OPPERMAN AND AMY LYNNE, DAVE WILLIAMS AND THE ENTIRE TEAM FROM LEMP, TERRE SLATER LEAH AND RAY FROM THE BOOKSTORE, OUTSIDE SELLING BOOKS. GERARD MCTIGUE AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO HELPED TO COORDINATE TONIGHT’S EVENT, EVERYTHING ASSOCIATED WITH PREPARATIONS FOR JIM’S AND LAURIE’S VISIT, AS WELL AS THE STUDENT LUNCHEONS HOSTED WITH OUR GUESTS AND ESTEEMED STEVE WHO WE WILL HAVE LUNCH WITH TOMORROW. A REMINDER THAT REFRESHMENTS, VEGAN REFRESHMENTS, CHOCOLATE CAKE, WATER INFUSED DEVICES, EAT IT AND DRINK IT. FOLLOWING THE PROGRAM WE’LL HAVE THAT AND ALSO A BOOK TABLE AVAILABLE AND WE WILL BE LAUNCHING, THIS EVENING, STEVE’S SECOND COLLECTION OF POETRY, LETTERS TO BORGES AND BEAUTY AS A VERB. AND MR. MICHAEL NORTHERN, ONE OF THE EDITORS OF BEAUTY AS A VERB, IF WE CAN HAVE APPLAUSE FOR HIM. (APPLAUSE).>>DROVE HERE FROM PHILADELPHIA AND THE ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE BOOK-SELLING AND THE FOOD WILL BE RIGHT IN THE HALLWAY IN THE CORRIDOR TOWARD THIS DIRECTION AS YOU LEAVE THE AUDITORIUM TO YOUR RIGHT, RESTROOMS ARE TO YOUR LEFT AND THEN IMMEDIATELY TO YOUR RIGHT. NOW I HAVE THE ENORMOUS PRIVILEGE AND PLEASURE OF INTRODUCING YOU TO THE THREE READERS FOR THE EVENING, FIRST, PROFESSOR DR. JIM FERRIS, DR. JIM FERRIS OR JIM. AFTER JIM READS I WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO DR. LAURIE CLEMENTS LAMBETH AND THEN INTRODUCE YOU TO SHALL WE CALL YOU ANY PARTICULAR ASPECT KUUSISTO?>>CZAR OF ALL THE RUSSIAS.>>AND HE WILL READ LAST. STEVE’S LATEST COLLECTION OF POETRY IS BEING LAUNCHED THIS EVENING. I WILL GIVE YOU A BIO FOR JIM, THEN POEMS FROM JIM, THEN A BIO FROM LAURIE, POEMS FROM LAURIE, BIO FOR STEVE, POEMS FROM STEVE AND WE’LL BE EXCITED AND JOYOUS TOGETHER. JIM FERRIS, THAT’S RIGHT, THROWS RIGHT, VOTES LEFT. HE IS AUTHOR OF SLOUCHING TOWARDS GUANTANAMO, FACTS OF LIFE, AND THE HOSPITAL POEMS, WHICH EDWARD HIRSCH SELECTED AS WINNER OF THE MAIN STREET RAG BOOK AWARD IN 2004. FERRIS, WHO HOLDS A DOCTORATE IN PERFORMANCE STUDIES, HAS PERFORMED AT THE KENNEDY CENTER AND ACROSS THE UNITED STATES, CANADA AND GREAT BRITAIN. RECENT PERFORMANCE WORK INCLUDES THE SOLO PERFORMANCE PIECE “SCARS: A LOVE STORY.” PAST PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY FOR DISABILITY STUDIES, HE HAS RECEIVED AWARDS IN POETRY AS WELL AS CREATIVE NONFICTION. HIS WRITING HAS APPEARED IN DOZENS OF PUBLICATIONS, RANGING FROM THE GEORGIA REVIEW TO TEXT & PERFORMANCE QUARTERLY, FROM THE MICHIGAN QUARTERLY REVIEW TO WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS. FERRIS HOLDS THE ABILITY CENTER ENDOWED CHAIR IN DISABILITY STUDIES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO, WHERE HE IS BUILDING A KICK-ASS PROGRAM, WORD, IN DISABILITY STUDIES. PLEASE WELCOME JIM FERRIS. (APPLAUSE)>>THANK YOU, DIANE, AND ALL OF YOU HERE. I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT A THRILL IT IS TO GET TO BE DOING THIS READING WITH TWO OF MY FAVORITE POETS, LAURIE CLEMENTS LAMBETH AND STEVE KUUSISTO, WHOSE WORK HAS INSTRUCTED AND MOVED ME SO MANY TIMES AND WHO HAVE BEEN SUCH GOOD FRIENDS AS WELL. IT’S ALSO A GREAT THRILL TO GET TO COME HERE TO SYRACUSE. AS WE WORK TO BUILD A DISABILITY STUDIES PROGRAM, AS DIANE SAID, A KICK-ASS DISABILITIES STUDIES PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO, THE WORK THAT’S BEEN DONE HERE AT SYRACUSE, THE GREAT STUFF THAT’S BEEN ESTABLISHED HERE, HAS SERVED AS A REAL SHINING BEACON, AS A MODEL FOR OUR WORK AT TOLEDO. SO IT’S VERY EXCITING TO GET TO COME HERE TO SHARE SOME OF THIS WORK WITH YOU. I WANTED TO START OUT WITH A POEM THAT’S REALLY KIND OF AN ELOGY TO – PARTICULARLY TO AN IMPORTANT FIGURE IN THE DISABILITY RIGHTS AND ESPECIALLY DISABILITY STUDIES MOVEMENT, PAUL LONGMORE WHO PASSED AWAY A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO NOW. IT’S CALLED “HOW WE SWIM.” THE GREAT AND THIRSTY VALLEY WILL NOT WAIT FOR WATER; IT SUCKS THE SEA THROUGH AIR SO THICK SOMETIMES IT HURTS. MERCED AND WEST PORTAL THEIR CLOUDS WILL SHROUD THE LIGHT ONE MORE TIME – THE LIGHT DIMS DIFFUSES, EYES GO FILMY ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE FOG PILES IN, THE SHUT-INS RATTLE THEIR CHAINS FOR THE CAMERA AND THEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT THE CREW PACKS UP, THOSE WHO CAN GO HOME – EVEN THE MIGHTIEST HEAD BOWS, EVEN IN THE SUNRISE GROW THE SEEDS OF NIGHT. AND DAY, ALWAYS THE RELENTLESS TURNING, THIS CIRCLE SEEMS ENDLESS FROM HERE. PREACHER’S KID PREACHED A NEW GOSPEL THE SMUG AND THE RIGHTEOUS COULD SCARCELY HEAR. DESPAIR, DRAW NEAR – WE FRAGILE ONES CAN SCARCE AFFORD YOU, YET YOU ALWAYS REAPPEAR. HE HAD SO LITTLE TIME FOR YOU – THERE IS SO MUCH TO SAY, TO TYPE WITH PENCIL CLENCHED IN TEETH, ALWAYS MORE TO PUNCH OUT. WHO WRITES THESE OBITUARIES? WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS SO LAME? WE’VE TRIED CRIPPLES BEFORE – IT JUST DIDN’T WORK. THE CLOUDS AND THE EARTH MOVE SO DIFFERENTLY, THE RHYTHMS OF THE FLESH UMP AND GRIND AGAINST THE PULSES OF THE AIR AND THAT BRIGHT QUICK THING SO OFTEN OVERLOOKED BUT STILL PERSISTENTLY THERE. THE PAST INFORMS THE PRESENT – WHAT WAS GROUND DOWN BEFORE HISTORY GRINDS DOWN THE HORIZON BRINGING THE SKY WITHIN REACH. FOR A MAN WHO COULD NOT USE HIS ARMS, YOU HAD A HEALTHY REACH. THE SKY STAYS LARGE, STAYS FAR – EVEN WHEN THE LAST OF US TOUCHES IT, FOR ALL THE HOSES AND VENTILATORS, THE SKY IS UNDIMINISHED. FORCED TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE STRANGE AND THE LONELY WE ARE SHOCKED TO FIND THERE IS ROOM, ALL THOSE FUNNY NOSES DON’T BREATHE UP ALL THE AIR: THE FUTURE IS STILL THERE. LET US BE KIND WHEN CONVENIENT – WE ARE A BENEVOLENT RACE. THESE THE MERCIES OF THE TENDER VELVET THREATENING NIGHT: THE GIMPY ONES, THE STRANGELINGS ARE HATCHED ALONE, THEY COME INTO THIS WORLD SEPARATELY, BUT WE ARE NOT ALONE: WE ARE THE FIRE THE DARING YEARN TO WALK ABOVE, THE FLAME THEY ARE RIGHT TO FEAR: SOME ORACLE MAY SPEAK IN TONGUES – THE ANGEL SPEAKS IN FIRE, BURNING A DREAD MESSAGE ACROSS BENIGHTED SKY: