The March issue of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature features my essay, “I Am Reading, I Am Read.” This piece is part of the Gatherer’s Blog — a special column where disabled writers talk about the writing life. In my essay, I explore the challenges of learning to read my poetry in public, challenges I learned to manage with the help of dedicated and resourceful loved ones. Here’s how the piece begins:
Every table in the cafe is occupied. Wooden chairs scrape and squeak against the bare floor. Surly employees set down plates of sweet potato fries, Cuban sandwiches, fresh croissants. The espresso machine hums and whirs from the hidden kitchen, and we celebrate its rare functionality with gusto.
I wait against the window as my host arranges the microphone and speakers. The speakers are boxy, incongruous among the blond wood of tables and chairs. I take up my position before the large unshaded window. My guide dog, a black Labrador, lies peaceably at my feet. He enjoys his patch of sun-warmed floor, where the smells of countless breakfasts have been fossilized. He is calm, his leash secured under my foot.
I cherish the small relief that I am not holding the leash; I know it will transfer my anxiety to him. I face the customers, tune my ears to the genial clinks of forks and plates. My dog sighs and his collar jingles. My friend Abigail secures a lapel mic to my collar, asks me to test the sound.
Everything is ready. I have been introduced. I open my big black binder and raise the poems to eye level.