The elevator, by the way, is fine. But the back-up battery for the elevator is not.
Having set the house in order as one form of waiting, I then bounced around on blogs--sort of the way a children's book illustrator might depict it: a frog-hop here, a bunny-hop there, a stop to smell some pretty flowers, and so on. From my friend Elizabeth Aquino's blog to Hopeful Parents to Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords and back to Elizabeth's blog, which took me to my own dashboard and then to Victoria Chang's blog and to Paul Guest's and to Rebecca Loudon's.
But even in randomness, there is progression. Frankly, I was drawn to drama. I had missed a post by Elizabeth (Jan. 2) in which she described, quite beautifully, her own feelings about "resignation" and "acceptance" as a movement between two poles, much as Philippe Petit walked between the twin towers on a tightrope. She credited yours truly for bringing that dichotomy or polarity or some such oppositional tug of war to her attention. I had, in fact, left a comment on her blog a while ago, saying this:
Is there a difference, do you think, between resignation and acceptance? I always think of acceptance in our cases as false, perhaps a form of false piety. Resignation seems a more appropriate term--but then, it also sounds a bit defeated. I don't want to be defeated by this. Is there a way to think about our situations without thinking of them as a battle?
The comments were particularly interesting--with people leaning, generally, toward "acceptance" as indicative of the angels of our better nature. Much to my chagrin, as I still hate the word "acceptance," but perhaps more on that later.
Elizabeth also directed me to the drama at Hopeful Parents, in which a guest blogger made a post about his child's disability that included the following sentence:
She knows about it, she accepts it and she fights the good fight every day, secure in the knowledge that she's different and even broken, but in her daily victories, she becomes more whole than any of us for whom the simple act of speaking is something we take for granted.
The comments for this post have, apparently, been cleaned up, as a nerve was struck over the author's use of the word, "broken," to describe his child. You can read more of Robert Rummel-Hudson's response to this on his own blog, Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords.
My initial response to all this? A slight embarrassment and concomitant worry, as I've written a series of three poems, two of which have been published (here & here), called "Meditation on a Broken Child."
While pondering this and web-surfing at the same time, a link to Victoria's blog caught my eye--you know, anything that starts out, "I don't normally get involved in the sometimes ugly and nasty politics that are the poetry blogging community," will suck me right in. Someone named "John" was flailing Paul Guest over the following, "As long as you allow yourself to be defined as a disabled poet, your poetry will never be more than it is." What! Paul Guest is disabled, I thought. I must read more of his work!
And on Paul's blog, his friends made short work of this interloper.
Waiting for the elevator repairman. The man whose job it is to ensure that Robert can get from one floor to another in our house.
Gosh. I felt kind of isolated, having gone from one floor (parents arguing about a word) to another (poets sniping about identity politics), the common link being disability. A word. A state or condition or mode of being.
I can stand on either level, but the passage between the two levels is not a traverse, like stairs, that seem so logical what with the one step pushing up against the next, but a lift, a push up or down through a closed shaft, and, presto! opening a door onto whatever will appear behind it. That is to say, if I open the door to the disabled parenting level and walk in with my poems, I am coming out of nowhere--and if open the door to the poets' floor and walk in with my disabled kid, someone out there is going to accuse me of grandstanding. And, really, using the elevator is cheating because I can walk and am not, myself, disabled.
And this has something to do with all of these discussions: those arguing are standing on different levels of the same house. Screaming through the elevator shaft. Words are not the things they represent, although we suspect that they are. Paul Guest can go on being disabled even if I never know it and he can write his poems and his appearance on a book jacket in a wheelchair is a mere representation of who he is or might be as a poet, not the poet or the poetry itself. But if someone insists that disability defines Paul, that person is calling the cab of the elevator in one direction or another, up or down, and trying to collapse the floors.
I can use the word "broken" in my poems as a figure for what or whom Robert is, but someday or even today, someone may insist that my language pulls the poem down to the hidden level of what it describes. That the thing (res) and the words that describe it (verba) are coterminous, that the cab doesn't move at all between floors.
How sad. It's almost like that feeling I get when people tell me I have to "accept" something--handing me my coat along with my words and my other things.
So I can't finish this today--off to pick up the boy (literally, and at 75 pounds, it's not easy) at Outdoor Education. But maybe someone out there can finish it for me.