FREE OUR PEOPLE, THEY ARE ALL OUR PEOPLE, LET ALL LIVE AND WORK UNSHACKLED BY DESIGN, I BURN THIS BOOK TO SHED NEW LIGHT: YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR MIND, WE ALL MUST CHANGE, NO GOING BACK. FOR A MAN WHO COULD NOT USE HIS ARMS THE HISTORIAN TELLS US HOW TO LOOK BEHIND US: THE WORLD SO STRANGE IN THE REAR VIEW: THE PLAYERS TOOK THEIR TOOLS AND TOYS AND TRUDGED AWAY, LEAVING THE FIELD OF PLAY TO THOSE WHO CARE LATER, THE WATCHERS, THE DREAMERS, TO THOSE WHO WRITE THE BOOKS. NOT SO FAST WE NEED A USABLE PAST: THIS IS WHERE THE WORLD SPRINGS FROM WE CANNOT WAIT PEOPLE ARE LOCKED AWAY AND DYING IF YOU ARE NOT OUTRAGED YET YOU’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION. WRITE AND LIVE THE HISTORY THAT UNLOCKS DOORS. TIME TO GET TO WORK. YOU THINK I’M DROWNING BUT THIS IS HOW I SWIM WHERE IS YOUR INTENTION, YOUR IMPUDENT JOKES, YOUR FIERCE AND JAGGED VULNERABILITY? WHO WILL CARRY YOUR SHARP SHIELD FORWARD, WHO WILL STAND WITH YOU IN GOD’S RECEIVING LINE? THANK YOU FOR COMING. THE WORLD IS EVER BEYOND ME NOW WHEN COMPROMISE IS DEFEAT – ALWAYS! WHEN NOBLE GESTURE CATCHES FIRE AND BURNS TO LIGHT UP THE DARK SUNNY DAY WHEN WE COOK OUR BOOKS WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LEMON WHO WILL REMEMBER TO SHOUT FOR THE FORGOTTEN (THEY BIND OUR LIMBS THEN DARE US OVERCOME) FOR THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS THAT MUST VISIT TERROR ON THE NORMATE WE SHALL OVERCOME – NOBODY WORKS HARDER THAN AN OLD POLIO AND THEN THEY FEEL WHAT WE FEEL, WE ARE ALONE IN SECRET TERROR NO MORE – – OUR TATTERED RAIMENT AND EMPTY HOTEL ROOMS NO RESPITE, SLEEP, OH WITTY FIERY MESSENGER I CANNOT BEAR THE SIGHT WITHOUT THE FIERCEST EYE. AND YET E BEAR ALL. WE’VE TRIED CRIPPLES BEFORE THIS IS HOW I SWIM I WOULD GET DOWN ON MY KNEES IF I STILL HAD KNEES TO BEND AND BEAR THE BURDEN OF THE SHAMELESS UNTAMED WORLD WHAT IS IT YOU WANT? WILL YOU EVER BE SATISFIED? WE WHO REMAIN BEHIND, THIS TATTERED MULTITUDE, WE WEATHERED MYSTERIES OF STUMPS, WITH BLEARY EYES WE KEEP WATCH, LET THE ONES IN WHEELCHAIRS WALK THE PERIMETER, LET THE PUSHY ONES PUSH, FATHER JOSE SAYS WE KEEP OUR SCARS IN THE NEXT LIFE, DO WE KEEP OUR ATTENDANTS TOO AS THE LIGHT FAILS THE FIREFLIES LIGHT UP, SOMEONE’S GENERATOR KICKS ON, IT WILL RUNTHROUGH THE NIGHT, PRAY, FATHER JOSE, I SWEAR I WILL NOT QUIT TODAY NOBODY WILL EVER HIRE ANYONE AS CRIPPLED AS YOU JESUS DID NOT HAVE SCARS, SHE SAID – HE HAD WOUNDS – NEVER HEALING, ALWAYS OPEN, DO WE BLEED IN THE HEREAFTER, DO WE MELT AWAY, THE WIND BLOWS THROUGH WHAT’S LEFT OF US LIKE IT BLOWS THROUGH THE TREES ON A SCATTERLEAF LATE SUMMER NIGHT AFTER THE STORM. I TICK OFF THE NAMES OF THE DEAD – THE LIST GOES ON AND ON AND KEEP WATCH ALONE. AND NOT ALONE. AND ALONE. THE KNIGHT UNHORSED FROM HIS JOYSTICK STEED, THE CHARGER FOREVER NPLUGGED WHO CAN COMPETE WITH THE VOICES OF THE PAST INTONING, CHANTING, SHOUTING THE WORDS THEY TAUGHT US, I LEARNED TO HEAR AND THEN PRAISE GOD TO SPEAK THE WORDS I HAVE BEEN GIVEN – TO MY DEAF ACQUAINTANCES I GIVE MY STRANGENESS: SPEAK WITH HANDS AND EYES, SPEAK WITH THE TERRIBLE ANGELS WHO KNOW NO MERCY, WHO GRANT NO SECOND CHANCES, SPEAK THE LANGUAGE INTO BEING, SOUNDS DISAPPEAR AS SOON AS SOUNDED – LIGHTNING SHARP AND CLEAR AND TERRIBLE AS IT MOCKS OUR BATTERIES, AS IT SHOUTS PAST EARS TO THE GUT. NOBODY AS CRIPPLED AS YOU DOES EACH LOSS EVOKE ALL LOSS? CAN I OFFER AN ELEGY TO THE DEAD, WHO HAVE NO USE FOR IT – BELIEF IN A JUST GOD, IN MERCY SISTER KENNY IS WAITING, WEAKLING ALL GO PALE IN THE LIGHT FROM A STRONG MIND. YOUR CONVICTION BURNED – AND SINGED ALL WHO GOT TOO CLOSE ACOLYTES AND APOSTATES, SHOW YOUR SCARS WITH PRIDE, WE’LL FIGHT TO THE DEATH OVER SUICIDE, OUR PEOPLE MUST BE FREE, JUST NOT TOO MUCH – WHEN THE WORLD IS HEALED, THEN WE’LL ALL E FREE AND THE BODIES JUST KEEP DROPPING IT’S SOMETHING BODIES DO GIVING THEIR SECRETS AWAY THEY MAKE A LITTLE ROOM FOR YOU. AND SO I GIVE THIS TESTAMENT AWAY, AND SO THE FAITHFUL WILL GIVE WHAT FAITH THEY HAVE AWAY, THE TORCH IS DROPPED, KICKED, AND PICKED UP KISS THE BATTERED TORCH THIS MESSY MARCH DEMANDS A MILLION MARSHALS, AND SO WE LIMP ON, FOR A TIME, STRANGERS TO OUR FAMILIES, FAMILY TO THE STRANGE, WE LIMP ON, THIS IS HOW WE SWIM. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT PAUL WAIL HER WOULD THINK OF THAT POEM. I DON’T RECKON HE’S EVER GOING TO TELL ME, EITHER. THIS ONE IS ENTITLED “TELL ARISTOTLE.” IT STARTS WITH A QUOTATION FROM HIS POLITICS, WHICH I TRUST WILL BE FAMILIAR TO MANY OF YOU IN THIS AUDIENCE. AS TO THE EXPOSURE AND REARING OF CHILDREN, LET THERE BE A LAW THAT NO DEFORMED CHILD SHALL LIVE. TELL ARISTOTLE I LIVED. TELL HIM DAVE DID TOO. TELL HIM THE STATE HAS NOT YET FALLEN, THOUGH YOU KNOW KIDS THESE DAYS. TELL HIM PERHAPS ALL OUR WORDS ARE BUT ELABORATIONS, REPETITIONS OF THAT CRIER’S CLAIM. TELL ARISTOTLE, TELL THE SPARTANS, TELL THE LEGIONS OF THOSE WHO THINK THEY CAN’T AFFORD THE DIFFERENCE THAT DIFFERENCE MAKES, TELL MONTAIGNE, TELL HOBBES, TELL DR. TIERGARTEN AND THAT OFF-KEY SINGER OF SAD AND SILLY SONGS, TELL THEM THE USELESS EATERS HAVE SURVIVED, TELL THEM THERE ARE MORE OF US NOW THAN EVER, DISORDERLY, IMPERFECT, SPLASHING OUT THE GENE POOL, WHAT A MESSY SPECIES, TELL THEM MY BROTHER DAVE AND I INHABIT THIS MOMENT, TELL ARISTOTLE WE ARE ALIVE, TELL THEM ALL WE THRIVE. THIS NEXT ONE IS — YOU’LL RECOGNIZE THE FIGURES IN IT, I TRUST. SAID I’LL BE YOUR DIEGO RIVERA, BABY THOUGHT ABOUT THAT UNO MOMENTO, WHY NOT? NO HOMBRE IS AN ISLAND, THOUGH I’VE KNOWN TOO MANY PENINSULAS Y MáS WHO SHOULD BE PUT AWAY ON AN ISLAND, STARTING WITH DIEGO, NOT HIS REAL NOMBRE, PROTECTING LOS INOCENTES IS WELL BEYOND EITHER OF US, CORAZóN, THROW SOME PENICILLIN INTO THE FIRE TO CHASE AWAY THE EVIL LURKING ALL AROUND THE HEARTS OF MEN – IS THAT THE HEART? Y LAS MUJERES TOO, WHO KNEW? LOS OJOS, WE ALL COULD SEE IT COMING, NO ONE TO BLAME, NOT FRIDA, NOT EVEN DIEGO, AWASH IN THE SAME SEA THAT CALMS YOU AND INTIMIDATES ME. I HAVE BEEN ASKED A NUMBER OF TIMES AFTER DOING