When you Cannot See*

*when all of your central vision is almost gone and the rest will be gone within 5 years because of an incurable eye disease, cone dystrophy

from my chapbook, How to Be When You Cannot See

A poem about how to B when you cannot C/ Sara Lynne Puotinen

Anxious adjustments
Barely visible buoys blinding bright big beach little beach bridge spanning
Cedar avenue congested cars clear lake cloudy vision
Dodging ducks and drifting swimmers dark triangular shapes disappearing
Emptied mind, emptied lake, everything erased by eroding eyes
Goggles getting off course gaining perspective on not seeing only feeling
How to swim straight how to be when you cannot see
Isolated isosceles
Jumbled views
Kayaks keeping out menacing boats
Lifeguards lining the course
Muscles moving then stopping to sight
mid-lake motionless
messed up maculas magically making bright orange buoys disappear reappear then disappear again
Nothing to sight but
Opaque water occasionally the color of
Pea soup thick hiding Northern Pike Yellow Perch a percolating panic is
Quelled even as quirky gaps in my central vision
Remain removing random objects, often red ones I
Swim without seeing showing off strong shoulders and straight strokes.
Touching toes testing limits tracking towering light poles tired yet triumphant
Weightless worry-less wiser
eXiting the water with a silent joyful exuberant
“Yes!” to an audience of yellow paddle boats yelling kids and my yellow backpack its many
Zippers zipped, indifferent to my effort unfazed by my exhaustion

How to Be When You Cannot See, Some Strategies
  • Learn to listen
  • Learn how to pay attention, then memorize the path
  • Accept, accommodate, adapt
  • Ask for help
  • Read, write, search for better words