Blindfold

Blindfold

JOHN MIKHAIL ASFOUR
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 106
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt80f76
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    Blindfold
    Book Description:

    A sense of exile and belonging dominates the poems, following the journey of a blind man whose life in his new land has been hampered by prejudice and barriers to communication. Exposing the rich and surprising possibilities of a life that has undergone a frightening transformation, Blindfold relates feelings of loss, displacement, and disorientation experienced not only by the disabled but by everyone who finds themselves separated from the norm. Silver Threads He recalls the absence of sound, the impossible silence the disappearance of light. He is only aware of the movement of his mother's hand inside her purse, looking for her handkerchief. He recalls her warning not to play with unknown objects the type that explode on impact. Later, he lies in the dark remembering how she pointed out the silver threads of the morning light just the day before and he sparkles with guilt.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8560-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  3. A DIFFERENT WORLD
    (pp. 3-5)

    There’s no joy

    in losing

    one of your senses,

    it is a falsehood

    that other senses will make up for the loss.

    One fifth of the world

    shifts,

    turns into images

    and the sight you once had

    is replaced by a metaphor.

    The vision you scanned the world with

    moves

    to settle in the recesses

    of your memory,

    to form permanent scenes

    imprinted in your visual field,

    etched in sharp clarity

    like the pain of love

    like nothing

    other senses can be

    a surrogate for.

    Some retains its original value but the rest

    fades over the years

    or alters

    into...

  4. MEDITERRANEAN EYES
    (pp. 6-10)

    I leave the house

    for coffee and a muffin,

    my feet count the outside stairs

    that guide me to the sidewalk.

    The skin on my face

    measures the temperature as the exhaust

    of a passing car assaults my nostrils.

    My white cane,

    being an extension of my arm, feels

    its way between curbs and lawns,

    denoting driveways and cracks, certain

    to trail the middle of the sidewalk,

    avoid lamp posts, street signs

    and trees planted at random. The city

    catches me around the corner in noises and smells,

    I probe for the pole to press the traffic light button

    distracted...

  5. THE BLIND SHEPHERD
    (pp. 11-12)

    It was as if he had a sensory map

    inside his head, knew all the shortcuts

    to the fields and the mountain top.

    Of course, the guard dog helped keep the flock in line

    and hearing the bell that always rang

    on the neck of the first male goat, he was

    certain that no harm would befall the animals.

    He’d come to depend on his cane,

    held it before him in familiar places,

    moved it left and right in a steady pace as a blind man does

    and was not sure who he was without it.

    Spring was the easy...

  6. CALL TO MIND
    (pp. 13-14)

    I try to imagine

    what it is like not to be blind,

    not to have to listen to the sound of traffic in order

    to cross the street

    not to identify things by smell or touch,

    not to carry a white cane,

    remove my dark glasses for good.

    I am so used to being me now,

    after acquiring blindness as a nationality

    a change would be a real shock to my system

    and a real kick in the teeth to all of those

    who have known me and still make the mistake

    of thinking that I can see.

    I am...

  7. ADMITTING THE LIGHT
    (pp. 15-17)

    Uncle Nima was blind

    to the end of his life

    and none recalled why.

    He obscured his name like grace

    and wore it embroidered with sin,

    as he liked to confess.

    Like a busy broom without the bristles

    severed off an oak tree, his cane swept him

    to rare possibilities

    and at times, to the edge of a cliff:

    “I am Moses,” he would say.

    “I changed a snake to a wand, made love

    to women in the desert

    and had no desire to haul down tablets.”

    Tap, tap, and tap he would go

    through cobblestones, tap,

    tap, and tap...

  8. TELLING HER STORIES
    (pp. 18-19)

    My children have only seen her

    in the album, knitting needles

    in hands, creating first,

    then delivering, mitts, gloves, scarves and cushions

    in different patterns. They’ve asked

    about dates and places,

    wondered what jobs she held

    and “What books did she leave behind?” They hear

    her stories each time

    I take her out of the cold ground

    and ask her to make me

    cheese, vine leaves or tea:

    Child in the war, she refused to eat

    bread made of barley and corn

    and impossible to chew;

    almost bled to death

    and still lost the first two born

    and suffered from...