THIS NEXT POEM IF — IF IT’S TRUE, IF THE, YOU KNOW, IF IT’S TRUE. AND MY RESPONSE IS ALWAYS, EVERY SINGLE WORD OF IT IS TRUE. THIS IS CALLED “HIGH CONCEPT.” IT’S A TERM THAT BECAME KIND OF CURRENT BACK IN PROBABLY THE ’80S OR SO AS A WORD THAT DESCRIBES THE HOLLYWOOD MOVIE THAT YOU CAN SUM UP IN, YOU KNOW, NO MORE THAN ONE SENTENCE. THE MOST PERFECT EXAMPLE OF A HIGH CONCEPT FILM IS SNAKES ON A PLANE. I MEAN, YOU PRETTY MUCH KNOW THE FILM, RIGHT? FROM THE TITLE. “HIGH CONCEPT.” I WAS JUST PLANNING TO BE IN LA FOR A COUPLE DAYS; MAKE A FEW CALLS, SEE AN OLD FRIEND, SIT ON THE BEACH FOR AN HOUR. NOTHING SPECIAL. CALLING UP THE SCREEN ACTORS GUILD WAS JUST A WHIM. A JOKE. I NEVER DREAMED THAT ANYTHING WOULD COME OF IT. YOU KNOW HOW THE GUILD HAS A RULE THAT NO TWO ACTORS CAN USE THE SAME NAME. I JUST CALLED TO SEE IF THEY HAD ANYONE USING MINE. THAT’S ALL. JUST A MOMENT, I’LL CHECK, THE PERSON SAYS. SHE’S BACK IN TWO MINUTES. DID YOU SAY JIM FERRIS? YES. OF COURSE YOU’RE REGISTERED, MISTER FERRIS, ONE MOMENT, PLEASE. WHAT DOES SHE MEAN OF COURSE, I’M THINKING, WHEN SUDDENLY THIS POODLE VOICE YAPS: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN I’VE BEEN TRYING TO GET HOLD OF YOU FOR A MONTH OK A WEEK BUT YOU GOTTA TALK TO ME, CHECK IN ONCE IN A WHILE. EXCUSE ME, BUT WHO IS THIS? OH, THIS IS JUST GREAT – A WEEK IN THE COUNTRY AND IT’S AMNESIA HELLO – I’M YOUR AGENT. YOU’D BE NOTHING WITHOUT ME. I’M QUOTING YOU HERE. WHERE ARE YOU? I’M NOT THINKING, I TELL HIM THE NAME OF THE HOTEL. NOBODY STAYS THERE, HE SAYS. TEN MINUTES. AND HANGS UP BEFORE I CAN SAY I’M NOBODY, REALLY. BUT I’M CURIOUS TOO, SO I GO DOWN TO THE LOBBY TO SEE WHAT THIS AGENT LOOKS LIKE – IF HE SHOWS. HE DOES – AND IN FIVE MINUTES. HE DOESN’T GO UP TO THE DESK, HE COMES RIGHT OVER TO ME AND SITS DOWN. WHY DON’T YOU CALL ME I’VE BEEN WORRIED SICK. I’M ABOUT TO SAY BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW YOU, BUT HE’S ALREADY ON THIS GREAT DEAL HE’S COOKED UP FOR ME – FOR THIS OTHER GUY. I’M NOT AN ACTOR, I TELL HIM. THAT’S WHY THEY WANT YOU, HE SAYS. I’M NOT THE RIGHT GUY, I SAY. I DON’T KNOW THIS BUSINESS, I DON’T KNOW YOU OR ANYBODY IN THIS TOWN. NOBODY REALLY KNOWS ANYBODY ELSE, DO THEY. BEFORE I KNOW IT WE’RE HAVING LUNCH AND ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE ACTING LIKE THEY KNOW ME. A COUPLE I’D SEEN IN MOVIES – THAT’S IT. NOBODY BELIEVES THAT I’M NOT WHO THEY THINK I AM. I SHOW THEM MY BRACE – NO MOVIE STAR WEARS A BRACE LIKE THIS, OR WALKS LIKE I DO, UNLESS THEY’RE TRYING TO WIN AN OSCAR. CUT IT OUT, JIM, MY AGENT SAYS. YOU CAN’T KEEP PULLING THIS STUNT. WHAT THE HELL, MAYBE IT WILL BE FUN, UNTIL THEY FIGURE IT OUT. BUT THEY NEVER DO. I TAKE THE PART MY AGENT LINED UP FOR THAT OTHER JIM. I STAND WHERE THEY TELL ME, LOOK WHERE THEY TELL ME, SAY MY LINES. BEATS WORKING. I TAKE MORE PARTS, DO SOME DEALS, BEFORE YOU KNOW IT I’M A PLAYER, A COMMODITY, MISTER GREEN LIGHT, AS FULL OF SHIT AS ANYBODY. WHAT’S BECOME OF THE OTHER JIM FERRIS? MAYBE HE’S BACK HOME, STEPPING INTO THE LIGHT, SAYING MY LINES RIGHT ON CUE. (APPLAUSE)>>HOW GAUCHE TO WALK IN FRONT OF AN INTERPRETER. WHAT’S UP WITH HER, SHE NEEDS SOME HELP. I’M DELIGHTED TO INTRODUCE YOU NOW TO LAURIE CLEMENTS LAMBETH. CLEMENTS, LAMBETH, LAURIE, LAURIE. PROFESSOR LAMBETH IS THE AUTHOR OF VEIL AND BURN (UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS, 2008), SELECTED BY MAXINE KUMIN FOR THE 2006 NATIONAL POETRY SERIES. HER POETRY AND CREATIVE NONFICTION HAVE APPEARED IN BEAUTY IS A VERB, CRAZYHORSE, SENECA REVIEW, THE PARIS REVIEW, MID-AMERICAN REVIEW, AND ELSEWHERE. SHE HOLDS A MASTERS IN FINE ARTS AND A DOCTORATE OF PHILOSOPHY, DEGREES BOTH FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON, WHERE SHE EARNED MICHENER AND BARTHELME AWARDS, AND WHERE SHE CURRENTLY TEACHES MEDICINE AND SOCIETY COURSES IN THE HONORS COLLEGE. SHE IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO THE NATIONAL MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS SOCIETY’S BLOG, WHERE SHE TRIES OUT IDEAS FOR THE MEMOIR SHE’S WORKING ON. SHE IS ALSO AT WORK ON HER SECOND COLLECTION OF POEMS, BRIGHT PANE. PLEASE GIVE A WARM WELCOME TO LAURIE LAMBETH. (APPLAUSE)>>HELLO, CAN YOU HEAR ME? OKAY. I’M GOING TO START WITH SOME NEW POEMS. THANK YOU. OH, THAT’S BETTER, THANKS. I’M GOING TO START WITH SOME NEW POEMS AND THEN TRANSITION TO OLDER ONES. THIS POEM IS BASICALLY BASED UPON HAVING AN MRI DONE AND THEN READING THE RADIOLOGIST’S REPORT WHICH DIFFERED GREATLY FROM MY OWN FELT EXPERIENCE. AND YOU NEED TO KNOW, I GUESS, THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THE DEFINITION OF CONFLUENT, CONNECTED. I THINK THAT’S IT. OKAY. “UPON READING THE RADIOLOGIST’S REPORT.” THE NIGHT SKY HERE BRUISED TO A GREY-OCHRE DOME LONG AGO, NO STARS, OR MAYBE THREE. BACK HOME IN THE HILLS MY HEAD SPUN BACK, NECK CREAKED WHEN I GAZED UPWARD, AND THE NIGHT SKY MILKED ITS STARS OUT IN CLUSTERS, WHOLE GALAXIES ALMOST, DRENCHING THE SKY’S DARK SEA TO GLOW, ITS COAST SO CLOSE TO THE OAKS, MY FACE. I’VE COVERED THIS BEFORE, I KNOW, SOMEWHERE IN THE MIND I MISS, THE ONE THAT COULD BLAST OUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “RECALL” AND “IMPEACH,” WITHOUT REFERENCE. THE MIND THAT DIDN’T CLASSIFY BY FIRST LETTER, BUT KNEW WHO WAS WHO, WHAT HAPPENED WHEN. BETTER, OF COURSE, WAS THE PROGNOSIS THEN. OF COURSE. THIS ILLNESS COURSES THROUGH MY FLESH BY FORCE. BUT QUIET AND SLOW. IT LIGHTS THE BRAIN. THEY FOUND LESIONS TOO NUMEROUS AND CONFLUENT TO COUNT: METEOR CLUSTERS BEHIND MY EYES, NINE STARS. TWINKLING THE NECK, BRIGHT PERIVENTRICULAR FLUORESCENTS, SO BRIGHT. I WAS ONCE CALLED BRIGHT. MIGHT STILL BE. IN THE SPINE AND BRAIN’S NIGHT STARS BLAZE ALL DAY. ENOUGH LIGHT TO SEARCH BY. IF I COULD UNZIP MY SKULL, RELEASE STARS TO THE SKY, IT WOULDN’T BE HOME IN HERE. I GET BY ALL RIGHT. IN THE MIDDLE OF READING THAT, I THOUGHT, OH, I NEEDED TO INTRODUCE THIS CONCEPT. PERIVENTRICULAR, LAURIE. THAT’S JUST A COOL WORD, REALLY. SO THAT POEM AND THIS NEXT POEM ARE KIND