Included in this section are meaningful poems written by members of our low vision community. You may submit contributions to Dan Roberts to be considered for publication.
Most of these writings are included in the free large-print book, “Through Our Eyes”, available on this site.
I walked a mile with Vision
She chattered all the way
But left me none the wiser
For what she had to say.
I walked a mile with Blindness
Though not a word said she
But the things I learned from Blindness
When Blindness walked with me.
Isn’t it amazing? You set out in life with a vision of a straight, smoothly-paved road along which you plan to travel unhindered into the future. But sometimes barriers block your way. You then have a choice to either stop and give up, or to shoulder your bag and take the detours.
And that’s the amazing part. There will always be detours, which will take you in some very interesting directions. And every time you return to the main road from one of those adventures, your bag will be a little heavier with the stuff you have picked up: souvenirs, hitchhikers, treasures, even some trash. It’s all in there, and good or bad, it is a unique collection.
You may be afraid right now; but, hopefully, your fear of the unknown will not stop you from taking the detours, because that’s where you will find all of us. And when we all finally get to the end of the road, we’ll throw down our stuff, give one another a big hug, and say, “Wow, that was some trip!”
From my warm chair, I watch it move.
I know it is cold and alone,
It slides slowly and then picks up speed;
And then it is gone from my box view into it’s world.
While my traitorous vision won’t confirm it,
I know it is another drop of rain.
I wish sometimes I could storm and thunder.
I want sad droplets to make their treks down my face,
Not my window.
But I know with an alarming certainty that it won’t happen.
I turn my anger on my sorrow and build walls against the rain.
I hear, “You don’t have to be strong,” and I toughen my resolve.
I hear, “It’s okay to cry,” and I set my jaw against emotion.
I hear, “We care,” and suddenly,
A wall that took all of my effort to build
Becomes a door.
I asked God to take away my pride. And God said “No.”
He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up.
I asked God to make me whole. And God said “No.”
He said, “Your spirit is whole, your body only temporary.”
I asked God to grant me patience. And God said “No.”
He said, “Patience isn’t granted. It is earned.”
I asked God to give me happiness. And God said “No.”
He said, “I give blessings. Happiness is up to you.”
I asked God to spare me pain. And God said “No.”
He said, “Suffering brings you closer to Me.”
I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me.
God smiled and said, “Finally, you have the idea.”
Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. When asked how he was, his response would be, “If I were any better, I’d be twins!”
“I don’t get it!” I told him one day. “You can’t be a positive person all the time. How do you do it?”
Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, ‘Jerry, you have two choices today: you can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.’ I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining, or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.”
Several years later, I heard that three armed robbers held Jerry up at gunpoint in his restaurant. While trying to open the safe, his nervous hand slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found and rushed to the local trauma center. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.
I saw him about six months later, and asked him how he was. He replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins! Wanta see my scars?”
“Weren’t you scared?” I asked.
Jerry said, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room, and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, ‘He’s a dead man.'”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me,” he said. “She asked if I was allergic to anything, and I said, ‘Yes…bullets.’ As everyone laughed, I told them, ‘I’m choosing to live. Operate on me as if I’m alive, not dead.'”
Thanks to the skill of his doctors, Jerry lived, but also because of his amazing attitude. He taught me that we have the choice every day to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.
I was given something to wear that I did not want.
How could having this, help me to be proud?
It was ugly, and dark, just something to taunt.
So I wore this gift as a shroud.
Enveloped in a dimness that I could not shake.
Unable to notice a bright sunny day.
Hoping it was a dream from which I would awake.
Knowing, in fact, that it was here to stay.
Looking for a reason as to why it happened to me.
Wondering, “What’s next?”, to challenge life further.
Feeling so weary of the battles to be.
Knowing that I can’t quit, no matter the future.
I ask myself, “How do I embrace this thing?
Make it part of myself, without it overwhelming?”
An answer to which I wish someone would bring;
So I wait with hope from that eternal spring.
What did that bird look like sitting on the branch?
I must have seen him many times in the past.
Are there leaves on that tree?
Oh, if only I could see.
What’s on the page of the book on my lap?
Things to make me cry or laugh?
How long has it lain there alone unattended
Now I can’t see it, I want to attempt it.
Why do we wait to appreciate what we have?
Why must we lose it to know that it’s gone?
Are memories of past experiences all we have left?
Can we adapt to what’s still possible?
Is knowing enough to sustain us and carry?
Can remembering be comforting to maintain happiness?
Is it really necessary to “see” something to appreciate it?
We sit here and wonder these things.
