Friday, February 19, 2010

Some New Poems

These are poems from what maybe my third (or fourth) book, Autobiography. My second book, (a) lullaby without any music is forthcoming in 2011 from Chax.


I was born dead.

It is said that those who remember their own births are liars.

I do not remember this event -- it is merely a story presented to me
that, in the recalling, becomes part of memory.

The facts are superfluous; one is born, one dies
how one arrives is without meaning.

If you, reader, do not believe in purpose, my cerebral palsy was a mere fluke;
there was no operating room available to give my mother the required c-section.

If you do believe in purpose, as I do, the accidental was born of necessity. 

It is either as simple as this -- or it isn't.


to walk means to fall
to thrust forward

to fall and catch

the seemingly random
is its own system of gestures

based on a series of neat errors
falling and catching

to thrust forward

sometimes the body misses
then collaspes

the body shatters

it has knowledge embedded it
of recalling how to shatter

and reform

the movement is angular
                        and unwieldly

it is its own lyric and
the able-bodied are

tone-deaf to this singing  


to be crippled means to have a window
into the insanity of the able-bodied

to be crippled means to
see the world slowly and manically

                        to translate           
to record
                        to adapt

to be crippled means to have
access to people's fear

of their own eroding


so that, the mother might
say your child must be angry

because you are disabled

so I told her, your child
must be angry

because you are a bitch

and the children ask
why do you talk like that?

and i ask them
why do you talk like that?

and children grow up
thinking this body is ordinary


the body is composed primarily
of water and light

this is my body; I am its light

a mere shadow remains
so that, the body is erased

excepting movement

i am all motion and
this motion is neither weak nor hideous

this motion is simply my own


To be crippled means to be institutionalized, infantilized, unemployed, outcast, feared, marginalized, fetishized, desexualized, stared at, excluded, silenced, aborted, sterilized, medicalized, stuck, discounted, teased, voiceless, disrespected, used, raped, isolated, undereducated, used as a metaphor. To be crippled means to be referred to as retard, cute, helpless, lame, wheelchair bound, stupid, drunk, idiot, a burden on society, in/valid. To be crippled means to be discounted as a commodity or regarded as mere commodity. 


the near miss
seemingly random

what appears chaos to the casual observer
is rather a neatly composed system of gestures

these accidents reside in me
the body keeps a list of them

what looks painful from a distance
is just the body reiterating itself


is it true that the crippled body
is much closer to enlightenment

by its mere gesture of
getting through this world

is it true that the crippled body
is much closer to death

                        that longing
that want for silence

not in a desire to disappear
but a fragility

these bones are as if birds
tiny and 
at any moment could take off in flight


Justin said...

1. It is either as simple as this -- or it isn't.

Or both. Bred with being in the womb of wonder <- that's where life lingers with the dead, learning its language, the secret code that pries open purpose.

Unknown said...

These poems are really excellent, Jen - looking forward to more.

Curtis Faville said...


These poems surprise me, given our off-line discussion about disability vis-a-vis Eigner.

You address your "condition" directly, in ways I rather imagined you wouldn't. You've "politicized" it in a way that's reminiscent of feminism. A dialectic set up between the "disabled" and "the others"--but I thought this preconception was part of what you were striving to deconstruct--?

I sometimes wonder whether or not my irregular heartbeat may have been caused by my Mother's heavy smoking.

One surmise of mine is that Larry's "condition" enabled him to see through a window (like the "window" you posit in your poem) that was unavailable to "the others." But, rather than a gift, you see this as an "access to people's fear/of their own eroding" [i.e., death?]. In other words, you see your difference as allowing you to see the worst aspects of "normal"--or to see "normality" as, conversely, a kind of abnormality. This seems to be the deconstruction you're performing. I.e., everybody's fucked up and afraid of death--not much a a privilege.

The list of participles is like a multiple choice question. I'd agree that the disabled are "infantilized," for instance, but "commoditized"? (You mean as consumers of special equipment, care, etc.?)

It's interesting about walking. "Falling"? Yeah, I've heard physical therapists use that description, a kind of organized confusion. Sitting, too, can be problematic: Chairs that "float" on springs or rockers can cause problems to the lower spine, which receives the lateral and twisting stresses transmitted from the seat. I.e., fixed chairs support the back better, though these "orthopedically" designed chairs are supposed to be better. Hah!

Animators have real difficulties trying to create the impression of actual walking. It's like a floating, or a tip-toeing.

Jennifer Bartlett said...

Hey Curtis,

Can you expand on why you're surprised?!

These poems are unlike any of my other work. They do create a division between able/disabled. They are addressing my anger at the 'abled' world. There's a lot of bitchiness and pissiness here. Sorry- they are poems so I hope it's okay. The eroding is about swinging it back at people - I believe that able-bodied people are sometimes 'afraid' of disabled and want to not look at them as a reminder of their own bodily weakness -which in America is the worst thing that can happen to you.

The commodification (I can't spell it). Is based on my experience at UCP - and other things I've read. Sometimes these institutions take SSI or other money to support the program - and the programs do have a good side! However, these programs do no push independence because they are businesses and it is not in their best interest to lose clients. For example. I had at least three or four (out of twenty-five/thirty) students at UCP who clearly should have been in college. However, there are NO programs at UCP to get a GED, let along go to college.

Thanks Curtis. Thanks.