  9. THE STRAW CHAIR
    (pp. 20-21)

    He bought it for me

    from the gypsies who came to the village

    one summer and pitched

    their tents by the river.

    For three days

    I traced the patterns of the straw on the seat

    the carving on the legs the figures

    on the spokes. I wouldn’t let

    anyone touch or come close

    I would sit and get off, only

    to sit again

    I told everyone,

    “Look what my father bought me.”

    I made up stories and retold them

    to anyone who would listen.

    I chased the genies away

    at will

    summoned them

    to be present

    to grant wishes

    to...

  10. UNCLE
    (pp. 22-22)

    He changed

    his name

    from Yusif to Joseph,

    later to Joe

    and insisted on airing

    a different tie every day.

    He moved from Park Extension

    to Ville Saint Laurent

    and finally settled

    in Park Ex again.

    But he had his eye on the wall that kept him

    away from Mont Royal. He orated

    about all the companies

    he could have operated

    and all the boardrooms he could have chaired

    had it not been for the failure of

    his three sons. And his son-in-law was always

    a source of recrimination

    boasting his military history

    trying to lessen the impact of failure....

  11. SILVER THREADS
    (pp. 23-23)

    He recalls

    the absence of sound, the impossible silence

    the disappearance of light.

    He is only aware of

    the movement of his

    mother’s hand inside

    her purse, looking

    for her handkerchief.

    He recalls her

    warning not to play

    with unknown objects

    the type that explode on impact. Later,

    he lies in the dark remembering

    how she pointed out

    the silver threads of the morning light

    just the day before

    and he sparkles

    with guilt....

  12. WINGS
    (pp. 24-24)

    They will tell you,

    the healers:

    soon enough,

    someone

    will break into my skull,

    install a computer chip

    in my visual field,

    turn my glasses into

    a video camera,

    retrieve eighty percent

    of my vision.

    Then I will be able

    to remove the blindfold

    and see

    George Herbert’s “Easter Wings”

    and my children’s eyes....

  13. DECEMBER 25TH
    (pp. 25-25)

    To hear their laughter,

    to feel their excitement,

    to watch them run from room to room

    setting gifts apart

    and shredding the wrapping,

    two small beings

    driven by their desire

    to make a language of their phrases.

    I will not say more

    lest I be accused of affectation.

    God,

    poems must come to you

    the way their voices,

    unadulterated and clear,

    come to me....

  14. THE INTRUDER
    (pp. 26-27)

    Your body

    breaks in every day,

    and claims a front seat

    among images and ideas,

    it shifts easily

    into a priority, into a reason

    filling the recesses of my brain.

    It grades each sector, leaves a trace on every frontier

    it hides within, away from the trivial,

    separate and pristine creating a world of its own:

    a constituent of occupation.

    Your body

    pops in for a respite,

    demands attention and finding itself at home

    speaks about the worlds it can shape.

    It spins, it stretches, it rests inside my head:

    a cloud against the sun,

    an answer to every quandary....

  15. A SUNDAY IN JUNE
    (pp. 28-28)

    My father visits

    on a Sunday in June

    inspects the backyard and asks:

    “What happened to the

    apple tree?” He takes

    a chair to the shade and we talk

    politics and tomato plants. He puffs

    on his cigarette and insists

    on brewing the Turkish coffee himself.

    My son

    shuffles over to his side,

    explains the keys on his Game Boy

    and my daughter invites him

    to stroke her new cat.

    He points out a few cracks

    in the wall of the house

    and before he leaves

    touches my face wondering

    why my hands have stopped

    tracing the letters

    on his...

  16. BLINDFOLD
    (pp. 29-30)

    Blindfolded

    eyelids fixed as in still-life,

    the dust collects on the inside of my glasses

    hiding the lines,

    covering the watering of my eyes,

    splitting the world of light

    and I

    aware of the restrictions

    try to circumvent the world,

    redefine its shapes and locations,

    reduce it to an image

    or to something I can touch,

    something

    within the reach of my hands.

