Poem 1 = entire grid
Poem 2 = 
inner circle, central vision that’s left
Poem 3 = 
Blind Ring

Poem 1

Behold the awesome power of sight! Not found in one destructive glance but in the accumulation of looks. Against the odds and in spite of damaged cones misfiring signals and incomplete data these looks produce something resembling vision–an image feeling fuzzy form. O faithful cones! Diligently delivering data despite dwindling numbers enabling me to see some color–greens and golds and pinks and blues. O industrious brain! Tirelessly trying to make sense of scrambled signals. Conjuring images. Concealing gaping holes and black rings. Making it possible for me to exclaim, “Oh my god! Look at that wedge of geese in the sky!”

Poem 2


Poem 3

So much could go wrong and often does. Yet light photoreceptor cells the optic nerve the visual cortex find a way. Through guesswork improvisation imagination filtering filling-in and processes scientists don’t yet understand they ensure I see more than seems possible.

Resources and Additional Thoughts

King Charles II of England used to aim his blind spot on a prisoner’s head to “decapitate” him visually before an actual beheading.

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

This poem was inspired by the above story about King Charles II and the idea of the arrogant conquering eye that I explored this summer as I memorized and recited poems about vision. This poem, in particular, seems to exemplify the conquering/world-making eye:

Natural Forces/ Vicente Huidobro

One glance
to shoot down the albatros 

Two glances
to hold back the landscape
at the river’s edge

Three glances
to turn the girl
into a kite

Four glances
to hold down the train
that falls into the abyss

Five glances
to relight the stars
blown out by the hurricane

Six glances
to prevent the birth
of the aquatic child

Seven glances
to prolong the life
of the bride

Eight glances
to turn the sea
into sky

Nine glances
to make the trees of the wood

Ten glances
to see what beauty shows up
between a dream and a catastrophe

For our species to survive, the perceptual system had to be adaptable. For about a century, scientists, conscious of this evolutionary fact, have devised ingenious ways to test how much distortion the human visual system can tolerate. Typically, researchers would mount prisms in eyeglass frames or goggles. These prisms would, for example, turn the world upside down or shove it off center by several degrees. In a relatively short amount of time, the subjects could walk around without bumping into things, lay their hand on objects, even read and write. They “saw” the world as normal again….the human perceptual system tends to be resilient, flexible, and adaptable.

Georgina Kleege

Sometimes the things I see are only fuzzy, difficult to discern. Other times, my new way of seeing is beautiful and magical, wonderfully strange and gentle, generous. No sharp lines or haggard faces. Here a few lines from a poem I memorized this summer that speak to the strange, fascinating beauty of seeing through damaged eyes:

from Halos/ ed bok lee

I like that any nearing face 
is surely smiling, gorgeous,

each blurry body’s aura numinious

fuzzy spirits exiting buildings;
halos around bikers’ helmets;
each streetlamp another pink-orange dawn.

You should see the full moon
spanning half the skyline.

Like 90 percent of other legally blind folk, my blindness is not complete. My seeing is far from what it was before tiny zones in each of my retinas began to fray in my early 30s. Twenty-five years ago. Becoming blind in mid-life has its score of losses, but the visual world still hums with moon-shadow, with the movement of a raptor knifing across a blue sky, with the way—after rain—the last of the day’s sun under-lights the tree canopies chartreuse against higher layers of leaf.

Also after rain, walking a shaded bike path, I often see a man dressed in black lurking in undergrowth at the bottom of the trail. But after years of experience, I know his name is not Creepy-Man-with-Knife. No, his name is Wet-Trunk-of-Maple-Tree. My eyes have become novelists, making drama out of rain and bark.

Naomi Cohn