Kevin Garrison

Deaf Atonement

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Last week, three students delivered
Their reports on teen pregnancies
That are supposedly out of control.
We should keep it in our pants, one writes.
Blame sex education, a second writes.
The statistics are ridiculously high, writes a third.

You want statistics?
Make love to a cup
And spill 15 million sperm
When the norm is 60-200 million.
Track basal body temperature
And pull apart the mucus
Stringing it out like eggs.
Pee on sticks
To find
28.2 day cycles
Ovulation on day 14.
Have sex on schedule
For 33 months.
Take a whole bottle of zinc pills
And choke down the giant folic acids.
Read the relative fertility
Of deaf men like me,
Lower than hearing siblings,
The p-value’s significance
Overwhelming my insignificance,
The daily mishearings, misreadings, miscaptionings,
Misinterpretings, misinformings, misunderstandings
Leading to misconception, misconception, missed conception.
Try not to read the local hospital advertisement
“Delivering precious cargo”
Transforming a baby into a technological artifact;
Place the order and wait,
The package will arrive
As scheduled.
Write an email to your parents
And type out “miscarriage” in the subject line:
The package was dropped.
Name it. Bill. John. Ava.
Does it matter?
I called her Lucy.
That’s my favorite.
And I always wanted a girl.
Hear the churchgoers say:
Learn yoga.
Renovate a bathroom.
Pretend that you don’t have an empty bedroom
And a crib in the attic.
Visit my sisters
And my four nephews and one niece.
It feels like more
And more on the way.
Everyone calls them blessings
From the Lord.
Gifts bestowed on all.
The unhealthy couple at the basketball game.
The divorced couple down the street.
The student puking in the bathroom.
Read the scripture:
What father would give bad gifts to his children?
And invert it.
What father would deny me the gift of being a father?

Behold, the red lump
At the bottom of the toilet bowl,
I touched it to be sure
Trying to draw Lucy back to me.
Feel my wife grabbing me,
Pulling me close, atonement
Before the sun returned.

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Deaf Token

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

You say
The movie had a token black
A token gay
A token girl in a wheelchair
Swaying to the music
As the real dancers tripped over her giant wheels.

I reply
Make me a token.
Publish this mediocre deaf poem and
Place it on the clearance bookshelf
Upside down on a coffee table
Next to the toilet paper under the National Geographic
In the compost heap with the banana peel.

I hope
A deaf child sees this token poem
And cashes it in at the fair next year.
The cotton candy is sweet
The lemonade freshly squeezed
And the roller coaster fast.

I ask
You scrawl your sign name on the
Styrofoam cup before you trash it,
Etch your mark in the bathroom stall,
Spray your graffiti under the roller coaster chair,
Shout your deaf speech at the top of the Ferris wheel.

I know
You’ll become a character in your own movie
Make the world dance around you
As you play the bass drum too loud
And sign your name first in the credits.

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Deaf, etc.

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

We tag etceteras to the ends of lines.
A Latin word for a non-Latin world
A lazy request to fill our writings
With “other similar things,” etc.

Like the deaf kindergartener who sits
In the classroom of a non-deaf world,
Mainstreamed lumping and dumping
Of a child into “other similar things,” etc.

Learn this:

This deaf boy’s red crayon is distinct
From your grubby red crayon
From your broken red crayon
From your dull crayon, etc.

His crayon remains in his unopened box
Sharp. It waits to penetrate your world,
A shaky hand ready to color your walls,
Your refrigerator, your window, etc.

The picture in his mind colors himself
In the center of a crisp 8 ½ by 11 inch
Sheet. He is a giant handflower, blooming
Amongst all the “other similar things,” etc.

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About the Author

Kevin Garrison is a deaf professor of English at Angelo State University. He resides in the central spaces between Deaf World and Hearing World, and his poetry grapples with the daily challenges of being oral deaf, often with hints of religious symbolism.