There was a skinny young boy who loved football with all his heart. Practice after practice, he eagerly gave everything he had; but being half the size of the others, he rarely got into the games. In spite of that, his father was always in the stands cheering.
After high school, he made the college team as a “walk-in.” The coach admitted that he put the boy on the roster because he always put lots of heart and soul into every practice, providing the other members with the spirit and hustle they badly needed.
His father shared his excitement and got season tickets for all the college games. As before, the young athlete never missed practice during his four years at college, but he never got to play in a game. At the end of his senior football season, as he trotted onto the practice field shortly before the big playoff game, he was handed a telegram.
After reading it, he mumbled to the coach, “My father died this morning. Is it all right if I miss practice today?” The coach put his arm gently around his shoulder and said, “Take the rest of the week off, son. And don’t try to come back for the game on Saturday.”
Saturday arrived, and the team was behind by ten points in the third quarter. They were surprised to see the young man appear on the sidelines, dressed in his football gear. He ran to the coach and begged to be put into the game. After delaying as long as possible, the coach finally said, “All right. Go on in.”
The boy did everything right. He ran, blocked, and tackled like a star. His team began to triumph, and, in the closing seconds, he intercepted a pass and scored the winning touchdown.
The fans broke loose, and his teammates hoisted the boy onto their shoulders. Later, after the stands had emptied and the team had showered and left the locker room, the coach saw the boy sitting alone in the corner. “Son,” said the coach, “what got into you tonight?”
“Well,” the boy answered, “did I ever tell you that my dad was blind?” He swallowed and forced a smile, “He never missed a game, but today was the first time he could see me play.”
This coming Thursday, April 16, I say good-bye to a career path that stretches back nearly two decades. It seems I can’t keep the pace any longer. I’m dragging my team down when only a year ago I was propelling it forward. It’s time to go.
You know, some things we choose, and some things just happen; but all in all, one’s life can get to be like a cluttered closet. I can stand back from it all now and see what and why and how things happened, and choose again what I would do differently this next time around. I can clean out the closet and decide what to keep and what to toss, because it is as though nothing needs to necessarily carry forward except my love for special people and my most basic principles.
This time there will be no more clever strategies to keep myself on the same path, the way I did with earlier vision setbacks. This is the time to harvest the lessons and blessings of the past, immerse myself in some of that laid-back peace, and–through a mixture of discovery, recovery, and decision-making–build a fresh life organized in new ways and carried forward by new means.
I’m not losing everything by losing a career, or even all those strategic adjustments made to keep it afloat as my eyesight dimmed. I’m glad for every piece of it, but won’t mourn its passing. Every 24 hours the world spins around, and a new day replaces the one before it–no matter what we have, what we do, what we lose, or what we choose. Sometimes what we do is a pain when we do it, but later it is a memory, and all memories are resources if we choose to accept them as such.
I’ve chosen to simply harvest the bounty of the past, assess the lessons I’ve learned, and sow the seeds for a new future. If you have a thankfulness for what you’ve received and a faith that life always has possibilities, there is no reason to fear. Be my witnesses: I’ll see less, but I’ll do more, and give more, and receive more. To me there are only two choices: either you harvest the best from the past, learn from the mistakes, and keep yourself active so that life’s possibilities can be found, or you sink into despair, wither and shrivel, and become a faded memory of whom you once were, and a shadow of whom you ought to be–and you can’t see shadows anymore.
Your face, your smile, I have never seen.
I don’t know the color of your skin.
Your voice and laughter I have never heard.
I don’t know if it is soft or loud.
Your hugs I have never felt.
I don’t know the strength of your arms.
Your hand I have never touched.
I don’t know if it is calloused and worn.
But to me you are my friend:
Dearer and sweeter than many I’ve found.
The questions come to me, “How can that be?”
“You don’t know a face, touch, or a sound.”
But is it the physical nature of a person
That causes me to call you “my friend?”
Or the feel of a touch or the strength of a hug?
I don’t need those for you to be my friend.
You have shared with me words of strength
When at times I have felt weak and worn.
You have brought to me a smile, a laugh,
Uplifting me and bringing me joy.
You have bent your “ear” to me and listened,
Then gently guided and directed with your words.
You have hugged me tight, wiped my tears,
Then generously given to me above and beyond.
You are more to me than words on a screen;
For behind those words is a person who cares.
A person with feelings, a tear, and a laugh,
Who holds my mind safe and secure.
For even though I don’t know your face, your touch,
I feel and see you in my mind.
You have been all to me that I’ve needed you to be
Now and forever within my heart…
My Faceless Friend.
The park bench was deserted as I sat down to read
Beneath the long, straggly branches of an old willow tree.