OF DEALING WITH COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS OF M.S. AND I FEEL LIKE I KIND OF HAVE TO EXPLAIN A TOUCH OF WHAT REALLY HAPPENED FOR THIS POEM TO ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE TO YOU RIGHT NOW. SOMETIMES I HAVE THESE THINGS WHERE JUST I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PUT THINGS TOGETHER, JUST A LITTLE BLIP IN THE BRAIN. AND THIS ONE TIME, I HAD ONE THING I HAD TO DO THAT DAY AND GET MY HAIR DONE, THAT WAS IT. I HAD TO DO THE MATH TO FIGURE OUT HOW LONG IT WOULD TAKE ME TO GET TO WHERE I GO, AND I THOUGHT I HAD ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, AND I SOMEHOW, WHAT I THOUGHT WAS — I DON’T KNOW, AN HOUR OR TWO, WAS REALLY JUST WAY TOO LATE. AND I ACTUALLY, YOU KNOW, I THOUGHT I HAD PLENTY OF TIME, I DID MY MAKE UP, BLAH-BLAH-BLAH, AND I WALK OUT OF THE BATHROOM AND IT’S ALREADY NINE MINUTES AFTER MY APPOINTMENT THAT WOULD TAKE ME 40 MINUTES TO DRIVE TO. AND PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND, THIS IS NOT A PLANNING ISSUE, THIS IS NOT A, WELL, I COULD JUST MANAGE MY TIME BETTER AND WRITE THINGS OUT. NO, IT WAS A VERY WEIRD THING. JUST NOT BEING ABLE TO CONNECT THE CONCEPT OF TIME IN ITS CONTINUUM WITH THE CONCEPT OF HOW MUCH TIME IT WOULD TAKE ME TO DO THIS AND GET THERE. SO ANYWAY, I THINK THAT’S ABOUT IT. “MAGNETS.” I ASKED YOU IF MAGNETS EVER LOSE THEIR CHARGE, REMEMBERING THE U-SHAPED ONES I THREW OUT IN CHILDHOOD WHEN THEIR RED ENDS WEAKENED. A SILLY QUESTION. MY SILLY MEMORY, FOOLING ME AGAIN. NO, THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN, WAS THE ANSWER OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. YOU SAID — MAYBE, AND — AFTER I TOLD HOW TIME FOLDED WRONG IN MY HEAD, SUDDEN LAPSE, AND I WAS BEYOND LATE, UNAWARE TIME PASSED AT ALL: A NEW DROPPED CONNECTION IN THE WIRES. THEN THE LIMBS AND BRAIN ENCASED IN CLOUD ALL DAY, SLOWED, NOT KNOWING HOW MUCH WAS FLESH OR AIR. CONFUSION IS DIFFICULT TO LOVE, NOT QUITE FRIENDLY. IF SOME SMALL CHARGE MIGHT RETURN, REVERSE POLARITIES (IF THAT IS THE RIGHT TERM). THIS NEXT POEM IS A POEM ABOUT A PHOTOGRAPH THAT I WOULD LIKE YOU TO BE ABLE TO KIND OF LOOK AT WHILE I’M READING. OKAY, AND THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH BY KEITH CARTER WHO DID THE COVER OF MY BOOK AS WELL. HE’S A TEXAN PHOTOGRAPHER. HE DID A GREAT SERIES OF THE EYE, HE HAD CANCER OF THE EYE AND HE DID THESE IMAGES WHERE HE SUPERIMPOSED HUBBLE TELESCOPE PHOTOGRAPHS WITH HIS OCULAR IMAGES. ANYWAY. CHRONIC CARE: “BROKEN LEG” BY KEITH CARTER, PHOTOGRAPH. THE GIRL IN BLACK DRESS AND TIGHTS STANDS BEHIND THE FAWN, HANDS CLASPED, THEIR WHITE BLUR FORMING ALMOST A HEART. HER HEAD’S NOTHING MORE THAN FACELESS SMUDGE, BUT SHE WANTS SOMETHING. HER NON-EYES PLEAD THROUGH GLASS. BEFORE HER LIES THE FAWN IN FOCUS, HEAD LIFTED AND TENDING TO ITS RIGHT KNEE, THE OTHER FORELEG TUCKED. BENEATH THE SHOULDER. THE RIGHT HIND HOCK TWISTS ALL ASKEW – UNFOLDED TO NEAR ARC, DRAGGED LONG FROM THE FLANK. THE LEG’S TWIN TOES HAVE BEEN SCRAPING IN DIRT, SPLAYED WIDE. THE FAWN HAS ATTEMPTED TO RISE AND CANNOT. TUFTS ERUPT ABOVE THE EYES, ANTLERS IN BUD. THE GIRL IS CLOSE ENOUGH TO KICK OR STROKE THE ANIMAL; STILL SHE STANDS. I’LL BE THE GIRL AND YOU BE THE FAWN, SAYS THE GIRL TO ME. OKAY, I’M THE FAWN. NOW DRAW YOUR LEG IN SO YOU LOOK NORMAL. I CAN’T LIFT IT, I TELL HER. LET ME WHISPER YOU A SECRET IN YOUR GIANT EAR, SHE SAYS. HER WHISPER IS NOTHING BUT SMUDGE AND THUMB PRINT. I PRETEND TO LISTEN. BACK SHE GOES TO HER PLACE. WHY HAVEN’T YOU MOVED YOUR LEG, SHE SAYS. I CAN’T. THE GIRL SAYS, THEN I WILL PRAY OVER YOU. SHE MUMBLES A FEW WORDS AND WAITS. LEAVES RUSTLE. ARE YOU IN PAIN, SHE ASKS. DO YOU WANT ME TO BE, I SAY, AS THE FAWN. I DON’T KNOW YET, SHE SAYS. DO YOU NEED SOME FOOD? YES, PLEASE, I MIGHT DIE OF STARVATION HERE, I SAY. LET’S PLAY SOME MORE FIRST, SHE SAYS. I RUB MY EYE AGAINST MY FAWN KNEE. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, SHE ASKS. APPARENTLY MY LEG IS BROKEN. ALL I KNOW IS I CAN’T STAND OR MOVE IT. SHE SAYS, LET’S STAND YOU UP, THEN. I SUGGEST SOME FOOD MIGHT HELP. HERE, SHE SAYS, OFFERING A PILE OF ROCKS, ARE SUGAR CUBES. MMM. THE GIRL WORKS HER JAW AS IF CHEWING. I WILL LIFT YOU. I WILL PROP YOU AGAINST THIS GATE AND SPLINT STAKES UP YOUR LEGS SO YOU’LL STAY. SEE, YOU LOOK FINE NOW. YOUR MAMA’S SURE TO COME FIND YOU. THE FAWN LEGS, THE THREE I’M USING, TREMBLE FROM THE STRAIN. I CRUMPLE. GET UP, DEER. COME ON, YOU’RE NOT PLAYING RIGHT, SHE SAYS. THEN THE GIRL SAYS, I KNOW: LET’S PLAY FREEZE. SHE SKIPS CIRCLES AROUND ME, SAYS FREEZE, STOPS MID-SKIP, KNEE LIFTED. DID YOU FREEZE, SHE ASKS? WELL, HERE I AM, AREN’T I? YES AND YOU LOOK SO NICE, SHE SAYS, JUST LIKE THAT. DON’T MOVE. I WANT TO BE THE GIRL THIS TIME, I SAY. NO, SILLY DEER. CAN’T YOU SEE I AM ALWAYS THE GIRL? DO YOU FEEL PAIN, I ASK? I FEEL NOTHING IN MY HANDS AND FACE. I AM INDISTINCT BUT YOU SHAPE ME, SHE SAYS. COULDN’T I BE YOU JUST ONCE, TO KNOW AGAIN WHAT IT’S LIKE TO STAND AND MOVE, I ASK THE GIRL, BUT MY FAWN VOICE IS FADING, AND HER VOICE IS GROWING LOUDER. DEER, YOU KNOW WHAT I SAID: NO. AND NOW YOU MUST PLAY DEAD, SHE SAYS. I TUCK MY HEAD UNDER MY SHOULDER, LIKE A BIRD ASLEEP. MY TONGUE LULLS TO THE SIDE. GOOD JOB, SHE SAYS, AND SHE CLAPS HER FADED PALMS AND LAUGHS HARD. YOU’RE DEAD BUT YOU CAN BREATHE AND YOUR HEART WILL BEAT FOREVER. I HEAR MY PULSE THICK BENEATH ANTLERS. DEAD MEANS VERY STILL, SHE SAYS. BENEATH FAWN RIBS MY LUNGS WHOOSH LIKE BELLOWS. YOUR THOUGHTS WILL LEAP AND GALLOP AND I CANNOT HELP YOU. WILL I MOVE AGAIN, I ASK. I CAN’T WORK MY OTHER HOOVES NOW, I SAY TO THE GIRL. NO, SORRY. THAT’S THE GAME, DEER, SHE SAYS, BUT YOU HAVE YOUR HEART AND LUNGS, AND – ‘THOUGHTS,’ I KNOW. COULDN’T I BE THE GIRL NOW, I ASK. I HAVE ANGERED HER. DISTINCT FEATURES-TWO EYES, A BROW AND A MOUTH-SHARPEN FOR A MOMENT: NEVER. I SAY, THEN I’LL BE THE AIR NEXT, OR THE DIRT, OR LEAVES RUSTLING. THAT WOULD BE RIDICULOUS, DEER, SAYS THE GIRL. I WILL BE THE AIR, YOU’LL SEE, AND I