The Poem and The Genesis

Shawn Jackson Deaf And Deaf Culture, Tourette Syndrome 0 Comments

Photo Credit: Styles Photos Location: Atlanta, GA

Photo Credit: Styles Photos
Location: Atlanta, GA

This is the poem that inspired this blog’s name and I’m sharing this story with you for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to bridge the gap a bit and have a post that directly addressed the Tourette Syndrome and Deaf sides of me, instead of having separate posts.
  2. To share my poetry with others.

______________________Deaf/Tourette_________________________

I scream, I hiss, I flail, I miss

I hurt, I maim, and I feel this

A hurt, a twitch, an internal dis

A loss of control, a nuclear near miss

I can’t help it, Can’t stop it

Can’t undo it, can’t block it

I can’t restrain or refrain it

Can’t train my body to contain it

Its built up, can’t shut up,

like a faucet that’s dripped up

Movements and vocals stay popped up

And through it all, I stand up

Can’t stop me, can’t contain me

I won’t allow it to define me

It doesn’t explain the real me

I’m quite sane, here is no insanity

You see the Tourette and think it’s me

But is that all there is of me that you see?

Is my yelling indicative of my capacity?

Or is that all you can judge as my quality?

Silence, stillness, yet a static noise

The quiet, the irritation, yet a fake poise

Bearing derision, isolation, yet still making noise

Aloneness, tears welling, yet joking w/ the boys

The hunger for hearing, for understanding, and learning

Yet none stepped forward to hear my yearning

None wanted to learn a new way of communicating

with me, and so I was left wanting and hurting

Alone, quite bare and cold, left needing an ear, a hand

another soul who could understand, with hands,

my words. And the last sounds i heard was in some distant stands

on TV in a crowd gone wild. And here, I thought, alone I stand

Depression took me hard like a terrible earthquake

to the sadness that enveloped me whole, made my soul deflate

And to it, there is nothing I can quite equate

Nothing prepared me for a world of Deafness, a totally new state

I had to move away to find my world, a new world of silent words

it was “Fire” and “water” said with hands, pictures became words

It was first place in my mind, no where near a distant third

Being able to talk without uttering a single word

Months became years, and years piled on and on

yet my wanting, while on hold, had finally won

The road to finally getting my CI was one that was hardspun

on an axis delicately balanced, as if I carried a ton

And now that I can hear, it’s not totally a clean sheet

Still with the triumphs and hardships settling beneath

I still struggle, day in and out, without using a cheatsheet

Reading lips, saying “pardon?” and “Repeat please?”

My life is my own, and its not been easy

Still not, but life isn’t for the queasy.

There are many things that went through my mind while writing this poem, but the first thing that came to me was, “I have to write this.”

Let me back up a bit. I had been visiting my best friend and Publisher at J’Adore Magazine, Taneish Leslie, and we were both watching TV and surfing the internet; me on her iMac and her on her laptop. While reading posts on Facebook, I came across my cousin Milton’s confessional poem, a day after reading the confessional poem of a mutual friend of ours named Kaai. Now, I’ve always regarded Milton and Kaai as my superiors in poetry because when I read what they wrote, I’m left in awe at how eloquently they put their thoughts, emotions and memories into written art, not just rhyme. After having just read his poem, I felt thoroughly inspired, that I could tell my own story through the art of poetry and, while it wouldn’t approach the mastery that I believed they had achieved, I thought it would at least allow me to finally vent my emotions that I had felt dealing with both Tourette Syndrome and being Profoundly Deaf

So I began to write it out with my mind becoming a flurry of words as I mentally went back in time to relive those moments and emotions. Reliving the thoughts and memories of when I felt that no one could possibly understand what I was going through: the frustrations that I felt when I was inconveniently ticcing at a party or couldn’t understand what the clerk at the counter was saying as I was trying to take something back at Wal-Mart or when I’m around someone new and don’t want to confuse them by speaking perfect English and for them to start speaking as if I could hear them, only for me to then let them know that I couldn’t hear a single sound they made. I felt those pangs as I was losing my hearing over the course of months and those times in High School when I had to be carried out of class because my ticcing had taken over my whole body and I was too loud for the entire school.

I wrote it all out as I felt it. I put words to what I felt and how I felt and what people made me feel like. All of this took me fifteen minutes to write on Taneish’s iMac. When I was done, I immediately wanted her opinion of what I had written, especially since it was quite different than any other poem I had written to her before. She was typing up an email when I told her I was done. “Already?” was her response, surprised that I had finished so soon, but she needed to finish email and send it off ASAP, so I patiently waited by reading posts and watching YouTube videos.

When she was ready to hear it, I recited it to her as clearly as I could so that my Southern accent wouldn’t get in the way and make her strain to understand certain parts. Plus, I had been wide awake for a little over a day so speaking clearly and taking my time was of paramount importance. When I was done, I turned around in my chair and saw her face filled with tears. She had been enourmously moved by what I had recited and gave me a hug. In the 20 years that I had been writing poetry, I had never seen such a reaction from anyone to any of my poetry.

Taneish had known me for almost a decade at this time and she knew about my deafness and my Tourette and had even seen me have a major ticcing episode. But even knowing all of that and seeing it, she never knew how I felt about any of it, outside of saying it was annoying or that I hate it. Hearing what it felt like for me to live through hearing loss and not being in control of my body really helped her understand, or even fleetingly feel what I felt, just a little bit more. You have to understand, I’m my own worst critic when it comes to my writing, and when I looked at the poem, I didn’t think it was all that great or deep. It was just me saying what I felt and still feel.

The next day, I decided to recite it at a place called Apache Café. It’s this place in Downtown Atlanta that had an open mic night and I was already feeling nervous just thinking about it. My heart feels like it’s about to jump out of my chest when I have to do ANYTHING in front of a large group of people, stuttering in the process. But even as I had decided to do it, it would be another couple of months before I went. Fear wasn’t the cause of the delay, but rather life and getting things done with J’Adore’s website.

There’s more to this story but I’ll leave it there. So much more to tell! Be well and until next blog post!

“In life, risk is part of the equation…”

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