Disillusioned by life with good reason to frown,
For the world was intent on dragging me down.
And if that weren’t enough to ruin my day,
A young boy out of breath approached me, all tired from play.
He stood right before me with his head tilted down
And said with great excitement, “Look what I found!”
In his hand was a flower, and what a pitiful sight,
With its petals all worn – not enough rain, or too little light.
Wanting him to take his dead flower and go off to play,
I faked a small smile and then shifted away.
But instead of retreating he sat next to my side
And placed the flower to his nose,
And declared with overacted surprise,
“It sure smells pretty and it’s beautiful, too.
That’s why I picked it. Here, it’s for you.”
The weed before me was dying or dead.
Not vibrant of colors: orange, yellow or red.
But I knew I must take it, or he might never leave.
So I reached for the flower, and replied, “Just what I need.”
But instead of him placing the flower in my hand,
He held it mid-air without reason or plan.
It was then that I noticed for the very first time
That weed-toting boy could not see: he was blind.
I heard my voice quiver; tears shone in the sun
As I thanked him for picking the very best one.
You’re welcome,” he smiled, and then ran off to play,
Unaware of the impact he’d had on my day.
I sat there and wondered how he managed to see
A self-pitying woman beneath an old willow tree.
How did he know of my self-indulged plight?
Perhaps from his heart, he’d been blessed with true sight.
Through the eyes of a blind child, at last I could see:
The problem was not with the world; the problem was me.
And for all of those times I myself had been blind,
I vowed to see the beauty in life,
And appreciate every second that’s mine.
And then I held that wilted flower up to my nose
And breathed in the fragrance of a beautiful rose,
And smiled as I watched that young boy,
Another weed in his hand,
About to change the life of an unsuspecting old man.
I see the sweet face of a child and her shyly-penned words of love.
I see stars that are bright in their patterns of gods in the gloaming above.
I see the one whom I married sleeping in the first dim light of dawn,
And I find my way from the darkened room to put my slippers on.
I see the sepia photographs printing sun shadows on the wall,
And every red leaf of the maple announces its fluttering fall.
I see every note on the page of a Beethoven bagatelle,
And a smile from a sickroom sentinal assures that a friend is well.
I see strokes of a brush once held by the likes of Degas or MonÃ¯Â¿Â½t
As they borrowed the colorful contours of a clear and crystalline day.
I see the well-rehearsed gestures of actors performing their scenes,
Then follow them unhesitatingly into the darkness between.
I see this world in its wholeness, with clarity set apart
From the inadequacies of troubled eyes. I see with memory and my heart.
A miracle came my way when I awoke today.
I saw my room in color, not just shades of gray.
My family in the photos smiled unblemished from the wall;
The lamp that once was crooked now stood straight and tall;
The titles on my dusty books glowed clearly from the shelf;
And, in the mirror beside my bed, I could see myself.
I reveled in that moment between wakefulness and sleep,
But knew it was a fleeting gift I’m not allowed to keep.
So with some regret, I thanked the Sender of the prize,
And let it go where all dreams go, as I opened up my eyes.
I came to the swift, raging river,
And the roar held the echo of fear.
“Oh, Lord, give me wings to fly over,
If You are as You promised, quite near.”
But He said, “Trust the grace I am giving,
All pervasive, sufficient for you . . .
Take My hand – we will face this together,
But My plan is not OVER but THROUGH.”
I once could see the looks they gave
for people like me.
Some pity, confusion a and even shock
that someone couldn’t see.
Like speaking with foreign words,
it’s hard to understand
the uncommon particularities
of a partially sighted man.
I struggle with the secret
of what to tell and when.
To face the discomfort sooner
or to continue to pretend…
My vision has no destination,
no arrival point.
Yet, to make loss my focus
would only disappoint.
I’ve met those insidious thieves:
Fear, Doubt, and Pride.
Still, I find myself allowing
them to be my guide.
I thank you God for courage,
for others who remind
that spending time with thoughts that lie
is worse than wasting time.
For no matter how long we do it,
the same truth remains:
the one we’ll find in that secret place
the body can’t restrain.
Suddenly I’m a stranger
in this world I call my home.
Amidst familiar settings
I sometimes feel alone.
My eye sight’s growing dimmer
and the sounds of life grow faint.
I’m almost like the artist
who’s misplaced his tube of paint.
My friends all tend to holler and
to grab my arm and shove,
To see I walk a straight line
and I know it’s done with love.
The family doesn’t understand
because I seem a little strange.
When I insist familiar’s better
that it’s hard to deal with change.
Folks always seem to question
when your eyesight’s not so keen.
Sometimes they think you’ve snubbed them
when in fact they were not seen.
