Exploring Disability
Playlist by Loretta McCormick
Too often, representations of disability in literature conflate the disabled body with the entirety of a person’s identity or relegate characters with disabilities to the role of embittered villain, clown, or victim. In this context, disability serves merely as a way for both the writer and the reader to define themselves as “normal” in contrast. However, the poets in this playlist reveal normalcy as a social construct and thus begin to subvert assumptions about the normal body, the normal person, and the normal citizen. They deform notions of normalcy and rewrite the disabled body not as a metaphor, but as one important aspect of identity.
1. from The Hindrances of a Householder
Jennifer Bartlett
2. What Your Doctor Really Wants to Tell You
Jim Ferris
3. User's Guide to Physical Debilitation
Paul Guest
4. In/Ability
Camisha Jones
5. Crip Music
Petra Kuppers
6. A Few Things
Daniel Simpson
7. I Am Not One of The
Cheryl Marie Wade
8. Biohack Manifesto
Jillian Weise
Jennifer had a tendency to stop in
the street and listen to the neighbors’

problems. She was consoling to them.
Jennifer would look for people in trouble

and offer help, even though
her body was relatively weak, and

she could not carry groceries
for the old people, really.

When the young mothers had issues
they would come to Jennifer because they

knew that Jennifer also had had issues
as a young mother and would listen to them.

Now Jennifer had middle mother issues.

Everything can be illuminated by water
or most things.

The two women in the black of mourning
knelt by the river in exact tandem, and

they spoke softly.
The film, like life itself, had minimal

plot and extraordinary beauty.
The film, like life itself, was

slow and maniacal. And when
we walked the village afterwards

in search of just the right martini
I thought of the same steps I had

taken years earlier in preparation
for mourning, and I was not unhappy.
Quit whining. No one wants to hear
your whining. Everyone has pain,
the timing's off for all year
round. (I'm in over my head again.)
Does no one feel well anymore?
Sure, stolen moments of joy stain
a bogus record of drudgery, boredom, and chores.
No clothing can cover this refrain.

Does whining make your spirits climb the ladder?
No chiming clock could sound off better.
You dump your petty pain all around you;
You puncture joy -- like life only found you
and made it hurt. You're not alone here --
our faded smiles show pain is always near.
Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis
last longer than forever or at least until
your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart
or the culture of death, which really has it out
for whoever has seen better days
but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching,
you, or your beleaguered caregiver
stirring dark witch’s brews of resentment
inside what had been her happy life,
should turn to page seven where you can learn,
assuming higher cognitive functions
were not pureed by your selfish misfortune,
how to leave the house for the first time in two years.
An important first step,
with apologies for the thoughtlessly thoughtless metaphor.
When not an outright impossibility
or form of neurological science fiction,
sexual congress will either be with
tourists in the kingdom of your tragedy,
performing an act of sadistic charity;
with the curious, for whom you will be beguilingly blank canvas;
or with someone blindly feeling their way
through an extended power outage
caused by summer storms you once thought romantic.
Page twelve instructs you how best
to be inspiring to Magnus next door
as he throws old Volkswagens into orbit
above Alberta. And to Betty
in her dark charm confiding a misery,
whatever it is, that to her seems equivalent to yours.
The curl of her hair that her finger knows
better and beyond what you will,
even in the hypothesis of heaven
when you sleep. This guide is intended
to prepare you for falling down
and declaring détente with gravity,
else you reach the inevitable end
of scaring small children by your presence alone.
Someone once said of crushing
helplessness: it is a good idea to avoid that.
We agree with that wisdom
but gleaming motorcycles are hard
to turn down or safely stop
at speeds which melt aluminum. Of special note
are sections regarding faith
healing, self-loathing, abstract hobbies
like theoretical spelunking and extreme atrophy,
and what to say to loved ones
who won’t stop shrieking
at Christmas dinner. New to this edition
is an index of important terms
such as catheter, pain, blackout,
pathological deltoid obsession, escort service,
magnetic resonance imaging,
loss of friends due to superstitious fear,
and, of course, amputation
above the knee due to pernicious gangrene.
It is our hope that this guide
will be a valuable resource
during this long stretch of boredom and dread
and that it may be of some help,
however small, to cope with your new life
and the gradual, bittersweet loss
of every God damned thing you ever loved.
In the shower
The sound of water
Is crisp as a
Head of lettuce
Split in two

Then fading
In the morning
When the running sink
Becomes a whisper
In someone else’s ear

Daily I enter and exit
This turnstile of
Here/hear and not here/hear

Press my way through
A downpour of sound
Divorced from meaning

I stand between the words
A mediator
And sometimes a barrier

There is sweet song
Birds chirping
A tune with no lyrics
Keeping me company
In the silence