    I let my fingers crawl

    along the sides of objects to gauge their nature

    careful

    not to tip them or spill their contents.

    The quantum mechanics of sight,

    there were other classical signs

    all inside my head,...

  17. THE CUTTING EDGE
    (pp. 31-32)

    Are we rehearsing or

    is this the real performance?

    Who is directing tonight,

    I’d like to know.

    Unreal, it is all so unreal:

    The boots are wet, the mitts are lost,

    the door handle of the car is missing.

    This coat is too small and

    where’s my lunch box?

    Has anyone seen the keys and who

    left this knife on the table?

    The faucet’s still dripping,

    the garbage is too full and

    did you hear what the weather is going to be like?

    There’s an overdue bill here and who is playing

    the lead this evening? None saw it happen:...

  18. SURGERY
    (pp. 33-34)

    Remember the moon-shaped pillow

    you brought to the office

    and said I should use to support my neck

    whenever I needed to lie down and rest?

    “It would make it more like home,”

    you exclaimed, we both smiled

    and both your neck and mine

    left an indentation on that pillow. Later in the day

    the pain became intolerable

    and surgery was the last option for the right eye.

    Well, yesterday I came across it

    as I rummaged in one of the boxes

    in the basement looking for an essay I remember writing.

    It looks smaller, the edges

    are frayed and...

  19. ULTIMATE
    (pp. 35-35)

    Death will come,

    eventually,

    to each of us.

    When death catches me

    on the sidewalk of a poem,

    I will only regret

    not having had you

    in my arms

    long enough....

  20. ANTICIPATION
    (pp. 36-37)

    Each dying day

    I brood over

    the bitterness of that last fight

    and suspect

    that quarrels are unavoidable.

    No dishes were broken,

    no screams heard

    and the neighbors had no

    stories to exaggerate. It was

    a clear-cut refusal;

    a certain tone in the voice,

    an irrefutable “no.”

    As you left the bed,

    I knew

    that there was a death in this,

    a termination of what was, a conclusion to history.

    Our bodies would never meet again and I had to

    turn the music off

    and think of how not to presume

    that what went on was predestined,

    divined, predicted

    and...

  21. A SHOT IN THE PAPER
    (pp. 38-38)

    I can

    imagine your faces

    on the front page

    of every newspaper

    around the world. How time

    stands still

    and how all smiles

    of children freeze

    in a photograph.

    But death comes too soon and

    my unseeing eyes

    fail to preserve you

    in faded pictures

    and my mind fails to understand

    the motives of the assassin

    who ended your lessons with a shot....

  22. REFLECTIONS
    (pp. 39-44)

    Remove the blindfold

    what do you see?

    In a mirror

    a face

    two injured eyes

    trying to calculate the changes

    the accumulation of distorted kisses

    under uneven sideburns

    a mole

    on the right side of the chin

    some tiny scars that lead

    to some other lines

    that etched their way to the edge

    of these eyes over the years.

    I am a wild flower

    on the highest peak of Mount Hermon;

    I am the snow that fell over the years

    to dome the rocks and prevent

    the sun from stirring the earth;

    I am the rain

    that dropped one day...

  23. BOOTING THE PC
    (pp. 45-46)

    My children’s voices after they

    scamper to school,

    the sounds and smells left

    in the kitchen,

    the cat looking for a soft place

    to lay her dreams,

    fragments of the morning news,

    the weather and traffic jams

    and all the wind and rain outside the window.

    Last night,

    the entire neighborhood gathered to decide

    what we should do with the squirrel

    after it fell from the tree

    and bled to death on the sidewalk.

    The love I sought in the night

    was not there and will never be again.

    Random visions of events

    crowd my head,

    form a net of...