To tell the truth it’s easier
to sit at home and mope,
But all the work is waiting
for me to learn to cope.
I still retain my talents
and with God’s boundless grace,
I’ll overcome life’s challenges
and meet them face to face.
I’m oft’ in need of guidance
and my foolish pride must start
to realize, with clouded eyes
I still see, with my heart.
When I tend to get discouraged
and feel I’m not quite whole,
I place myself in Heaven’s Hands
and listen, with my soul.
I live in a world without readable signs,
No faces with features, or even straight lines.
Things taken for granted, once seen clear as day,
Now shrouded forever in layers of gray.
As if once removed, life is now passing by,
Viewed as it is from the corner of my eye.
Like all that’s around me has been re-arranged,
But it isn’t the world, it’s I who have changed.
The sun’s magic remains, at dusk and at dawn,
But it’s just not the same, with it’s center gone.
Once transfixed by its colors, I’d sit and stare.
Now I look to the side, and just know it’s there,
If I could be spared just one gift for a while,
I’d choose to be touched by the warmth of a smile.
To be given the chance to stand face to face,
And look into one’s eyes, and not empty space.
With technology’s tools, I will persevere,
And as time’s gone by, I’ve overcome my fear.
But the detail of things, wherein beauty lies,
Still remains out of reach, of these broken eyes
My blue eyes open now just as they always did,
But rather than pure sunlight, I see a cloud instead.
The sunlight still warms me and always lights my way,
But the cloud in the center turns faces gray.
The objects that I look at are becoming unclear,
And memories of sharp vision are becoming more dear.
I still see completely in my mind’s eye,
But the cloud in the center blocks the blue of the sky.
All that I see are the edges and the sides.
The center of life’s picture behind the gray cloud hides.
My sight is failing, but my faith in God and family remains.
I’ll continue to find the sunlight, even through these closed blue window panes.
Standing alone, I sip my drink,
People around, I try to think,
No need for panic, some are friends,
But can I find them, that depends.
To find someone, I have to be,
Somewhere where someone can see me.
For otherwise I’ll pass them by,
Their face escaping from my eye.
I wait and soon someone comes near,
Though where they’re looking isn’t clear.
It seems they’re coming right at me,
I brace myself, who can it be?
Familier carriage, shape, and gait,
but still unsure, I hesitate.
Too many times I’ve felt the sting,
that using the wrong name can bring.
I shift my gaze from side to side,
In hopes they’ll be identified.
But features I should recognize,
Remain elusive from my eyes.
It’s nothing new, I have no choice,
I wait until I hear the voice.
A welcome sound – still makes me sad,
He touches me, and says “Hi dad.”
A person with RP
Can know you are there but have no idea who you are
Can watch a movie but miss all the full screen action, any dim scenes, and all the subtitles
Can see the sky but not the stars
Can read a book but can’t find the book
Can paint the entire house and the next night, not see the house, car, driveway, etc.
Can put up sheet rock and install fixtures but not see the tools at his feet
Can craft an intricately detailed guitar and not be able to locate it in a room
Defined by the state as a “Catastrophic Disability”
Defined by those who have it by the series of adjustments that make up life
Not sighted enough to be sighted
Sighted enough to get around in a restaurant, awkwardly hesitating, then bumping into people while finding the way to the table or the mensroom.
Not blind enough to be blind
Blind enough to need a cane to avoid stumbling, yet able to look you right in the eyes while you speak.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s worse. Explaining how sighted you are to the sighted world or how blind you are to the blind world.
Justifying your ability or explaining your disability.
Hard, I know, for people to understand
Hard, I know, to experience
Not Impossible. . . Just Hard.
And God created light,
So Mankind could view the colors of Earth.
Then Satan created ultraviolet rays,
And Mankind covered his eyes.
And God created a bounty of fruits and vegetables,
For the better sight of Mankind.
Then Satan created tobacco,
And Mankind inhaled.
And God created intelligence,
So Mankind could build machines for seeing and learning.
Then Satan created ignorance,
And Mankind published manuals in small fonts and large words.
And God created language,
So Mankind could freely share knowledge.
Then Satan created greed,
And Mankind invented subscription fees.
And God created empathy,
So Mankind might help itself to heal.
Then Satan created insurance,
And Mankind invented HMOs.
And God spoke to Satan, saying,
“I have given to Mankind many wondrous things,
That he might see with the eyes of an eagle,
And you have thwarted me at every turn.
Don’t you have anything better to do?”
Then Satan sneered and created hopelessness,
And Mankind began to drown in self-pity.
So God raised Mankind high above the earth, saying,
“Behold all that I have given you.
