Search

Stories From the Edge of Blindness

In 2002, Retinitis Pigmentosa changed my life. This is my story of a slow approach to darkness.

Tag

loss

Remembering How To Breathe

It’s been a rough week. Lots of tears. Lots of sun falling out of my mouth, leaving shadows to choke me and change the taste of the landscape. When I feel this way, all I want is to disappear, to blend into the chipped paint, hide beneath the floor boards. I cry while looking at cooking shows. I cry sitting at the computer, washing dishes, riding in the car watching the filthy city shrink under the waves of heat that oppress and burn. I am coming unglued. I have forgotten how to breathe.

In getting ready to move, I sink into the lives of people I have loved, people who have died. I am tearing away scar tissue, leaving wounds vulnerable to the teeth of time. I am awash in memories that leave me desperate for youth, for the feeling of my mother’s arms around me, for the delight in my brother’s boyish laughter, for the scratch of my father’s beard against my cheek. The weight of missing people presses against my eyes and taints the color of the sky. I am coming unglued. I have forgotten how to breathe.

I am tying up the loose ends of my broken body, retrieving my white canes from their hiding places, spending day after day in dental torture chairs, wishing I hadn’t allowed myself to get so fat. My heart has been buried so deep beneath the flesh, I no longer recognize its rhythm against my ribs. The mirror is my punisher, the fist that reminds me I have failed again, that I will never be good enough. I am coming unglued. I have forgotten how to breathe.

My book got a mediocre review. It crushed me. It pissed me off. It left me wanting to quit writing, to burn through the lines on the page, scatter hope into the dirt. I would have preferred a scathing review to the placid temperature of the three star review. Intellectually I get that my writing isn’t for everyone, but between love and hate the color drains away. It is easy to forget that it is only my heart on the page, my stories of coming unglued, of forgetting how to breathe.

But, life is a coin. Tarnished in some places, sparkling in others. It is sadness and joy passed through fingers, dropped and forgotten, discovered and cherished, held tightly against your palm. Life is the shadow and the light, the dream come true and the longing that is shattered. I am not unscathed. I don’t want to be. I sit in the center of what hurts, because I know that is where joy also lives. Sometimes I need to come unglued, so I can remember how to breathe.

Missing the Dead

I am absolutely thrilled that my first acceptance from a journal this year came from Nine Muses Poetry, a journal that has published so many of the contemporary writers I admire. My huge thanks to editor Annest Gwilym for including my poem as part of this month’s Special Challenge. If you would like to read it, you can so so here.

Untethered

I was in the car with my husband yesterday, Thomson Twins jangling in the background, when I started to think of what it means to be untethered.  I am parentless, floating without the anchors that rooted my bones to the earth, my blood to the sky. My identity was already fractured, unstable at best, but now I become the definition of loss each time I open my eyes to inhale the sun, each time I close them again to swallow the moon.  I have been emptied out so many times, turning to the memory of voices that fade with the passing of years.  I became old when I should have been steeped in youth, threw my eyes into the grave, forgot how to look to the sky for solace, for discovery.  I am recognized by the shape of my diseases, ailments that strangle my determination, but I don’t recognize my own face. I am the word on the page that erases itself but never stops searching for sound. I am a war, a need to be invisible and seen, to be silence and noise. Is this what it means to be untethered?

I Am Not Blind When I Close My Eyes

I have been writing about a storm, hiding behind the clamor of the rain. I have been watching my feelings twist into the drain, willing away their texture and weight. It is futile; this hiding, this twisting, this willing away. I am sinking but standing still, static but being torn to pieces. I can no longer see who I was and I can’t remember who I wanted to become. I used to feel the fleeting joy of sparks on my fingertips. Now, it is just a dullness, an ache. All I want to do is run away. The gloom swallows my steps every time I try and escape.

I haven’t wanted to write about my father; maybe because I was afraid that if I wrote about him, I would lose all hope of escape from the grief. But, I know better. There was never any hope of escape. My father has dementia. Every day, I grieve him, a slow grief. He fades the way my vision fades, pieces of his memory growing dark, trapped in shadow. I am consumed by sadness and a constant feeling that I am failing him, because of my limitations, my blindness and my inability to put my emotions aside, to give even the perception that I am not coming unglued.

I wanted to at least start to share this story today, but even tearing away a small piece feels like a betrayal. I am exhausted and haven’t felt the earth of my life in so long. My voice is numb and I feel emptied out, blank. There is no path. No direction. No light. There is only the weight that comes with watching him forget the shape of his life, knowing that he has forgotten my name, and will one day forget who I am.