  24. CONFINED KISSES
    (pp. 47-48)

    When those kisses

    were no longer spontaneous,

    no longer stolen or

    unexpected … near the kitchen sink

    or the staircase,

    on the way to the car

    or after a bath; as lips

    meet lips, touch, part,

    retrieve and start again;

    accompanied by a whiff of perfume

    from loose hair

    on shoulders or

    printed at the edge

    of a sleeveless dress

    … when you turned away

    I, unable to invite and renew kisses,

    heard the note of my failure.

    Kisses are confined now

    to occasions; a birthday, an anniversary,

    a something to hold on to,

    scarce, barely

    brushing the cheek, yet...

  25. DID NOT OWN UP
    (pp. 49-49)

    I wanted to tell you

    as I caught up to you

    on the corner,

    as the light changed

    and we ran

    to catch the bus.

    I should have said it then,

    but people

    crowded between us

    and you would not have

    heard me over the noise.

    I also missed my chance

    when we parted to our own work.

    I could have told you later

    on the phone.

    Still, I waited till supper was up

    when the kids kept us

    both occupied.

    In bed,

    I finally had the courage

    to say it

    but feared disturbing your dreams....

  26. BEYOND BELIEF
    (pp. 50-51)

    I still think

    at times

    that

    I will be able to see one day

    surprise everyone I know

    spill the miracle on each corner

    race out to the street

    and share my news with every passerby.

    Tell everyone: I am the same man

    with the white cane and dark glasses.

    As I passed you by

    you shook your head or labored to silence your

    children’s innocence.

    I made you pause to think of ways

    and means to approach me,

    and you

    took my arm to cross the street, asked me

    the worth of living

    sightless or

    jumped out of my...

  27. IN THE METRO
    (pp. 52-54)

    They pass me by,

    I hear their voices, their steps, smell

    their perfume and at times,

    I run into them head on. Apologies

    ensue and I imagine

    their jaws drop, their minds

    race to make a comment,

    or alter their reaction to rush

    and offer assistance

    instead of a damn.

    Some jump out of my way

    as my cane bruises their ankle.

    Others ignore me and some

    squeeze my arm

    ready to lift me off the ground.

    I am the darling of the metro riders,

    my cane taps its way to the door,

    finds an opening

    and many jump to...

  28. THE INTERVIEW
    (pp. 55-56)

    Everyone is impressed,

    delighted

    to meet me.

    I have it all:

    education, awards, experience and looks.

    One interview after another

    leads to the same rehearsal and drills.

    The questions are direct,

    the inquiries expected,

    each member on the committee asks questions

    about my specialty.

    Some are more obvious than others,

    some not so easy to discern.

    I sit before them

    formulate concise and intelligent responses for them.

    They drill me, challenge my ideas.

    No false assertion here, no priggish words;

    we all agree that literature is the best of the humanities

    and teaching is a noble profession.

    I piece this...

  29. THE CURTAIN’S DOWN
    (pp. 57-60)

    People surfaced as voices

    far different from their features and statures:

    uncertain, quivering,

    sympathetic, regretful, shocked

    once they recognized his blindness

    whispering, intimate at times

    and at times out loud, thinking

    that if he couldn’t see

    he wouldn’t be able to hear either.

    Voices that would hesitate

    before formulating a question

    or uttering a statement

    with a touch on the arm

    or a tap on the shoulder,

    voices that sank into silence

    or challenged him,

    teased and annoyed

    and disconcerted his companions:

    “Do you know who I am?”

    Voices that would address his friends

    expecting them to relay messages to...

  30. DIVISION OF LABOUR
    (pp. 61-63)

    We have divided the tasks

    to see if love is more attainable.

    Now we can

    devote more time

    to which friends

    you’ll keep to yourself

    or which bills

    you’ll pay,

    who will cook what meal

    who will wipe

    the table and afterwards

    who will clean the dishes.

    I still envy those

    who think that love is

    the division of labour

    an obsession with a particular taste

    reacts to difference

    changes or basks

    blooming at room temperature. How often

    have we struck a definition

    only to restructure our vision

    or moved into my insolvent soul

    to enumerate the sins of my...