Why do you let the shadows in your eyes
Dim the light in your mind?”
Then God grabbed Satan by the horns,
And flung him into the realm of the visually-impaired,
Who then awoke in great numbers and
Set about giving the devil Hell.
And Satan cried, “I thought you people were blind!”
“We may be,” they said, “but together, we see you very clearly.”
So the devil retreated in haste to his dark domain,
Where he ruled over the sighted who chose not to see.
And there he remained, befuddled, for the rest of his days.
For every star left dim
a universe of courage has been lit.
For every knowing glance that’s missed,
a heart of insight enjoyed.
Each temptation of independence thwarted
a freedom given, uncorrupted.
And for every tear that’s shed,
a well of compassion filled.
The isolation of faceless crowds
calls the deep ache of unseen smiles.
Yet the outreached hand of kindness
breaks the silence with laughter’s grin.
A thorn, to some it’s called,
a true and worthy title.
But those who overcome the wound
marvel in the flower’s glory.
Is the trade an even swap?
Could I know surrender’s power without?
Acceptance, not the loser’s consolation,
but the faithful crown of victory!
The day started out rotten. I overslept and was late for work. Everything that happened at the office contributed to my nervous frenzy. By the time I reached the bus stop for my homeward trip, my stomach was one big knot.
As usual, the bus was late – and jammed. I had to stand in the aisle. As the lurching vehicle pulled me in all directions, my gloom deepened.
Then I heard a deep voice from up front boom, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” Because of the crowd, I could not see the man, but I could hear him as he continued to comment on the spring scenery, calling attention to each approaching landmark. This church. That park. This cemetery. That firehouse. Soon all the passengers were gazing out the windows. The man’s enthusiasm was so contagious I found myself smiling for the first time that day. We reach my stop. Maneuvering toward the door, I got a look at our “guide”: a plump figure with a black beard, wearing dark glasses and carrying a thin white cane.
No! Never! Impossible!
This Cannot Be Happening
Screaming, Crying, Cringing
I Am So Frightened
Begging, Dealing, Promising,
What Can I Do?
Resignation Helpless, Hopeless
Acquiescing, Surrendering, Yielding
I Can Do Nothing
Acknowledging, Agreeing, Understanding
Life Continues after MD
You don’t have to see to brush your teeth,
Or rinse that mouth that you love to feed.
You don’t have to see to kiss the head
Of the grandchild you hold until ready for bed.
You don’t have to see to smell a rose
Or feel a dandelion tickle your nose.
You don’t have to see to clean your ears,
And to hear the latest news both far and near.
You don’t have to see to talk on the phone,
And gab with the girls, on and on.
You don’t have to see to feel the warm sun
And the cool ocean breeze while at the beach having fun.
You don’t have to see to taste the fragrant wine,
One glass is enough, ..it will do just fine.
You don’t have to see to sit in your swing,
And listen to all the birds so sweetly sing.
You don’t have to see to go out to lunch,
With kind friends to assist you a bunch and a bunch.
You don’t have to see to stroke your dog’s fur,
Or hear your kitty cat, purr and purr.
You don’t have to see to hear good books on tape,
And listen to music..so beautiful and great.
You don’t have to see if you know how to care,
And help others by spending much time in prayer.
You DO have to see to drive around town,
But I sure don’t miss those traffic jams.
You DO have to see to read your grandkids a book,
But you can tell a tale curled up in a nook.
You DO have to see to go out and shop,
But now I don’t have to shop ’til I drop!
You DO have to see to cook a good meal,
Now hubby helps out…oh, what a deal!
You DO have to see to walk around outside,
But to hold on to someone…well, I swallow some pride.
So all I can say to this saga of mine,
Is to seek and be content with the passing of time.
And I’ll always hope that someday divine,
We will all see clearer than we do at this time.
I feel my life is all a blur:
I cannot tell a him from her.
I once approached a garbage pail,
And thought it an attractive male.
And since I am a friendly soul,
I wave and smile at every pole.
And this is just the normal state
Of a macular degenerate.
There are lines everywhere.
The world is rife with lines:
lines down the middle of the road,
louvres, blinds, tile foors, street signs,
roof lines, light poles, picture frames.
Angles are mitered, poles are plumbed.
But for me they are no longer straight.
They wave, undulate, snake and dip.
Words rollercoaster across the page.
My stomach lurches with each new assault
as my eyes try to make sense of them,
as my vision unravels.
I turn from this man-made world to God’s,
where lines are more forgiving,
made with curves and crags and bumps.
I rest my eyes on true things:
clouds, crooked coconut trees, the Koolau crests.
and still – for now – your sweet face.