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Vision Loss in Poetry: Why Can't You See Me? A Poem

Tim Truzy is a poet, short-story author, and he is currently working on several novels.

People with vision loss who use canes and have appropriate training usually cross streets safely.

People with vision loss who use canes and have appropriate training usually cross streets safely.

Crossing an Intersection

I remember with fondness how one of my professors once asked me: “Tim how often have you heard of people with visual impairments being accidentally hit by cars as they cross the street?” I thought about this for a minute. Then, I responded: “At least in this country, that rarely happens. The white canes help people identify them as individuals with visual impairments.” My professor congratulated me for getting the answer partly correct, but he went on, explaining, “You gave me the obvious reply, but there is another answer not based on what people see. The eyes can be a major distraction and we forget sometimes to use our other senses to their fullest.” He told me later he had no idea about any such statistics, and what he truly wanted me to do was engage in introspection in order to be better at working with people with visual impairments. Now, I realize my brilliant professor just wanted me to think about extending my awareness of the world by tapping into all of my senses.

Reaching out to others or reaching inside can bring emotions crashing to the surface, immobilizing us or triggering long unaddressed traumas and fears. Generally, we don’t like to see the ugly, disturbing, or troubling when we face our own discomforts. We also may be anxious about dealing with the unknown “other” as well. We feel peace in not knowing, remaining blind to opportunities because we don’t want to cross those streets into memory or pain. There is risk in any endeavor, including searching our souls. But we have to continue our route in order to find our destination. Searching our souls can lead to great rewards.

This poem is dedicated to the special people who take those chances, seeking out and helping others in spite of obstacles and challenges within and outside. I composed this poem from the vantage point of a person with vision loss. Nevertheless, we all travel down the same highway. Don’t let fear drive the bus. Brave those intersections. Enjoy: “Why Can’t You See Me?”


What happens when the bus stops?

What happens when the bus stops?

Why Can't You See Me?

I stand on corner,

Waiting for my bus,

White cane to sidewalk,

A sound I can trust.

She strolls slowly by,

I hear smile on face,

Greetings to strangers,

I’m forgotten in place.

I want to say greetings,

I dare to say “Hi!”

I want a Good Morning,

Rejection replies.

I fear she fears me,

Could it be my shades?

Could it be my cane?

Or beds’ time unmade?

People with vision loss can have active social lives.

People with vision loss can have active social lives.

My mind sees her gaze,

Determined as stone,

Focused on something,

But I’m still alone.

Not for friends, mind you,

I have quite a few,

Down at movie shows,

In church in the pews.

I gather with souls,

Even going out,

Fishing on old peers,

Catch me that great trout.

I climb on that bus,

Heading to my job,

Walking through the crowds,

Just one of the mob.

People who are visually impaired may use a braille writer to write in braille.

People who are visually impaired may use a braille writer to write in braille.

My hands read my books,

My computer talks,

My bills paid on time,

And still she just walks.

Yes, invisible man,

Ralph Ellison said,

Seen clear but ignored,

In front of you dead.

Though the dead can speak,

Death likely to call,

Deceased but living,

Bus stops for us all.

I stood up and spoke,

“How are you today?”

She turned responding,

“Are you going my way?”

She said she passed me,

Wondering my cares,

With my sexy shades,

And sitting with stare.

My heart spoke to me,

Buses roam to and fro,

Fear blocked our road,

We accepted not to know.

We go to movies,

We are our stars,

Today we marry,

And buy our car.

People with vision loss can live normal lives.

People with vision loss can live normal lives.


Some Ways in Which Vision Loss is Characterized in Literature

Vision loss has been used symbolically throughout literature in many cultures to represent a variety of perspectives. In early Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian writings, blindness was often noted as a punishment from God, usually requiring some miracle or extraordinary deed to be carried out for sight to be restored. Later, writers would frequently use blindness as symbolizing helplessness, ignorance, or evil. When a character in a novel is physically or figuratively blind, the author is normally trying to draw the reader’s attention to some important point. However, much as authors write about fictional or real people with visual impairments, people who have vision loss also contribute to literature by composing stories, novels, and poetry.

Essentially, people who live with visual impairments are human beings. This means such individuals in real life can have the full range of human emotions, mental abilities, and engage socially with others. Although these factors differ from person to person with vision loss, the main distinguishing trait separating these individuals from others is reduced or permanent loss of the sense of sight. The poem above was based on a real life incident which occurred with a friend of mine and his spouse. Yet, in fictional works, such interactions can be exaggerated. However, here are some common aspects of characters with visual impairments in literature:

Common Attributes of Fictional Characters with Vision Loss in Literature

  • Fearful, withdrawn, and isolated
  • Extraordinarily kind, holy and sacred
  • Super human abilities, including superior hearing, touch, and awareness of the world
  • Unaware of self, environment, or possibilities
  • Mean-spirited behaviors, evil, immoral
  • Lack of confidence, clumsy, foolish
  • Presented as average humans, having families, working, educated, successful in life

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