Thursday, December 12, 2013

`I Want My Eyes'

“Pseudophakia of both eyes – primary.” 

That’s my ophthalmologist’s judgment, three weeks after the second of two cataract surgeries. Now I have an updated prescription for bifocals, one that should eliminate the chronic head-tilting and eyeglass removal I’ve resorted to for the interim. But it’s the deliciously Greek word I like – pseudophakia. At first it sounds redundant – something like doubly fake, ersatz-ersatz or bogus-bogus. Or, better yet, not fake at all but pseudo-fake or genuine. So, of course, I had to look it up. The Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t include the word but a medical dictionary gives us “artificial lens implantation after cataract surgery” and “a condition in which an aphakic eye has been fitted with an intraocular lens to replace the crystalline lens.” The OED does offer “phakic” and “aphakic”—with or without a lens, respectively – both from ϕακός (phakos), meaning “lentil.” Millennia ago, some folk poet noticed the resemblance between a legume and a lens. 

The miraculous nature of the procedures I’ve undergone is finally sinking in. A few painless minutes under a focused beam of light have improved and preserved my vision. My doctor explained that if you live long enough, you’ll probably get cataracts, and for centuries that condemned you to at least partial blindness. In the Contemporary Poetry Review, James Matthew Wilson reviews two new books of poems by David J. Rothman, and quotes one titled “Not My Leg”: 

“Not my eyes,
Dear God, not my eyes.
Don’t poke them out,
So I grope about
Like Homer, Milton, Joyce.
If you have to be blind
To have such a voice,
I find
I want my eyes.” 

Let’s add Borges to the catalog of blind poets. Would I sacrifice my vision to sit among the immortals? Would I willingly enter “this dark world and wide?”

1 comment:

Levi Stahl said...

I'm glad to hear, Patrick, that the treatment is working. Blndness is, of course, the great fear of the reader: despite all the fine examples who've showed us that it need not stop either reader or writing, it still seems a horror, and watching both my grandmothers have increasing trouble with their sight in recent years has reminded me to be ever-grateful of my own. Borges was always eloquent in saying that the loss of sight did nothing to take books away from him, but I'd rather not be forced to test my own mettle that way. I wish you easy eyes and clear sight!