Which isn’t really silent
Or quiet
But static
& loud

Coupling & uncoupling
With comprehension

The mouth of each syllable muffled

Language is an ocean
Of murky water

Words sinking
Into buried grains of sand

A tide coming
And going

Calling me the shore
Calling me thousands of particles
Stretched wide

Receiving what the waves bring
Surviving what they take away
A beat behind, sycophant, you
Sisyphus, roll and run
again and again
Sybil whistle tune, mournfully
whistle in the dark
the shoe steps the rhythm
behind, behind, behind you
with the crutch cane stick beat
the cripple who ripples across
the street with the wheel on the rack
rackle and giggle the cripple
till the music stops
we step out
and then, and then, it builds
the sound, and the beat
and the melody of the cane
and the melody of the crutch
and the melody of the wheel
and the tap of the stick
and the tick of ventilators
dilate, pulse
push breath through the street
roll forward and on
the beat in a circle
we move, we move
the line held firm
the song lifting
I don't know how they keep you on a cross
when they first start the hammering.
I don't know how they make chocolate.
I don't know which parts of a tuna they put in a can
and what they do with the rest of it.
I don't know what I'll do with the rest of my life.
I don't know any more who sat
behind Bobby Sabol in fourth grade.
I don't know why we tell so many sad stories.
I don't know what the Skinheads next door talk about
or what the cockatiel lady likes for lunch.
I don't know what a rainbow looks like,
or that my life would be better if I could see one.
I don't know why I'm writing all of this down.
I know all the vegetables in V-8 juice.
There are at least a dozen ways to say "snow" in Inuit.
I don't know that vulnerability is any better than hope
or that they really aren't the same.
I don't know who killed the grooms in Duncan's room.
I don't know at what point you should retire a working dog.
They have three roller coasters at Knoble's Grove.
My mother laughed a lot when we rode The Flume.
Or maybe it's four. I can't remember now.
I don't know why some people give up and others don't.
I am not one of the physically challenged —

I’m a sock in the eye with gnarled fist
I’m a French kiss with a cleft tongue
I’m orthopedic shoes sewn on a last of your fears

I am not one of the differently abled —

I’m an epitaph for a million imperfect babies left untreated
I’m an ikon carved from bones in a mass grave at Tiergarten, Germany
I’m withered legs hidden with a blanket
I am not one of the able disabled —
I’m a black panther with green eyes and scars like a picket fence
I’m pink lace panties teasing a stub of milk white thigh
I’m the Evil Eye

I’m the first cell divided
I’m mud that talks
I’m Eve I’m Kali
I’m the Mountain That Never Moves
I’ve been forever I’ll be here forever
I’m the Gimp
I’m the Cripple
I’m the Crazy Lady

I’m the Woman With Juice
It is terrible to be trapped at def con
with not even Ray Kurzweil’s
daughter to gaze upon
I know some of you wish
I would go wherever
my people go, the factory,
physical therapy, a telethon

No! says my mentor
Not this. This is too angry

This is too much about
Not that. Not that

I like to hack, sometimes,
the Hebrew Bible

I don’t think my mentor hacks
the Bible b/c it has too much
lame deaf blind circumcised in it

Not that. Not that in poetry
Didn’t we already have
Judd Woe? He was so good to us
so good and sad and sorry

The great thing about Judd Woe
is that now we don’t have to
keep looking for a disabled poet
We got him

Everybody together now: We got him
Thank yhwh he’s a man

I am so relieved, aren’t you?
I am so cock blocked, aren’t you?

Here I am at the cobbler

Please, please can you make
all my high heels into wedges

Here I am at Wal-Mart

Please, please, can you make
your children stop following me

Here I am at Advanced Prosthetics

Please, please, can you
change my settings

this is not poetry, they said

Be happy with what we give you
We got you

Insurance: You are allowed ten socks/year

Insurance: You are not allowed to walk in oceans

Insurance: If you had fought for us, if you
had lost your leg for us, for freedom, then
we would cover the leg that walks in oceans

and why is it always a poem is a walk?

A poem is like a walk
A poem is like going on a walk
A walk is like a poem
I was walking the other day and a poem tripped me

Don’t leave
Don’t I have any other ideas
Be a man, mortality, zip it

Call in the aubades
I wish I would read an aubade
Is it morning yet? This manifesto
is so so long. Too angry
Who you bangin’ on my door?

judy grahn

Thank yhwh. It was getting hot in here
Ray Kurzweil’s daughter is in Hawaii

I was about to give up

I know

I am trying to walk the treadmill
My leg beeps at 3 mph
This is the conference for hackers
Can somebody hack me
Can somebody change my settings

I know

jenny holzer

So glad you could make it
Come in, judy is here
What do y’all do with all the men in our heads

It is terrible

My people are just trying to get born
like please don’t test us
we are going to fail
and the test comes back
and says your baby is fucked

judy, jenny, I have been your student faithfully

I have kissed some ass, tho, hoping
if they like me enough — what
if they like me enough — why

judy, do you need a coaster?
Thy cup runneth over

The glass slipper, amenities
The manifesto must go on

biohack it

cut all of it my mentor says
This is not poetry

My mentor says: A poem is a walk
Get well soon, I pray for you

Must go Poem about coed
virility aging dahlias

Recurrent word to describe beauty
hacked from the Hebrew Bible: Ruddy

Don’t leave In the morning
I will vacuum this up Scansion, feet

I am sorry if you offended me
Role of disabled artist:
Always be sorry
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