The Poetry Workshop


The Poetry Workshop

  • Imagine late fall when the maple’s crown is bare.
  • A school make-up day for recent hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, swarms of bees or locusts, inundations of mud.
  • A Saturday.  And early.
  • In your off-kilter haste, you forget clothes. But not coffee.
  • Priorities.
  • The twelve students in your poetry workshop are blind.
  • Most since birth.
  • The campus is nearly deserted.
  • You see the possibilities, which you choose not to waste.
  • In class, you push the tables and chairs away, make students leave their dogs and canes by the far wall, place yourself in the center of the room.
  • The geometry of their positions is perfect—
  • 120 finger-and-thumb tips, each a radius from them to you.
  • First, they feel your hair and scalp—the most thorough, searching touch you have ever known.
  • A student casually comments, “This cell marks the transition point from death to life, the passing of the hair shaft from the follicle’s oily fount.”
  • All that from one of many strands, which the students proceed to carefully count.
  • You close your eyes while someone traces your brow and nose as if they found your soul’s secret angle of repose.
  • You become sleepy and relaxed, like a person floating in another world’s salty sea.
  • Even your bones loosen. A duet of students plays your ribs and clavicle like a harp.
  • Music fills the room.
  • A dog stirs in the corner, roused from dream by the symphony of notes.
  • Then, the seers reckon moles down your spine. The total and placement a geography of surprise.
  • For the first time, you feel naked—like roads, bridges, and buildings on a bombardier’s aerial map.
  • The students’ collective sixth sense for symmetry gone awry identifies a small carcinoma growing on the hidden curve of your back.
  • A female soothsayer, locally famous for knowing the language of birds, says the speckle holds a tale: high school, sand, beach, and breaking waves, a cooler full of Everclear…
  • You stop the story.
  • [Eventually, you consult a doctor. Receive treatment. Months later, you do not die.]
  • Like trained clinicians, they professionally examine your sex, lift the heft of your buttocks, let it go, touch the dimpled terrain of cellulite down your legs, each a palm growing by the river of life.
  • They find your bikini-line scar, measure it in millimeters, and, like Tiresias, refuse to name your child.
  • A clairvoyant cluster declares you have pretty knees, which you always hoped, but never believed.
  • Finally, the feet and toes.
  • You are proud of your pedicure. Students sense the pride along the filed arc of each tended nail.
  • After much debate, they identify your polish—Audacity, a deep wine shade—picked with purpose because of a man and a woman and moving on.
  • The extremity of your body is the end of the lesson.
  • Students disband. Find a dog or cane.
  • The tap their way outside the gate of your self, down the hall, and into the airy world,
  • Until you hear a closing door and feel and hear them no more—
  • The optics of your life now tuned and calibrated by the poetic pattern of their Delphic touch and hands.

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