Two Poems

Poetry / Sara Lynne Puotinen

:: Two Poems ::

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From the writer


:: Account ::

Four years ago, I was diag­nosed with cone dys­tro­phy and told that all of my cen­tral vision would be gone in five years. I began to doc­u­ment the process of this vision loss. These poems are part of that doc­u­men­ta­tion. They are inspired by Georgina Kleege and her descrip­tion of find­ing the large blind spot in her cen­tral vision by star­ing at a blank wall.  

One day, dur­ing the ear­ly stages of the pan­dem­ic, I went to a blank wall in my liv­ing room, stood still, and stared at it. Soon I saw some­thing strange. It wasn’t a full spot but a dark ring with a light cen­ter. I taped a piece of paper to it at eye lev­el, closed one eye, and then traced the blind ring that appeared, first with a pen­cil, lat­er with blue cray­on. 

I was delight­ed to see this ring. Final­ly evi­dence of declin­ing vision that I could observe! I knew I was los­ing cen­tral vision by how much hard­er it was to read, how people’s faces were fuzzy blurs, how I nev­er noticed mold on my food, but my brain was com­pen­sat­ing remark­ably well and I often won­dered if I was imag­in­ing my vision prob­lems. 

Before see­ing my blind ring on the wall, the main method I used for mon­i­tor­ing my vision loss was to stare into an Amsler grid, which is a grid with a dot in the cen­ter used to detect dam­age to the mac­u­la. I would notice how the lines were wavy instead of straight, soft instead of sharp, how they fad­ed a few blocks from the cen­ter. I could reas­sure myself that I wasn’t mak­ing up my fail­ing vision. 

I decid­ed to use these forms—my blind ring and the Amsler grid—to cre­ate poems about my moods while liv­ing in the in-between state of not quite see­ing, not yet (legal­ly) blind. It seemed urgent and impor­tant to try to iden­ti­fy these moods and then find ways to express them, part­ly because I need­ed to work through my feel­ings, and part­ly because I want­ed to give atten­tion to some­thing that wasn’t dis­cussed enough: what it feels like to be in the process of los­ing sight, not after it is lost or before, but dur­ing. 

I cre­at­ed a grid and fit 3 poems describ­ing a mood into it: a main poem that was in the form of my over­all work­ing vision, a small­er poem that was in the form of the cen­tral vision with­in the blind ring that I still have left, and a hid­den poem with words fill­ing in the box­es in the space of my blind ring. Each box in the grid con­tains one char­ac­ter (a let­ter or space or punc­tu­a­tion) and I use a mono­type font to keep it even­ly spaced.  

Sara Lynne Puoti­nen lives in south Min­neapo­lis, near the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er Gorge, where she reads and writes and tries to be upright and out­side as much as pos­si­ble. She earned a B.A. in reli­gion, an M.A. in ethics, and a Ph.D in women’s stud­ies, which all inform her exper­i­ments in pay­ing atten­tion and her play­ful trou­bling of what it means to write while mov­ing, to move while writ­ing, and to do both while los­ing her cen­tral vision from a degen­er­a­tive eye dis­ease (cone dys­tro­phy). Her writ­ing has appeared in Poemeleon, Hearth & Cof­fin, and Lon­gleaf Review, among oth­ers. Cur­rent­ly, she is work­ing on a series of poems that use Snellen Charts and Amsler Grids to describe her expe­ri­ences with vision loss.