planet of the blind

category: exhibition | role: sound design (sound editor, dubbing mixer)

from Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto

Blind though I am, my mother is hell-bent on emphasizing my mall window of vision. I am going to be dimly sighted and "normal." According to her, I will damn well ride a bike and go sledding, and do whatever the hell else ordinary children do.

It's hard to explain how, as a child, or even as a grown man, I have been so proficient at hurtling forward without breaking my neck. To those watching, it must seem as if I see. My blind friend Peter, who has never seen anything but darkness, moves the same way. I suppose this plummeting through the world involves the same inexplicable faith known to skydivers. Fast blind people have exceptional memories and superior spatial orientation. By the age of five, I was a dynamo. Wanting to see me run, my mother saw me run and guessed that I must be seeing more than I really could. And so I landed like the bee who sees poorly but understands destination by motion and light and temperature.

I turn and climb down the stairs, remembering to avoid the canning jars and Sears catalogs. I'm headed for the ancient mahogany upright piano. It's music I'm after; I'm already entranced by the keys. In my grandmother's attic I'd turned the handle of a Victrola and discovered Caruso, a voice like milk and iodine pouring from inside a paper horn. In our own house I listen to my father's Tchaikovsky records, running my fingertips over the cloth facing of the electric speaker.

When the social worker leaves, my mother does not come to find me. Instead she goes to her own room and sleeps with the curtains drawn.

I stay at the piano for hours.

After supper I go outside and shout in the empty road in the hope that some kids will play with me.

Later, alone in the woods, wet elbowed and wet kneed, I catch my trousers on a sunken rock, lean into the ground, press my chin into the moss. The things I see are an alembic of distilled colors and shapes.

"Heaven," says Robert Frost "gives its glimpses only to those / Not in position to look too close."

I push my face into the fireweed.