  31. ETCHED ON THE MIND
    (pp. 64-64)

    I fell in love

    with the teacher whose name

    now gone

    I crammed onto my notebook pages.

    She was tall and slim, she had

    a smile

    like an image that opens inside the mind,

    long black hair and she made boys my age

    assemble

    or disperse like ideas. In the school yard,

    I quarreled with two girls

    who twirled her character on their jump rope

    into a parody. I did not dare to show anyone

    the poem I wrote for her.

    The women in my life

    have had some of her looks or manners,

    all tossed their hair into a...

  32. FALLING OUT
    (pp. 65-66)

    It starts with something one of us

    says, with something unintended, a word. It starts

    with a sound or a gesture, something

    needing to be finished, something delayed.

    It starts with a picture in the mind

    incomplete or not yet formulated, it starts

    with a broken door lock, or

    a window latch screeching to be

    repaired. It starts

    when the dishes pile up in the kitchen sink

    and when the rug is overdue to be vacuumed.

    It starts when the kids can’t keep quiet in the back seat

    and when they are late to school or their music lesson.

    It...

  33. BLACK HOLE
    (pp. 67-70)

    Do you

    want

    to know how

    it feels

    to be blind?

    How the original pain

    invades the other senses

    and turns into rage, an unusual frenzy

    as if from another language

    or a fever of anticipation?

    Do you want to know

    how mistakes are made

    when God

    rests

    in the afternoon; when he

    turns his back and

    innocent curiosity is twisted

    into a nightmare or a sin

    reluctant to be erased?

    The child ties his shoelaces

    runs into a multitude of colors, tears his clothes

    on the neighbor’s fence, he meets a bomb

    and together, they ignite into darkness.

    Day...

  34. EGGS
    (pp. 71-73)

    All the kids in the neighborhood nipped them

    raiding barns,

    hiding in the alleys

    waiting for the chickens to lay their passion

    or for the farmers to wager their crops,

    holding back for the first opportunity

    to launch the attack

    and come out with the prize. The keys

    to the barn were always hidden under a doormat

    or in a crack over the threshold:

    enter, young thieves,

    make sure not to alarm the rooster,

    slide an egg into a pocket,

    smooth the hay in the chicken coop,

    hide all evidence of sin.

    The world

    was smaller then,

    no borders to...

  35. MORNING COFFEE
    (pp. 74-75)

    I am going to listen

    to the man

    sitting across from me

    holding his coffee in his left hand, sipping,

    his lips crowding the handle and his words

    surfing the rising steam. I am going

    to listen,

    I will be attentive, courteous

    and deferential.

    I will be mindful

    of how many rooms he will rent, how

    many beds he will buy and who will keep the kids.

    I will not analyze, scrutinize

    or probe, will not ask about his income,

    his rent or the age of his car. I will not

    think of any of my indiscretions

    or discord, will...

  36. OBLIVIOUS
    (pp. 76-77)

    He repeats words of love

    to her,

    goes over the happy days and

    reminds her of how devoted he is.

    He can’t sleep, can’t eat

    can’t live like this.

    He can’t keep the nightmares away

    and has to deaden the pain with apprehended stress.

    He is not able to work.

    “Can’t you see that I need you?” he says

    at dinner. “Don’t you know

    that I can’t live without you?”

    She listens as he talks,

    hands him a napkin to wipe his glasses.

    He cannot believe that love can be stifling

    and his passion can crowd her, reduce

    and imprison...

  37. AT FIFTY-FIVE
    (pp. 78-79)

    They showed me nothing.

    I must have been twelve

    and they, older,

    as the story goes,

    two older girls, I met

    in the school yard.

    I must have done something

    to make them notice me

    and they started teasing,

    pointing at the traces of hair

    on my upper lip,

    then my sideburns.

    Then they lowered their gaze

    and blushed or giggled,

    I don’t really remember.

    They whispered to one another,

    asked me to meet them later that day

    behind the barn, one said

    and the other tantalized,

    “He needs permission,”

    and “Do you think he can?”