WILL RISE AND LUMBER AND TILT OVER THIS CHURNING GRAY SPACE. I WILL MOVE AGAIN, I SAY, FAWN VOICE FAINT. I WON’T PLAY WITH YOU. EAT YOUR STONES, STUPID DEER, SHE SAYS. I’LL FETCH A BLANKET TO COVER YOU. ALL RIGHT. I’M GOING TO READ ANOTHER THREE-LEGGED DOG – THREE-LEGGED ANIMAL POEM. I HAD A DOG WHO HAD BONE CANCER IN HER FRONT RIGHT LEG, AND WE HAD IT REMOVED AND SHE LIVED FOUR AND A HALF YEARS LONGER. AND WAS AMAZING BUT ALSO IT WAS QUITE FUNNY TO WALK INTO PETMART WITH ME WITH MY THREE LEGS WITH MY CANE, AND HER WITH HER THREE LEGS. I’M SURPRISED NOBODY JUST GAVE US MONEY OR WONDERED WHERE OUR TIN WAS. AFTER CANCER: DOG ON HER SIDE, POST-AMPUTATION MORE THAN A YEAR AFTER IT WAS DONE, I’M PETTING WHAT USED TO BE THE THIN GAP – WHITE STRIP BANKED BY COPPER FUR, BETWEEN FRONT LEGS, AWED AT THE EASE OF MY REACH. HERE I TRACE THE INCISION’S SCAR, RIDGE OF TISSUE ONCE BULKED BY BONE, CURLED KNOT THAT BURNED, HAIRLESS, LIKE A QUESTION MARK – MY TOUCH FREELY PASSING OVER THAT CHEST SPACE GROWN RAMPANT WITH LONG HAIRS TO THE REMAINING LEG. DELICATE INNER ELBOW. WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO FIRST FEEL A TOUCH HERE, THIS HIDDEN SPACE UNBLOCKED BY ABSENCE? WAS IT RADIANT, AN OPENING? THREE LEGS LEFT I KNOW WILL FOLLOW, AS WILL THE REST. NOT YET. O STRONG AND SCULPTED CREATURE, HOW YOU DO FIND PLEASURE AND ENDURE. HER HEAD LIFTS: PET MORE NOW. SORRY. DEAR. DIDN’T THINK THAT WOULD HAPPEN, SORRY. THE TITLE FOR MY BOOK COMES FROM PROCESS FRAGMENT ABOUT OLD HOLLYWOOD. “GAUZE FRAGMENT.” IN HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE, THE CAMERA WAS OFTEN VEILED BY A THIN PIECE OF FABRIC TO DISSOLVE ANY HARSH FEATURES OR WRINKLES IN CLOSE-UPS. THE CAMERAMAN BURNED CIGARETTE HOLES INTO THE FABRIC TO BRING THE EYES TO SPARKLE. I HAVE A FEELING THAT MY VISION IS SOMETHING BETWEEN THE VEIL AND THE BURN, OR THAT IT ALTERNATES BETWEEN THE TWO. THIS POEM IS ABOUT NUMBNESS AND THE NEXT POEM WILL BE ABOUT WRONG-FEELING. TWO DIFFERENT SENSORY DIFFERENCES THAT HAPPEN WITH M.S. HYPOESTHESIA FOR NOW (WHO KNOWS HOW LONG NOW IS) HIS TOUCH IS NOTHING BUT WARMTH AND TRACE TRAILING HIS HAND UP MY THIGH AND AROUND MY STOMACH. I FEEL A LITTLE SOMETHING CRYSTALLIZE AFTER EACH PASS OF HIS HAND, THEN IT’S DUST. WHOEVER THOUGHT SEX COULD BE SO LITERALLY SENSELESS? THE FIRST TIME (MY FIRST TIME) I CRIED A LITTLE BECAUSE I DID NOT WANT IT, BUT GAVE TO MAKE MY BOYFRIEND STOP ASKING. THAT WAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF SENSELESSNESS. I WANTED TO CRY THIS TIME, TOO, ANOTHER FIRST SINCE THE NEW FLARE-UP BROKE: FEET, KNEE, THIGH, STOMACH, HIP, HOLLOW OF THE BACK, NEITHER MY BODY NOR MY SKIN BUT A LOOSE-FITTING CARAPACE, BUBBLE, PROSTHETIC, EVEN. ARE YOU TOUCHING ME, I THOUGHT TO ASK, BUT INSTEAD WATCHED AS HE KISSED EACH PART AND CARESSED AND DID WHAT WE DO WHAT I FEEL RIGHT. I DIDN’T SAY “I CAN’T FEEL THAT,” BUT LET HIS HANDS AND MOUTH TRAVEL. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE I LET GO OF MY BODY A WHILE AND LOOKED DOWN WITH FASCINATION AT THE MAN I LOVE IN THE PROCESS OF LOVING ME; THE WAY THE WINDOW’S MEAGER LIGHT MANAGED TO ILLUMINATE HIS NAILS WITH EACH FINGER’S LENGTHENING, HOW IT RAISED HIS TENDONS (LIKE SPINES) BEFORE HIS KNUCKLES INTO GLOW. STUNNING TO SEE HIS EYEBROWS AND LASHES CRUSH, DEVOTED, WITH EACH KISS PLANTED ALONG MY BELLY, TO FEEL ONLY THE COOL AFTERWARD. STRANGE THAT NOW WOULD BE THE TIME I COMPREHEND OUR OTHERNESS, THESE BODIES WANTING MORE: LUMINOUS, IMPOSSIBLE, WHOLE. I THINK I’LL CLOSE WITH THIS POEM BECAUSE I IMAGINE I’M HITTING MY TIME. DYSAESTHESIA IS FEELING WRONG, FEELING PAIN WITH NO SOURCE, ALONG THE SKIN. AND YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. ANYBODY NOT KNOW ABOUT IT? YES? EVERYONE KNOWS? COOL, WHEN I TELL IAN MY HANDS ARE ON FIRE, WHEN I FIRST PULL THEM FROM THE WARM BED AND RELEASE THEM TO THE AIR’S STING, BEGIN THE MORNING ROUTINE, MEASURE DOG FOOD, TWIST OPEN RIDGED LIDS OF JARS UPON WHICH I SCRATCH MY PALMS, WHEN I LIFT AND UNSCREW THE MILK BOTTLE. FINGERS SPARKING WITHOUT CAUSE, WHEN I POUR COFFEE, RUBBING THE HANDS. ON ANY ROUGH SURFACE BECAUSE THEY SMOLDER, WHEN I TELL HIM I WATCHED MYSELF DROP THE SPOON AS THOUGH IN A MOVIE, NOT ME THAT WINCING, PALMS TURNED UP AND WHY, THEIR INNER TREMBLE RADIATING HOLDING NOTHING, I REMEMBER JAMES DEAN IN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT, SO ANGRY HE PUMMELS A DESK, AND I SAID LAST WEEK WHEN WE WATCHED IT AGAIN, WAIT FOR IT: HE BROKE HIS HAND THERE IN THE TAKE – THAT’S REAL PAIN, AND I READ MY HAND LIKE HIS, ROILING UNDER SKIN WHILE HE CLUTCHES HIS WRIST IN CLOSE-UP, WHEN I HEAR MYSELF GASP AND CAN’T HELP IT, JUST THE SHOCK, I CAN SAY SPARK OR BURN OR ELECTRIC, AND IAN ASKS ME IF I MEAN THE HANDS ARE HOT AS IN TEMPERATURE. NOT HOT, JUST ON FIRE. FLAMELESS, SOURCELESS – HOW ELSE TO SAY IT BUT FIRE, THIS MISTAKE CREEPING BETWEEN SPINE AND SKIN? HOW TO DISCERN THIS PAIN, THESE HANDS, WHO OPERATES THEM? THANK YOU. (APPLAUSE)>>I DON’T KNOW HOW I’M GOING TO TALK AFTER LISTENING TO THOSE POEMS, BOY, OKAY. SO IT’S MY HONOR AND PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO MY FRIEND AND CO-CONSPIRATOR, PROFESSOR STEPHEN KUUSISTO WHAT’S NAME I LEARNED TO PRONOUNCE AFTER NEARLY 18 MONTHS ON CAMPUS BUT I’M PROBABLY STILL DOING IT WRONG. DOUG’S TRYING TO HELP ME. STEPHEN, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STEVE IS AUTHOR OF THE MEMOIRS PLANET OF THE BLIND (A NEW YORK TIMES “NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR”) AND EAVESDROPPING: A MEMOIR OF BLINDNESS AND LISTENING AND OF THE POETRY COLLECTIONS ONLY BREAD, ONLY LIGHT, AND LETTERS TO BORGES. A GRADUATE OF THE IOWA WRITER’S WORKSHOP AND A FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR, HE HAS TAUGHT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, HOBART & WILLIAM SMITH COLLEGES, AND THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY. HE CURRENTLY DIRECTS THE RENéE CROWN HONORS PROGRAM AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY WHERE HE