18 November 2013

Seeing Clearly

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by dongga BS

When her right hand crossed the line 
from maybe dropping coffee
to most certainly dropping
it, she lost her signature
so bought a used copy of
Handwriting for Heroes and
practiced writing with her left.

Switching dominance involves
nausea and loss of balance,
she learned, as if she walked on
shipboard in a rocking sea,
as if she were absorbing
new tongues, eyes and finger tips,
as if her left hand had slept.

Should have done this long ago
she thought, as if hand use was
a skill one could prepare to
lose just like she had done with
eyesight, spending hours with eyes
closed and moving blindfolded
alone at home, just in case.

Silly girl, building her book
collection on Audible,
lying in bed at night while
clear voices read her novels,
poems,  French phrases and
mythology  (she peeks to
find her text and location).

When doors close, windows open,
she reminds herself, but
there is no harm in being
prepared.  She sighs at falling
back on cliches and wonders
if she can give them up as
easily as eyes and hand.

No, she  cannot.  Old sayings
are as comforting as down
blankets, nesting her in tried
and true words, stabilizing
her vision amid chaos
and protecting her until
she is strong and quite ready.

Stronger and more ready, she will
stride firmly past cultural
gates into the structures that
support them so that—if she
chooses them—she will know them
first, her right hand knowing her
left, her eyes knowing her heart. 

A rough-hewn sevenling posted for Open Link Monday at the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads.

Copyright © 2013  S.L.Chast


Kay L. Davies said...

Wow, this is powerful, Susan. Of course I want to know if any or all of it is true.
I've dealt with eyesight problems myself, first discovering there was a problem when driving through miles and miles of mountains and meeting unexpected snow at the summit, and driving my brother's brand new SUV. Not when you want to realize you have cataracts.
But I do know someone who deliberately taught herself to write with both hands when she was young, so that she grew up ambidextrous. And of course everyone tries it at least once when 9 or 10 years old.
Your poem raises so many questions while at the same time making it all seem reasonable (although trying to listen to audio books puts me to sleep).
Once more, my friend, you "give me to think"!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

You have written my own fears, as my mother and grandma lost so much of their vision in their last years, and we are all such readers. Most, I would miss seeing the beauty of the natural world, of which I can never drink my fill. I hope this is a profile of someone other than you, Susan but, whoever it is, she is making her way with wisdom and heart along the dimming path.

Anonymous said...

Loved this, a wry, taut, tender meditation on how much gets into the act of switching dominance. I wonder if cultures have to walk the same fire becoming their other. Wonderfully constructed and delivers the knockout at the end. - Brendan

revelations said...

I found this powerful as well... so many questions.. with so many answers...

Grandmother Mary said...

If it's in an effort to get past cultural gates to foundations, I'm for it, whatever it takes. I like the reference to the right hand knowing her left which changes the usual saying. Intriguing poem.

Susie Clevenger said...

Susan, this is awesome! I love the ending....

Susan said...

Hey, Key! This has truth, as they say. The stimulus was dropping my coffee to-go with its loose lid in my car this morning. My right hand has nerve damage and the cup holder is to the right. I am indeed working at the switch. The eyesight is not going, I borrowed that from my deceased Grandmother, though I have the Audible collection. I also have a ready repertoire of cliches. And I love hitting all these buttons in your thought zone, my friend.

Susan said...

Thank you, Sherry. Yes, I am touching the fear because of mother and grandmother, too, though mom had laser surgery and, at 90, is reading and painting as if she never had a problem. We have to live in the moment, Sherry, fully. It, at least, is certain.

Susan said...

Thank you, Brendon. You raise a good question. It is certainly a much larger twisting for an entire culture.

Susan said...

Thank you, Mary!

Brian Miller said...

def thought provoking and emotion exploration of loss of things that define us...the switch...its not easy...i went through a forced switch years ago when i tore all the tendons in my wrist...

Steve King said...

This matter of fact rendition of such a dramatic transition magnifies the power of your narrative. You speak here with insight and generosity. I enjoyed reading this piece a great deal. Nicely done.

Peggy said...

I have had similar thoughts as in your poem--thinking I should practice getting around without sight since my mother lost almost all her vision as did her father. Interesting photo too.

Ella said...

I too felt the emotional pulls of losing control of one's senses. Ouch...I am so happy you are okay and not all of this is true~
Hang in there Susan!
I too love how you summed it all up-

Jim said...

Sounds like a cheap high, Susan. Not a very pleasant experience though.
I identified right away with your lines, "When her right hand crossed the line
from maybe dropping coffee to most certainly dropping ..."
We were having a social night playing Texas 42. When it was my turn to
shuffle the dominoes someone grabbed my glass next to me so it wouldn't
spill. I pulled it back and said that I had 'never knocked over a glass.'
Wouldn't you know it, but that very night I tipped over a glass that fell
to the floor. Bite my tongue next time.
I liked reading this, trying to second guess where was next. I never could guess.


Anonymous said...

Kay brings up the good point of us all trying the other hand. I still do, when throwing a frisbee with my sons. My handwriting is so bad in the first place that it might make sense to try the other hand, too. Yes, a thought-provoking write ~

Vandana Sharma said...

She has will power and that is great.

Anonymous said...

I love the way you've written this your word choices, the phrasing, it is so beautiful. I love the sense of hope and adversity, the resilience and the ability to find opportunity despite odds. Wonderfully done

Sumana Roy said...

fears grip us but as you say we have to live in the moment..........great lines......

Marian said...

sevenling? i forget what that is. *runs off to look*
this is epic, Susan-- so well done. i had a time when my right wrist (dominant hand) was injured and it was all-consuming. i like how you travel from that to something much bigger here. nice!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I read this yesterday and I'm not sure I fully understand the layers of meaning, but you have conveyed the discomfort of adapting to a new lifestyle, be it using a left instead of right hand, or any big change that does not sit so easily on the one forced to learn over.

Susan said...

Amen for the answers.

Susan said...

Thank you, Steve. I've just begun the handwriting thing. If I don't succeed I may sing a different tune.

Susan said...

For me, now, it's just a game. But it raises confidence as well.

Susan said...

Thnaks, Ella. I love when you visit.

Susan said...

I think that's a compliment? Thanks for the anecdote. I have to expect it to happen and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't.

Susan said...

Thank you, Michael. I so loved the days when these things didn't have to be given attention at all.

Susan said...

Thank you, Vandana. You are so right.

Susan said...

Thank you so much!

Susan said...

Thank you, Sumana.

Susan said...

Well, each stanza doesn't exactly have the meaning pattern a seven-ling calls for, but here are 7 x 7 lines with 7 syllables. Thank you for reminding me that this tiredness I feel may stem from all the time and attention change takes.

Susan said...

I'm so tired, Kerry, that I can't reread it myself. You have the gist of it, but I think I embedded some playfulness too around the cliches also being a pattern that needs breaking. At least, I thought it was funny to find comfort in over-used phrases..

Mary said...

I think we use those 'overworked phrases' for a reason really. It is because they apply to one's life so well. I won't even TRY not to continue to use them if they feel good. Kind of like a soft blanket in my life!

Anonymous said...

"as if she were absorbing
new tongues, eyes and finger tips,
as if her left hand had slept." I loved this passage and the closing was just superb. You handled cliche with such elegance and in the midst of such gorgeous inspired work. I have never been good at change

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, moving and brave - and wonderfully cadenced.