René Harrison

THE UGLY LAWS*

Listen to the audio version.

You were the sassiest cripple I ever saw
in a survey of all the cripples of K-Road:
fast, tough, criminal and besotted;
selling peanuts and matches,
these unsightly blind beggars with lawyers,
will fight the highest court, they say.

The Beggar's Union,
now lords and owners of their faces;
congenital cases and disease cripples,
Guild of The Brave Poor Things,
wheedling, on the wrong side of pity's tracks.

With ocular-centric and beseeching call,
my mother is the human being responsible for this monstrosity.
Her death has satisfied God beyond belief.
She stands on the roof with her swollen leg,
espousing hospitality,
as I do the hard hustle.

My mother wants me to make love to you.
If you are beautiful, lewd and sacred,
she surrounds you with restraint.

In the frame
of my renunciation:
throw forth space from the interior of our tree.
Blossom of farewell, spiced,
the more the weight of the air diminished for me.

"Matter out of place", like the scent of out-of-season flowers;
how punch laced with cocaine, furnishes the energy to
cross the bridge between subjective and objective law breaking.
Was it once or often,
a bug fell out of the strawberries and was squashed on the floor?

Sterilise the poets!
Ugly ordinances clean our streets!
'Three generations of imbeciles are enough!'

But I mustn't allow you to become
a woman deformed by a fixed idea.
For she is still there
without space:
close as the outline of a mountain,
or the dipping voice of a lake.
Cancer is an ugly gift.

From filth to defilement.
Fingers more potent than eyes,
she belongs inside,
blinded by daylight,
invisible.
Please don't touch.

 

*Author's Note: In addition to my personal experiences surrounding illness, disability, pity, and discrimination, much of the language and imagery of this poem draws from Susan Schweik's The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (New York: NYU Press 2009).

 

Modest Humanitarian, philanthropist, and Glamorous adventurer, Mr. Harrison began writing poetry at the age of five, when he mistook a fog covered magnolia tree outside his bedroom window for the three Graeae sisters of medusa. His poems inhabit the history, rhetoric, and mythologies of blindness; they have appeared in Takahe, Poetry New Zealand, Blackmail, Shot glass journal, and Brief, as well as other places. He currently malingers in Auckland, New Zealand.