For 3 years, I have been watching him become someone else. In many ways, I am closer to him now than I was when his brain was crisp and unclouded. I can finally be what he needs. I finally have value. But, I am losing myself. Joe and I are the only ones who are here, living close by and helping. We have been so alone in this and I am afraid of the tole it is taking on Joe. I don’t talk or think about much else; it is as if I have stopped breathing, as if I am disappearing not only from my father’s memory, but from the grasp of my own life. I have abandoned my writing, but I have come to peace with that. I am doing what I have to do, for now.

I am unsteady, unreliable, untethered. But maybe, for just a moment, I can believe that when I close my eyes, I am not blind.

Storm

I am in the grip of a storm.  I don’t do well in a storm.  I can barely breathe, barely blink.  I am drowning.  I have forgotten that I am supposed to keep my eye on the surface, stretch to the moon, take hold of happiness no matter how fleeting.  I have lost the words, lost the feeling in my fingers and in my bones.  I am a stranger.  I am about to turn 50 and I am a stranger in a body I loathe and abuse.  I don’t recognize the shape of my mouth or this new sadness that slashes it. I have been waiting a lifetime for it all to get easier, just a bit easier. It just gets harder, creaks, shrieks, breaks.  I am not who I was supposed to be.  I can’t remember where I was lost or when I gave up on being found.  I try to smudge out my reflection, fracture it, run from it, pretend that I am not this frail flesh, this breaking heart, this ugliness.  I try to write poems, but they are empty, made of air, burn up before they can draw breath.

A Small Detour

If you are familiar with my blog, then you know I have been posting a new series of recorded poems, starting with my publications in 2015, which came after a lengthy hiatus.  I am going to continue with the older poems, but at the suggestion of my friend Kim, I have recorded my most recent Visual Verse contribution.  And, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Kim’s poetry and her blog, I Tripped Over a Stone, you absolutely must!  Kim is a fiercely loving, kind and talented woman, who I am grateful to know and to learn from.

If you would like to read the original publication of this poem, with the image that inspired it, you can do so here.

How to Say Goodbye

 Promise you won’t forget me,
even when my name
has faded from your tongue.
Remember how I looked
into your eyes,
a season of storms
passed from a mother to a child,
how the strength of an ocean
helped you feel
less afraid.
I would have reached through flames,
cast thunder into a sky
filled with the stench of despair,
to save you
from the horrors of violence and greed.
Promise you won’t forget me,
even when my voice
has turned into a whisper of petals,
caught by a spark that changed
the shape of time.
Feel the imprint of my fingertips
wiping the tears from your cheeks,
and remember,
I will always love you.

It Rained That Day

It is raining in Los Angeles.  31 years ago today, my Mom was buried.  It rained that day as well.

Some years I feel the weight of these days on the anniversary of her death, some years I feel it more keenly on the anniversary of her burial.  The night she died, everything was so quiet and I felt numb, lost.  It was three days later, at the cemetery, that the noise of her absence filled the sky.  I stared at her casket thinking how wrong it was that the wood was polished, shiny.  Rain began to fall as they lowered her body into the ground.  Sobs escaped my throat.  My Dad had to hold me upright so I wouldn’t fall out of the chair.  It was the day the breaking began to consume me.

I wrote this poem on the 25th anniversary of her burial.

Twenty-Five

Twenty- five years ago, I watched strangers
lower my mother’s body into the ground.
It was raining that day.
The soil swallowed up her oak and pink satin casket.
Heavy.  Cold.
Not a place for a woman whose laugh lit up rooms,
whose touch soothed even the deepest aches.
My breath and heart plummeted into the hollow earth and
I broke into pieces that scattered in the rain.
For twenty- five years I have been collecting them.

*first published in Stepping Stones Magazine

Thirty One Years

20842231_10212544257874698_9095782437397899300_n

Thirty one years ago today, after a long battle with a gene mutation that gave her multiple kinds of cancer, my Mom died. She was 52 years old.  This photograph was taken on her 50th birthday.  This year, I will turn 50.  It has been a lifetime without her and I miss her every minute of every day. Continue reading “Thirty One Years”

Increments of Five

Why is it that we give monument to increments of five? Why do five and ten hold more weight than three or seven?  The fifth anniversary of my brother’s death just passed and five years feels impossible.  I have this disbelief that he is gone, and at the same time, feel the unbearable weight of his absence.  How can he be dead?  How can five years have gone by? How is it that life just continues, as if time forgot the sound of his laughter and his suffering?   Continue reading “Increments of Five”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