note: I am including the bare, formless text of these poems here partly for myself. As my vision declines it becomes increasingly difficult to read visual poems/poems in unconventional forms.
Poem 1 = entire grid
Poem 2 = inner circle, central vision that’s left
Poem 3 = Blind Ring
Text for Delighted
I find it one day. Standing in front of a white wall staring straight ahead a thick dark circle with a small light center appears. My blind spot. But not yet a spot. Now only a ring of smudged gray surrounding white. Sumdged gray the central vision I’ve lost and white what remains. Every year this ring will thicken spread until absorbing the shrinking center. I stare at it until my head aches my eyes twitch. I observe how it moves slightly when I shift my gaze. How it grows bigger when I cover my left eye smaller when I cover my right. How it begins to throb then fade then flare. A dark fiery hoop with silvery flecks burning through my thinning retina.
ring will thicken
orbing the shrink
stare at it
To witness this site of my unseeing usually hidden behind softened forms filled-in gaps astonishes. What magic lets me see through this ring obscuring my view? How satisfying now to know this show is more real than the illusions my brain offers as sight.
Text for Curious
Before, al I remembered from science class was the strange image of an inverted tree entering upright then shrinking and flipping around. I didn’t remember the retina or that it is a thin layer of tissue lining the back of the eye or that at its center is the macula where the most important cells reside waiting to convert light into signals that travel through the optic nerve to the visual cortex. After, I began learning about the fovea and the number of cone cells in it and when the blind spot was first written about and how the brain guesses when it lacks visual data and why some people in the early stages of vision loss hallucinate floating faces and little folks in costumes.
I never thought about blind spots or tried to find mine or wondered about how much of what I saw was real or illusion but when my brain could no longer hide the effects of diminishing cones–missing moons disappearing cars shifting lines absent faces–I began to pay attention.
Text for Awed
Behold the awesome power of sight! Not found in one destructive glance but in the accumulation of looks. Against the odds and n spite of damaged ones 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. Concelaing gaping holes and black rings. Making it possible for me to explain, “Oh my god! Good at that wedge of geese in the sky!”
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.
Text for Doubtful
I stand in front of the wall again. Close the left eye and stare straight ahead with the right. Wait for the ring’s return. The growing hoop that offers proof. Despite the brain’s best efforts to persuade me my vision is fine this ring remains me it is not. I like to stand here and watch gray darken to blue or black while a silver edge begins to fray. Away from the wall it is harder to believe. Easier to lose faith in the flux of photoreceptor cells that sometimes work sometimes do not. I go back again and again and try to answer the question: Where do I fit in on this line that stretches between seeing and being blind?
Ring scotoma on the wall what is blindness after all? How do we see and have sight? What does it look like to be losing it? When do I call it low vision and when weakness? Are my eyes deteriorating or am I exaggerating? What do I want to see and not see at the same time?
Text for Lonely
More than the ghostly letters that barely haunt the page more than the blur of a bike that appears without warning beside me on the path it is the faded faces that really get to me. When the light is too bright or not bright enough the features leave. Sometimes the outline of nose an ear a mouth remain but the eyes are gone. The pupils as lifeless as black ball bearings. Other times all that’s there is a dark blob perched on the shoulders of a family member a friend a stranger on the street. Aiming my eyes to the side I might catch a flash of iris the curve of a jaw. Mostly I rely on memory to recall the face I used to see. Imagination to create the life that is not there.
line of a
The widening of a pupil. The flaring of a nostril. The raising of an eyebrow. The nod of a head the lift of a chin. I long for the reassurance that I am not alone. Someone else is there. Alien and alienating an uncanny valley begins to form between me and the rest of the world.
Text for Bewildered
Slowly I get better at not knowing what I am doing. At not knowing where I am. At not knowing if that person in front of me is coming or going. I get better at not recognizing my husband in a store my kids at the playground. Better at not sensing the distance from my elbow to a tree my hip to the edge of the wall. At not seeing signs when I enter unfamiliar buildings. I find ways to live beside the constant not-quite-knowing. To not be paralyzed by fear. I practice in the summer while I swim across the lake. When I cannot sight any of the orange buoys that direct me to the opposite shore I do not stop. I keep swimming straight into the blue void.
Lately less fear more wonder. Everything soft. Few clear edges. Fuzzy. The world, italicized. Life, undetermined. A sign might be a person. A wave, a particle. Unmoored I flow freely become unlocatable elude certainty invite mystery and possibility.
Text for Resilient
So many years of odd symptoms dismissed as quirks or evidence of weak will. Finally proof of something else. After relief acceptance. I slow down settle into new habits search for better words to describe what I see switch to the pithiness of poetry and sparser pages. More room to imagine more space to breathe more rest for my eyes. I let go of the need to know instantly. To ever understand everything. I ask for help. Stop pretending to see things I do not. Learn to panic less. To accept continued confusion. To love softer fuzzier forms. To find some delight in mistaking a tree or a trashcan or a trail sign for a person. To look for more lights. Brighter bulbs.
space to breathe
yes. I let go
Instead of seeking second opinions I memorize the path. Mentally map the potholes the dips the cracks. Sink deep into sensations other than sight. Listen to the gorge. Hear the sumac creep under the fence and find its way through the asphalt.