HOLDS A PROFESSORSHIP IN THE CENTER ON HUMAN POLICY, LAW, AND DISABILITY STUDIES. STEVE’S WORK HAS BEEN TRANSLATED INTO MORE THAN A DOZEN LANGUAGES, AND HE IS A REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TO NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO’S “ALL THINGS CONSIDERED” AND IS A FREQUENT SPEAKER ON DISABILITY AND DIVERSITY ISSUES AROUND THE UNITED STATES AND ABROAD. PLEASE WELCOME TO THE STAGE, AS IT WERE, STEVE KUUSISTO, ALMOST HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, STEVE. (APPLAUSE) THANK YOU, DIANE, THANK YOU ALL OF YOU FOR COMING OUT TONIGHT. CAN YOU ALL HEAR ME? I WAS SITTING IN THE FRONT ROW HERE AND I THINK I WAS IN THE DEAD ZONE WHERE IT WAS A LITTLE HARD TO HEAR SO I WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYBODY CAN HEAR ME OKAY. WE HAVE A DISTINCT HONOR TONIGHT IN THAT MICHAEL NORTHERN IS HERE. MICHAEL IS A POET, AN ESSAYIST AND ALSO AN EDITOR, AND HE IS THE EDITOR OF THE NEW AND I THINK ABSOLUTELY GROUND BREAKING ANTHOLOGY CALLED BEAUTY IS A VERB JUST OUT THIS PAST YEAR FROM ALTO CINCO PRESS, POETRY WRITING BY WRITERS WITH DISABILITIES HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, AN ASTONISHING BOOK, IT’S WON ALL KINDS OF ATTENTION ACROSS THE COUNTRY FROM MAJOR LITERARY MAGAZINES, A WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL ANTHOLOGY. ALL THREE OF US ARE IN IT AND MICHAEL DROVE UP HERE FROM MARYLAND TO BE WITH US TONIGHT AND I JUST WANT TO APPLAUD HIM BECAUSE – (APPLAUSE) – IT’S A WONDERFUL, GROUND BREAKING AND ASTONISHING BOOK. I AM GOING TO READ A FEW NEW POEMS FROM A BOOK THAT CAME OUT THIS LAST MONTH, LETTERS TO BORGES. HE WAS A FICTION WRITER AND MAYBE IN NORTH AMERICA BEST KNOWN FOR HIS FICTION. HE WROTE ASTONISHING SHORT STORIES GATHERED IN A VOLUME WIDELY REPRINTED BY NEW DIRECTIONS PRESS CALLED LABYRINTHS. THOSE STORIES SOME HAVE SAID ARE THE FIRST POST-MODERN LITERATURE. OTHERS SAID THAT HE INVENTED HYPERTEXT. THEY ARE INTRICATE NEOCAPITALLIST MYSTICAL MEDITATIONS ON THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN LANGUAGE, SEMIOTICS, THE VISIONARY, THE IMPOSSIBLE AND FINALLY, ABOUT EPISTEMOLGY. BEGINNING IN HIS 30S HE WENT PROGRESSIVELY BLIND, BECAME THE DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL LIBRARY IN BUENOS AIRES. HE LAMENTED THE FACT THAT HE WAS IN CHARGE OF ALL THE NATION’S BOOKS AND COULD NOT READ THEM. HE LIVED IN AN AGE AND TIME IN SOUTH AMERICA WHEN THERE WAS NO BRAILLE, NO MOBILITY TRAINING. BLINDNESS WAS FOR HIM A GREAT TRAGEDY. DISABILITY, AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW, IS A CULTURAL FORMATION, IT IS NOT A PHYSICAL FACT. SO IF THEY DECIDE NOT TO GIVE YOU ACCOMMODATIONS OR IF THE ACCOMMODATIONS HAVEN’T BEEN INVENTED, YOU DO HAVE A DISABILITY. HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE BRAILLE, A TALKING COMPUTER, A GUIDE DOG, YOU’VE HAD ORIENTATION IN MOBILITY TRAINING, LEARNED THE TECHNIQUES FOR HAVING A DISABILITY, YOU ARE NOT DISABLED. BORGES REMAINED DISABLED ALL HIS LIFE. IN 1984 I WENT TO CORNELL TO HEAR HIM SPEAK, THE FINAL KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT A THREE-DAY SYMPOSIUM HONORING A SPEAKER WHO FAMOUSLY TAUGHT AT CORNELL. THEY HOSTED THIS SOME 30 YEARS AFTER HE HAD LEFT CORNELL AND PASSED AWAY. TALK ABOUT TAKING YOUR TIME. THEY HAD PANELISTS THERE FROM CORNELL, OLD AMERITIE PROFESSORS AND THEY WOULD TALK ABOUT THE MAN AND IT WAS VERY CLEAR THAT HE HATED THEM. THEY WOULD SAY THINGS LIKE I SAW HIM ONCE AT THE LAUNDROMAT. ONE PROFESSOR HALTINGLY TOLD THE STORY ABOUT HOW THE MAN WOULD GO INTO ANY CLASSROOM AND START TEACHING. ONE DAY HE WALKED INTO A CHEMISTRY CLASSROOM AND BEGAN LECTURING ABOUT THE GREAT RUSSIAN NOVELS AND THE CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR WAS TERRIFIED AND SAID NOTHING. (LAUGHTER) THEY ALL SAT THERE AND LISTENED TO A GREAT LECTURE. I CAME HERE TO HEAR HIM TALK, I WAS VERY EXCITED. HE COMES OUT AND IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER. AND BORGES CAME OUT AND IS VERY BLIND AND CAN’T DO ANYTHING INDEPENDENTLY. SO HE’S LED OUT ONTO THE STAGE BY A PERSON AND THEN STANDS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STAGE AND HE SAYS, LITERATURE IS PLAY. IT’S A GAME. IT’S LIKE PLAYING CARDS WITH NO RULES. IT’S LIKE MARSEL DE CHAMP PLAYING CHESS WITH NO RULES. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING WITH LITERATURE. LITERATURE IS HILARIOUS, IT’S WONDERFUL. THAT WAS IT. HE STOPPED. THERE WAS THIS AWKWARD SILENCE, IT WAS CORNELL – I DON’T KNOW IF YOU KNOW THE IVY LEAGUE BUT CORNELL THINKS THEY’RE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE IVY LEAGUE, THEY HAVE A VERY DAMAGED INSTITUTIONAL SUPER EGO. EVERYONE WAS AFRAID THAT A JOKE WAS BEING PERPETRATED ON CORNELL UNIVERSITY. A PROFESSOR FINALLY RAISED HIS HAND WHICH BORGES DIDN’T SEE. HE HAD HIS HAND UP A LONG TIME BEFORE HE FINALLY JUST BLURTED OUT “WELL, WHAT ABOUT NEB0KAUF?” BORGES SAID WHO’S HE? THE MAN SAID HE’S THE AUTHOR OF LOLITA. BORGES SAID, WHO’S SHE? THE PROFESSOR STUMBLED AHEAD LIKE A DRUNK AT A BAPTIST PICNIC WITH A BUCKET ON HIS FOOT. HE SAID IT’S THE STORY ABOUT THIS OLD MIDDLE AGED MAN WHO TAKES UP WITH THIS 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. AND THEY TRAVEL AROUND THE COUNTRY STAYING IN MOTELS. AND BORGES SAYS, OH, SO IT IS AN OLD STORY. THEN HE LEFT THE STAGE. THAT WAS IT. IT WAS A THING OF BEAUTY. BORGES, HOWEVER, DID NOT LEARN HOW TO TRAVEL INDEPENDENTLY. AND ONE OF THE PLEASURES IN MY LIFE AS A PERSON WITH A SEVERE VISION IMPAIRMENT IS THAT OVER THE LAST 18 YEARS OR SO I’VE BEEN ABLE TO TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD, SOMETIMES ALONE, IN THE COMPANY OF MY GUIDE DOG, AND GO TO PLACES THAT I HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE AND GET GLORIOUSLY, HAPPILY LOST BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU MAKE ART, RIGHT? BORGES MISSED THAT CHANCE. AND SO I FINALLY DECIDED TO PUT TOGETHER A COLLECTION OF POEMS WHICH IN PART SEEKS TO ADDRESS THE GHOST OF BORGES, TO SAY HERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT ARE INTERESTING ABOUT BLINDNESS. NOW, THE ENTIRE BOOK IS NOT ADDRESSED TO BORGES, FOR INDEED THAT WOULD BECOME TIRESOME, BUT THERE ARE SOME POEMS IN HERE ADDRESSED TO HIM, SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE BOOK. IT’S JUST OUT AS OF TWO WEEKS AGO. THIS FIRST IS CALLED “LETTER TO BORGES FROM BUENOS AIRES.” HE USED TO WALK EVERY DAY IN BUENOS AIRES ESCORTED BY SIGHTED PEOPLE AND THEY WOULD TELL HIM WHAT THEY WERE SEEING. THAT SOUNDS DREADFUL TO ME. OFTEN THEY WERE GIRLS. SO THIS IS CALLED” LETTER TO BORGES FROM BUENOS AIRES.” THINGS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF GIRLS – MORNING WALKS PAST INTRICATE, MODERNIST SHOPPING A TOUCH OF MILAN IN THE OLD CITY – GLASS FLUTES, GOLD MEDALLIONS, BASKETS FILLED WITH CARVED BIRDS… BORGES, TELL THEM WHAT YOU SEE: WINGLESS ANGELS, BROWS UNSELFISH, BOOKS BLOWN OPEN FROM WHICH NUMBERS RISE AND WALK LIKE CIRCUS CATS… TODAY’S GIRL DESCRIBES CARPETS & LAST YEAR’S WINE… YOU CLUTCH HER ARM, AFRAID TO WALK. SUCH STARK HOUSES, IRON GRILLS, PERFORATED CLOCKS – CONFESSING STATION TO THE BLIND. IS THIS WHY YOU STAYED HOME THERE BEHIND A WINDOW, WATER IN A GLASS, LEAVES AND SHUTTERS “IMPERATIVE” “IRREVOCABLE”? AND THIS IS CALLED “LETTERS TO BORGES IN HIS PARLOR.” IT REFERENCES A TRIP I TOOK WITH MY WIFE AND MY DOG, WENT TO MILAN ON A TRIP PAID FOR BY AN ITALIAN DESIGNER LIGHTING COMPANY. THEY FEATURED ADVERTISEMENTS OF BLIND PEOPLE WITH FANCY DESIGNER LIGHT. I TOOK THE TRIP. (LAUGHTER) GUIDING EYES FOR THE BLIND, ARGUABLY THE BEST SCHOOL OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD RECEIVED A MAJOR GIFT FROM VLADIMIR HOROWITZ, THE GREAT CONCERT PIANIST, GAVE THE PROCEEDS FROM HIS CLASSICAL RECORDINGS AND HIS STEINWAY PIANO TO THE GUIDE DOG SCHOOL SO THEY COULD SELL ALL OF THESE THINGS AND CREATE A VETERINARY FUND SO THAT ALL THE BLIND GET FREE VETERINARY CARE FOR LIFE FOR THEIR DOGS. SO WE WENT TO THE GREAT CEMETERY IN MILAN TO PUT FLOWERS ON HOROWITZ’ GRAVE, HE’S BURIED IN AN ORNATE ITALIAN TOMBS THAT LOOKS LIKE A SAILING SHIP, WITH HIS WIFE WANDA AND HIS FATHER-IN-LAW, ARTURO TUSKANINI. LETTER TO BORGES IN HIS PARLOR HE LOVED ENGLISH LITERATURE MORE THAN SOUTH AMERICAN LITERATURE. WHAT WILL BECOME OF YOU WITH YOUR ANGLICAN HEART & OLD FURNITURE? ARE YOU WAITING FOR INSECTS AT THE GERANIUMS? WHAT IS THERE TO LOVE ANYMORE MY FRIEND? SOME DAYS I TOO DON’T FEEL LIKE GOING OUT. SECLUDED WITH MY GRAMOPHONE I PLAY FLORES PURISIMAS, ZARZUELA, CARUSO-OVER AND OVER… ONCE, YEARS AGO, I GOT LOST IN THE VAST CEMETERY OF MILAN. I HAD MY DOG; I WAS TAKING ROSES TO TOSCANINI’S TOMB. IT WAS AN ORDINARY DAY, MEN WERE DIGGING GRAVES. CONFOUNDED IN THE BALLYHOO ITALIEN, THE TOMBS CARVED LIKE SAILING SHIPS, I TALKED TO PERFECT STRANGERS: WOMEN ALONE WITH GRIEF, MEN WALKING “ON DOCTOR’S ORDERS.” IT IS GOOD BORGES TO HAVE A MISSION, DON’T YOU AGREE? I LOVE THE POET W.H.AUDEN. THIS IS A POEM CALLED “WITHOUT STARS.” I THINK IT’S SELF-EXPLANATORY. WE MIGHT SAY AS AUDEN DID THE STARS ARE ALL INDIFFERENT BUT NOW, PAST 50, I DON’T KNOW, THE CONSEAT MAY TURN FROM A LIFE OF CHEER AS THE POET HAD GOOD DRINK AND THOSE WHO LOVED HIM; WE MAY CALL THE STARS UNFRIENDLY WHEN WE ARE SNUG AT HOME, THE FIRE BANKED OUR PASCHAL LAMB WITH PEPPER, THE WINE DARK. WE MIGHT SAY WE ARE MORE LOVING AND BE TRUE AS LOVE IS TO SKY A SMALL ADVANTAGE AND LOVE-ME-NOT IS THE NAME OF ITS TUNE WHICH STARS CANNOT KNOW. HERE’S A SUCCESSION OF ROOMS, DRESSES AND TROUSERS, OUR HEAPED BOOKS; THE AILANTHUS WE HOPE TO PLANT COME MAY – IN THE GARDEN WE’LL BE POWERLESS, AILANTHUS CANNOT GROW UNTIL THE LEAVES ARE STRONG AND WE WOULD BE MORE LOVING IF WE BUT KNEW THE WORDS. STILL I WILL CALL THE STARS UNFRIENDLY ONLY WHEN I’M FAR FROM HOME. THIS IS CALLED ELEGY FOR RAY CHARLES AND HIS MOTHER I THINK THIS IS PRETTY SELF-EXPLANATORY, TOO. RAY, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO CARRY WATER THE WAY YOUR MOTHER MADE YOU CARRY IT – EVEN THE BOY PHARAOH WORE A YOKE ON HIS SHOULDERS JUST TO SHOW HE WAS A MAN HISTORY DOESN’T MATTER MUCH, AT LEAST UNTIL YOUR CHILD “DONE GONE BLIND” YOUR MAMA SAW IT – “YOU ALWAYS GOT TO CARRY WATER,” SHE SAID. “THIS AIN’T NO KIDDING AROUND…” LONG TIME YOU CARRIED WATER IN BOTH HANDS, FEELING FOR THE PATH WITH YOUR FEET. RAY, YOUR MAMA KNEW – A SONG COMES THAT WAY – OR ELSE IT NEVER WILL… LAUGH OR CRY IT’S THE SAME. A MOCKINGBIRD LISTENS FROM A TELEPHONE WIRE… LONG TIME, WATER, BOTH HANDS… THAT’S HOW HE LEARNED TO SING. THERE’S A CITY ON THE WEST COAST OF FINLAND, THE COUNTRY WHERE MY CHILDHOOD TOOK PLACE, TURKU, A MEDIEVAL CITY WITH A UNIVERSITY AND BEAUTIFUL OLD CHURCH, STONE CHURCH, AND THE COAST ALL AROUND IT LOOKS LIKE THE COAST OF NOVA SCOTIA. AND I WENT TO TURKU AND GOT LOST. BORGES, I WALKED A GENEROUS AND SLOW COMPASS AROUND THE OLD CHURCH: A FISHERMAN’S CHURCH, BUILT WITH NARROW WINDOWS. I WAS LONESOME ALL DAY, WALKING ALONE IN THE FAR NORTH, GULLS DANCED SIDEWAYS AT MY FEET, MY WHITE CANE TAPPED THE COBBLE STONES. IT WAS SUMMER BUT YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT. I WALKED MY CIRCLE. OLD WOMEN SOLD LINGONBERRIES TO LAUGHING CHILDREN. A DOG WAS BARKING AT SWEDISH GHOSTS. YEARS AGO, TWENTY, PRECISELY, I PHONED THE FINNISH POET SAARIKOSKI HE WAS IN SWEDEN, REAGAN WAS PLANNING TO “NUKE” THE EAST – I CALLED THE DYING POET TO TALK ABOUT MINOTAURS. SNAKES UNDER FOOT. CROWS IN A CAGE… THE BOOLEAN ALGEBRA OF PALESTRINA… HERACLITUS AND GREEK VOWELS… JAMES JOYCE AND THE HOT, LITTLE ABACUS OF SYLLABIC FINNO-UGRIAN JAZZ… SAARIKOSKI GOT ON THE LINE. “MAYBE WE WILL MEET ONE DAY IN THIS MAD WORLD,” HE SAID. TODAY I TRACED A CLEAN CIRCLE WITH MY FEET THOUGH I DIDN’T SEE THE CITY IN WHICH I WALKED. I THOUGHT OF THE CANDLES IN TURKU’S CHURCH, CANDLES COLD AS GLASS, EVEN IN SUMMER. THIS IS PROBABLY BEST DEDICATED TO LAURIE. “LETTER TO BORGES FROM HOUSTON, TEXAS.” I FELL DOWN THIS MORNING BORGES. I BLAMED THIS ON THE PAVEMENT OUTSIDE THE HOTEL. THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT FALLING WHEN YOU’RE BLIND, A KIND OF SYNESTHESIA OCCURS. I FELL SLOWLY INTO A COLD PARADISE OF BLUE. IT WAS LIKE FALLING INTO THE WORLD IN THE BIRTH WIND DO YOU REMEMBER THAT? FALLING LIKE THIS IS CERTAINLY A KIND OF NOSTALGIA. I HAD TIME TO THINK. “ONLY GOD CAN CONCEAL GOD,” THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT. MY ARMS WERE EXTENDED LIKE WINGS. JOYFULLY, FALLING… I SHOULD ADD THAT NO ONE WAS AWAKE TO SEE ME. BORGES, DID YOU EVER LAUGH IN SO MUCH BLUE? RIGHT AFTER WE INVADED IRAQ I JOINED POETS AGAINST THE WAR, POETS SAM HAMMEL AND OTHERS, WROTE THIS FOR THEM. THE WAR PRODUCTION CANZON. CANZON IS NOT A FOOD. THIS IS FROM ADVERTISING. “WHIRLPOOL: IMAGINE IT” I HAVE COME AT LAST TO UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF MY DISHWASHER: I USE IT TO BRING BACK THE DEAD! DON’T KID YOURSELF THE DEAD LIVE ON IN PROXIMITY TO MACHINES AND WHY SHOULDN’T MY DISHWASHER BECOME A TIBETAN PORTAL – A “BARDO-MATIC” MULTI-CYCLE SOUL CLEANSER? I SET THE DIAL TO “ADVANCED PATRIOTISM” MAKING SURE TO ADD THE ORPHIC SPOT REMOVER, AND LET THE FALLING INERTIA OF THE UNREAL DEAD WASH BACKWARDS INTO HISTORY WITH THE FUSED STONES AND MAGIC GEMS OF UNFATHOMABLE BECOMING. AND HOW QUIETLY MY DISHWASHER SHIFTS INTO THE PYTHAGOREAN CYCLE! THE MATHEMATIC FLESH AND BONE STIRS WITH LEAF PATTERN, SCARLET BERRIES UNTIL MY GOOD DISHWASHER, MY WHIRLPOOL FROM RCA, A CORPORATION HEAVILY INVESTED IN WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION LO! MY DEATH-RAY DISHWASHER RAISES UP OUT OF THE MINERAL EARTH THOSE WHO WERE ONCE BUYER AND SELLER, MASTER AND VICTIM, FOOT SOLDIERS, IRAQI CHILDREN, KURDS, SANDINISTAS, CONTRAS, MAOISTS, INTEGRATIONISTS, TROTSKYITES, MENSHEVIKS, YOU GET THE PICTURE AND MY DISHWASHER, MAKES A SOUND LIKE WINGS AND WASHES OUT ALL THE BLOOD DRENCHED, “CIVILIZED” ABSTRACTIONS OF THE RASCALS WHO LIVE BY KILLING YOU AND ME. THERE’S A CEMETERY IN LONDON, HIGH GATE, WHERE ALL THE VICTORIANS ARE BURIED. YOU CAN GO THERE AND SEE KARL MARX’ TOMB AND GEORGE ELLIOTT’S TOMB. YOU CAN SEE BEATRIX POTTER’S TOMB AND THE TOMB OF SAMUEL TAYLOR CULRIDGE AMONG OTHERS. THIS IS CALLED “PROSE POEM: WRITTEN AT 2 A.M.” I REALLY DID WRITE IT AT 2 A.M. I HAVE DECIDED TO WRITE WHILE LYING IN BED. MARK TWAIN USED TO DO THIS THOUGH HE DID IT BY DAY & I’M DOING IT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WHILE MY WIFE IS SLEEPING ON HER SIDE OF THE BED. AS NEAR AS I CAN TELL THE CHIEF MERIT OF WRITING WHILE LYING FLAT ON ONE’S BACK IN THE DARK IS THAT YOU GET TO IMAGINE YOU’RE A HALF DEAD ENGLISHMAN WHO HAS AWAKENED IN HIS OR HER TOMB IN LONDON’S HIGHGATE CEMETERY – AND YOU’RE PULLING ON THE ROPE THAT RINGS THE BELL OUTSIDE SO THAT PRESUMABLY A MAN WHO IS CUTTING THE GRASS WILL HEAR YOUR ALARM AND COME RUNNING. I ONCE VISITED THE TOMB OF SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE AND SURE ENOUGH THERE WAS A BELL ON THE ROOF. I SAW SIX RAVENS STANDING BESIDE COLERIDGE’S BELL. THEY WERE CONGREGATING WITH THE SAME EASY INDIFFERENCE YOU SEE IN STREET COPS. THEY WERE THERE OUT OF HABIT. AND I PICTURED COLERIDGE IN THAT SEALED BARREL VAULT PULLING THE STRING WITH ONLY THE RAVENS WITHIN EARSHOT. I COULD SEE WHY THE RAVENS LIKED THEIR PERCH. THE TOMB WAS ATOP A GENTLE HILL AND THEY COULD LOOK OUT IN ALL DIRECTIONS. THE FIRST TIME I READ COLERIDGE, I WAS 19, AND I THOUGHT THAT BEING INFLUENCED IN IMAGINATIVE TERMS BY AN APPROACHING STORM WAS EXCITING. NOWADAYS I SEE THAT THE STORM NEVER ENDS AND THAT OLD POEM OFFERS A FALSE TRIANGULATION OF RISING AND FALLING ACTION. SAY WHAT YOU WILL: BAD WEATHER AND SUCCESSIVE RAVENS ARE AN UNBROKEN AND CO-DETERMINATE CHAIN AND SAYING SO WON’T MAKE YOU FEEL ANY BETTER. I KNOW THAT MY WILL INFLUENCES NOTHING IN NATURE. THE ONLY THING I CAN CAUSE BY THINKING IS THE ACCUMULATION OF DUST. I AM GOOD AT THIS. I HAVE JUST NOW ASSERTED THAT DUST ISN’T A NATURAL FACT AND THAT’S FOOLISH. POETRY CARVES A TOPIARY GARDEN OUT OF DUST. IN A SHORT WHILE I SHALL ABANDON THIS BUSINESS OF WRITING IN THE DARK AND I’LL SWITCH ON THE RADIO AND LISTEN TO THE BBC AND HEAR MORE ABOUT MY COUNTRY’S FOREIGN POLICY WHICH AS FAR AS I UNDERSTAND IT IS SIMPLY TO KILL AS MANY CIVILIANS AS WE CAN. WE KILL THEM BY ARMING THEIR NEIGHBORS AND BY MORE DIRECT MEANS. MY COUNTRY’S CHIEF EXPORTS ARE TEARS AND DUST. “WHAT ABOUT BLOOD?” YOU ASK. “SURELY THAT’S ONE OF AMERICA’S CHIEF EXPORTS?” OKAY. BLOOD. PLEASE UNDERSTAND: I’M FLAT ON MY BACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND I’M PULLING THE STRING FOR ALL ITS WORTH. OF RAVENS I HAVE NOT HEARD TELL OF ANY SAVE THAT I KNOW THEY ARE STANDING PERFECTLY STILL ON MY ROOF AND YOURS. NOW IS THE TIME OF NIGHT FOR RECALLING PAST JOURNEYS. IN LAPLAND ONCE I PEERED THROUGH A BUS WINDOW WITH MY BLUNTED EYES AND SAW SPARKS IMPOSED ON THE GLASS. I THOUGHT OF EVENING PRAYERS IN KHARTOUM AND THE SILENCE OF COMMUNAL LIFE AFTER THE DAY HAS GONE. I SAW THEM, OLD MEN, LONG IN THEIR FRIENDSHIP, SMOKING AS NIGHT FILLED THEIR ALLEY. AND THERE IN MY DARK BUS I IMAGINED THAT ONE MAN HAD A CHILD’S TOY: A WOODEN TOP THAT WAS LIKELY A GIFT FOR HIS GRAND DAUGHTER. HE SET IT SPINNING. IT MOVED OVER THE WORN STONES GIVING OFF A LIGHT THAT NO ONE COULD EXPLAIN. IT SEEMS I AM LESS OF MEMORY AND MORE OF DREAM. THAT’S HOW IT IS AFTER 50. I REMEMBER (INEXACTLY) A BOAT RIDE WITH OTHER CHILDREN, SUMMER IN FINLAND LONG AGO. THERE WAS A SICKLY BOY SEATED AT THE BOW. AN ADULT WHISPERED THE WORD LEUKEMIA BUT NONE OF THE CHILDREN KNEW WHAT THAT WAS. IT WAS THE SOLSTICE, THERE WAS SUN ON WATER, A SONG ABOUT STRAWBERRIES WAS GOING AROUND. OH YES. I’M FLAT ON MY BACK AND PULLING THIS STRING FOR ALL ITS WORTH… THANK YOU. (APPLAUSE)>>PLEASE JOIN US IN THE ATRIUM OUT HERE, THE HALLWAY, THE FOYER, MAYBE THAT’S WHAT IT IS, LOTS OF REFRESHMENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO BUY BOOKS FROM THE UNIVERSITY BOOKSTORE. THANK YOU, EVERYONE. CAN WE HAVE MORE APPLAUSE FOR THE THREE POETS, PLEASE. (APPLAUSE)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *