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Rated: E · Poetry · Experience · #2072018
Sometimes you have to look to see...
Prompt for: Jan 16, 2016 (Ren)

Subject or Theme: Write about some historical figure you admire.

Word(s) to Include: magnetic, (see below)(or any derivatives of these words)

Forbidden Word(s): admire, glory, history, love, respect (or any derivatives, compound or hyphenations of these words)

Additional Parameters: Include the name of the person you are writing about in the poem; 20 lines minimum

Remember, do not use forbidden words ANYWHERE, including title or the brief description.


In 1960, cradled in my mother’s arms,
leaving the hospital after surgery,
we were in a head-on collision.
I went through the windshield,
face first.
Seatbelts weren’t invented yet.

Neither was safety glass.
Shards went into my eyes:
clear glass blocking all light.
The doctors wouldn’t say
if I’d ever see again.
They were not hopeful.

I’d always been afraid of the dark;
fears allayed by night lights.
I curled in my bed, hiding.
I ran, blindly, down halls
until I crashed into one wall
or another.

My grandmother, Annie, read me a story
of a girl my age, who was blind and deaf.
I covered my ears: it was so bad being blind
but not being able to even hear?
Her name was Helen Keller. Annie told me
I’d learn to see in different ways.

I felt so trapped, black wall
suffocating, squeezing. Add silence, Annie said.
Imagine only faint remembrance
of there being an entire world outside
that black silence. Hellen learned to believe.
In believing, she found the knowing.

I didn’t believe her. But I learned to tap-step
going down stairs, to listen to how water sounds
when the glass is almost full.
Annie let go of my hand
and made me follow the sound of her voice.
Over and over she read me Helen’s story.

I learned to swim in our lake: nothing to run into.
No walls. I couldn’t fall. Follow her voice
back to shore, find my feet. Surgery left flashing
lights. No longer totally dark,
but the flashes still didn’t let me see.
Curled up again, back into hiding …

Annie read of Helen learning to read dots instead of letters,
how she learned to 'hear' by placing her fingers
on lips, her hand on a chest to feel reverberations.
She learned to talk and be understood. She was free.
If she could learn how to do all that, Annie told me,
so could I. So would I.

New machine that banged and clanked. Monster
teeth gnashing, grinding. I thought it would chew me up.
Powerful magnets pulled, not shattered glass,
but minute slivers and slices of metal from my eyes.
Bandages, scars, without and within. Annie read,
refusing to let me retreat into darkness while we waited.

I remember the kids in the ward being excited,
watching through the window as a building across the street
burned to the ground, burned so brightly it lit up our room.
I cried because I couldn’t see it too.
Annie told me I was the lucky one:
I didn’t see the children burning. And she read.

If Helen could; so would I. Annie’s mantra.
Tiny buttons sewed inside my clothes, tying
sneakers without ever seeing the bunny ears.
Taking me to a big field where I could run and run:
I didn't understand, then, she was showing me that I
could run to and not just away.

Journey navigating hospital halls, lefts and rights,
steps counted: find this, find that, find my room again.
Helen found her way around the world: experiencing
by touch the Parthenon, the Coliseum, by vibrations
the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. We both learned
hot stoves. Bandaged fingers cannot communicate.

Light stabbed. Brilliant flashes of agony as gauze
pads were lifted. Explosions of white,
blinding in intensity. Then bits of blurred blue.
Annie’s eyes looking directly into mine.
Thick glasses fitted and blurred images cleared.
I wanted to see Helen Keller:

She refuted her prison.
Made her own light. Defined and changed
the world she didn't see, reimagined, instead,
all it could be. Helen Keller refused
to wear blinders much as many unknowingly do.
She refused to allow masks to define her.

When Annie was old, she went nearly blind.
I showed her what she’d taught me.
I read Helen Keller to her from the same book.
Her mantra changed: I did it, so would she.
After surgery gave her back her sight, Annie said
she had new understanding of how brave I’d been.

Wasn’t. Not really.
Helen Keller had her Annie Sullivan,
I had my grandmother.
The Annies were brave ones too,
unfailing candles in a time of dark.
Beacons both, lighting the way.

Helen Keller
will always be my light-bringer.
She taught me that even a small flame
will, in one way or another,
obliterate the darkness.
Annie was my candle, but Helen was the flame.
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