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Summer 2006 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Dancing In Words

By Barbara Bullard, Poet, La Verne, California

Abstract: A poet shares her experience in losing her vision through story and poems.

Key Words: family, blind, poems, personal experience, vision loss, Retinitis Pigmentosa

Introduction: I have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and have been losing my sight ever so slowly since I was about nine. With RP, my night vision was first to go, and when it would get dark, I would travel through the fields between our neighborhood’s houses with bare feet so that my feet could “read” where I was going – the slope and grade of the ground, the textures of the terrain, revealing where I was in space—a kind of landscape-braille the soles of my feet could learn to navigate by.

When I lost the ability to discern the details in faces, I would rely on identifying a person by their “movement signature”­—the shape of the body and its unique way of carving the air as it moved through a room, or across a courtyard. Now, as the shapes of things are beginning to vanish as well, there is still a “sound signature” novel to each person. Yes, even the sound of how a person moves about, and the way they stir the air and energy about them, is a kind of personal identifiable imprint. I have come to truly like this peculiar way of recognizing people.

In college I chose to major in dance, so that I could enjoy having control over the environment around me, and the way I moved through it (even if only in a dance studio, or on stage), at a time in my life when I felt my loss of sight was causing me to move with less freedom, less fearlessly. I received my bachelors degree in dance from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and after wandering through a few artful mediums, my feet have landed firmly in poetry­—the dance of words.

I write my poems with the intent of painting moments in time, and I expect my poems to draw the reader entirely into the strings of words by evoking as many of the senses as possible. I also expect the pieces to depict not only the colors and shapes of the moments in time, but also the underlying emotion in the painting, be it bittersweet or joyful.

I move through space now with six legs, and live with my lovely black labrador guide, Yaz, in La Verne, California, a small town along the foothills on the edge of the great sprawl of Los Angeles. I am a free-lance writer and like it very much when I find myself in someone’s address book with the title “poet” next to my name. I can be reached at Barbara Bullard, 3945 Bradford Street, #109A, La Verne, CA 91750, 909-392-9767, <blbullard@earthlink.net>.


 My eyes are disappearing in the mirror.
I remember what they look like.
Curious, I lean close and look with my eyes
to find what my mind still sees.

Faces have no lines, no wrinkles, no scars.
My own cheekbones soften, the jaw line quiets.
Surprisingly, faces grow prettier, more perfect,
not dull, as they disappear.

I like this edge of sight
before dropping
into the chasm of none.

I lay my face in my hand, and speak to my eyes.
I ask them not to go, to stay a little longer.
As if happenstance could be ordered.

These eyes, my friends, work so hard
carrying words letter by letter,
carrying fragments of the world in puzzle pieces,
looking as if smeared by rain or tears,

piece by piece to my brain.
Pieces of letters, pieces of faces,
fragments of worn color,
the faded ghosts of landscapes.

I like the edge of sight
before dropping into none.
I will miss my eyes when they go.

I will miss them.


These things that hang
in your sky, gone so long now
from mine—my black
and lonesome nightscape,
the blank light-white disk of a moon,
its only adornment.

These mysterious points
of brilliance, do they wink
like thoughts, like impulse?
Stars dead so long now,
the heat gone out of their light,
they are invisible to my skin.

How was I to know
I should stop, and pay attention,
and memorize these
bright things missing now
from the insensate velvet
of my unrippled night sky?

How would I have known
they would disappear one day
from my heavens, and then reappear
to me only in words?
If you’re listening, write me
the stars, write me your night sky.

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