“People (who lose one eye) speak of feeling ‘disconnected,’ of a difficulty relating themselves not only spatially, but emotionally to what they are seeing.”
- Oliver Sacks
My father carved me long ago from his belly --
spark-bright chisel hammered hard and deep,
first below, then just above the navel --
and my mother, spidersilk thin and white,
poured cool water over the seams
and cracks in my flint-flake skin.
I felt and heard the steam rise to her face
and cleanse her; I envisioned her hair
as halo, her ever-bent back as wood pulp
from which wings would sprout.
Father laid his tools beneath an almond tree
and rapped its trunk to gather the green
and bitter fruit; mother wound me in cheesecloth
and honey and nursed me near the sea.
For sight, they gave me each an eye:
One opal, one ruby, one occluded, one ruddy,
both brilliant and hard. To live they gave me an island,
and they gave me flesh with which
to cover myself and the loose gravel of my soul.
I grew massively large; befriending a bear,
I shared his cave as a home. The gulls
circled and playfully called; the sheep kneeled
as if praying. Father threw the sun
high in the air in the morning, and Mother tugged
it down and hung the moon to dry at night.
Yet its white canvas rotted: the bulges in the crease
of Mother’s back bloomed roots instead of feathers.
They bore in and held and hugged her lungs
too tightly. She died at twilight
and the sky lay bare and absent of cloud.
I plucked my eye from its socket
and heaved it towards the sea. It stuck,
shivering in the air, round and coarse as pear skin;
it lit the mountains like lamplight, their lines
darkened and sagging like ashen, burnt boughs.
The wheat fields swayed only sideways
and did not reach their tufted arms towards me;
I saw the gulls and the sheep swirl,
and I felt enclosed and flattened;
heaven surely pressed upon my head.
The waves crashed and their bearded spray
fell without clamor on jaundice-yellow sand.
I could not recognize the beasts around me
nor comprehend their color. I tore at them
and ate their tripe; I feared losing its offal smell.
Then men arrived in ships -- coal-black hulls,
thick ropes of hemp, blustery sailcloth --
and alighted upon the beach. I tossed them back
like lodes of heavy ore and hid in the cavern,
the walls both distant and crowding together,
pressing down as worms in the dirt.
I slept soundly, yet awoke to incredible pain:
one fellow had speared my gemstone eye
with a charred oak limb. Ruby bled
ruby alike and a darkness filled my sight.
Yet what wonderful blackness this was:
like moth wings beating away at the light,
like hands peeling bark to reveal
the textured grain inside. I sat, comprehending,
as the world rearranged itself to sound:
the grass breathing, the waves clapping like eggshells.
I readied my body for return to my Father
and cried to my Mother for what I had done.
A storm arrived and the thunder resounded
on both sides; it pulled me in, cradling,
and whispered with shallow breath for rest.