    The words hung in...

  38. PASSING DESIRES
    (pp. 80-81)

    To pray again with the same delight

    away from all doubts,

    to give reason and faith equal worth

    with no scorn and no derision,

    to live in a world

    free of discord and acrimony,

    and to tell each other, “there’s no need

    for war,

    no need

    for the logic of weapons.”

    All we need is a dream of

    poverty eradicated and crime

    terminated.

    There would be no need for jails and all the judges

    would have to retire

    or turn their experiences into fiction.

    Their heroes would be characters of the past,

    their challenge

    not to long for podiums

    and...

  39. REPUDIATION
    (pp. 82-83)

    We tossed love

    into the wastepaper basket

    along with the torn

    bills, fliers, crumbled

    letters and nail clippings.

    We lie around munching

    on the ends of novels, mind-numbing

    articles in the paper and

    toasted bread smeared

    with peanut butter, waiting

    for a modern angel

    to materialize out of the Internet

    or come down via satellite

    to shake us

    back into speech.

    The few words we exchange

    sound decomposed and mistaken.

    Two people

    watching a play in which

    the bad guy and the good guy are

    played by one actor

    for no reason

    other than added suspense

    or an attempt to...

  40. SECOND HAND LOVE
    (pp. 84-86)

    In the centre of this

    incoherent arrangement,

    remnants of unspoken agreements,

    sounds of musical instruments,

    nothing remains.

    What is permanent

    is a carpet frayed on the side

    a sticker on the wall,

    a piece of a foam nail you attached

    to the leg of a chair

    in order not to scratch the kitchen floor.

    All the peripheries of things

    and how we spent hours

    trying to glue together

    a broken hockey helmet

    only to discard it in the end.

    Fifteen years

    and three before that

    and we found out that time spares no one,

    learned how to accept that love...

  41. SHORT OF HISTORY
    (pp. 87-88)

    We need history in all of this,

    need accumulated memories,

    friends to gossip about

    and stories to exaggerate. We need time

    to walk the streets of the city

    itemizing shop windows and ducking the traffic,

    time to shelter in cafes,

    read remnants of discarded newspapers

    and solicit the waiter to fill our cups.

    There’s a certain politics we missed

    in being on either end of the sidewalk

    and a culture of acceptance to identify,

    a dinner to cook together

    and the smells of bread in a shared kitchen.

    There’s a need to go from one room

    to the next looking...

  42. WAITING
    (pp. 89-89)

    Just past the sunrise

    we all

    stand in line,

    waiting our turn to get a number,

    to hold on

    to a piece of paper that

    will identify us. Each one is

    assigned a task or a

    share in a task. Some may

    finish the assignment and some never.

    But we all try. I, too,

    spend my days looking

    at my number,

    wondering when I will be

    called and when the darkness

    will complete the day....

  43. CASUAL HANDSHAKE
    (pp. 90-92)
    Edward

    Give me your pen and enter my mind,

    take your place in a new exile,

    and let us write of a handshake between us and countries

    ready to be born.

    Dictate your lines and fill the page,

    whisper in my ear.

    Tell me how the rebel dies and the poem remains real,

    how the words inscribe a new lease to freedom, erect borders,

    build a house and open a street,

    raise a flag on each lawn

    and enter the age from the Eastern gate. Give me your pen

    and let your fingers rest.

    Let me move my lips for you;...

  44. WE ONLY MEET IN A POEM NOW
    (pp. 93-96)
    Louis Dudek

    How do the features of the city change

    and when is the present tense no longer applicable?

    How did you pass into the damp ground

    and leave poetry unattended?

    You and I

    drilled death, waged war on the poem

    and never knew that it would create such a distance between us.

    Everywhere you leave something, you leave no one,

    leave the books and the music notes,

    leave us unable to write. All the lampposts

    are plastered with faded paper signs and the trees

    on Ste-Catherine street are leafless.

    There’s no war here but a fabricated threat

    of terrorism.

    The criminal...

  45. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 97-97)