December 23, 2016

Darren Morris

A HANDBOOK FOR THE BLIND

1. This is nobody’s fault, unless it is, in which case, you might try a different handbook. Seek your revenge and then you may be ready.

2. Be grateful that this is the only sense you are losing, unless you are not limited to one such affliction, in which case, you will need an additional handbook, or an entire series.

3. Next to taste or smell, sight might be the best sense to lose. Most people lose feeling and hearing on purpose.

4. Blindness seems noble. Really, it isn’t, but it seems noble. As if all blind people are keeping a particular secret, a deeper world beneath this world, a richness, to themselves.

5. Poets, pianists, wine tasters, and those who foretell the future are sometimes excellent professions for the blind. Just as are code breakers and lie detectors. There is a film about blind photographers to which you might listen. Most likely, you will be hated by Libertarians. Probably you will be nothing and exist in nothingness. Probably you will not be great at anything a sighted person couldn’t do better. Except to feel and to remember.

6. Mostly you will remember images you once knew and you will cling to them because they will constantly be fading and finally you will not be sure what they ever were.

7. Were you lucky enough to make friends or to marry? Forget their names and drive them away. These people should not be asked to be your caregivers. You love them too much to turn them into something functional.

8. Try not to compare yourself with Helen Keller or any other great blind person. You can’t even find your pants in the morning. Don’t forget that Helen was also deaf and born that way, into soundless darkness. How did she learn language? Her teacher drew the letters of the alphabet into the palm of her hand until she understood. Now that was a poet.

9. You will never truly know when you are alone. The night has a thousand eyes, none of which are yours.

10. Keep your head down in case you missed something. Don’t mess things up for people who can see. They do enough for you already (see #7). Without them, you will die quickly, only quicker if they murder you.

11. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Sighted people can smell it on you, not to mention other blind people. You think you deserve something more? You will be humbled by doorjambs, all immovable objects, traffic lights, crowds of strangers who have no idea.

12. There are not numbers enough to list your losses. Consider your pleasures: reading indiscriminately from your shelves, seeing your lover’s face, addressing your lover’s need to be seen, his or her delicate vanity. They will all be gone.

13. At some point you will become lost on a cold night after taking a wrong turn and may walk off a pier. And, if you do, you may land in a small paper boat with no captain. This is the only way. For as you sail out onto the black open sea, you may dip in your hand and feel the words that finally name and beckon you to divulge your terrifying and noble secrets.

14. Henceforth, in your dreams, you will also be blind. As with learning a foreign language, this is the point at which you know you have become fluent with darkness.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016

[download audio]

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Darren Morris: “I have been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retina disease that leads to vision loss and often blindness. The poems reflect my new way of seeing the world, but I try not to dwell on the negative.”

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