by Tom Hooten
What do “I”s look like?
i don’t even see black.
Qualia smalia. Red blue schmoo.
Spectrum, gapped like missing teeth,
bounces off shriveled retinas.
Ya want me? Punch, rattle the air.
What works knows you’re there.
My guardian angel overlooked me.
Who knows what they see?
Maybe she saw mom smokin’ crack. Didn’t stop her.
Pushed me out, addicted, one point five premie pounds.
She hardly felt me: “Oh, gross! Take it away.”
No dad, no name—just a tiny i.
Uninsured? Send her to indigent ward.
Pump O2 to the wastrel. We’ll look in on her.
Maybe sooner, maybe not.
No money to buy Docs’ attention.
Retinopathy of Prematurity - Stage V - Total
“ROP,” they look away and say. “Oops, I see.
Sorry ‘bout that. Here’s a cane. My treat.”
What’s a cute red tip? Better the color of bruises.
“She’s so cute! Say cheese.” Camera flashes.
“Can’t see nothin’ but spots now.” Laughing.
Yeah, right, i think. Am i smiling?
Wonder what smirks look like.
The seeing Docs say, “Holds her head up. Good sign.”
Hand—i think—pats what they say is curls.
Who’s to teach a blind i what hands look like?
What’s fair in the mirror, mirror on the wall?
Who’ll they pay for my “special needs?”
Docs and lawyers grin at the judge:
“Sorry ‘bout that, sweetie. Live long and...stumble.”
Those adopting me say i’m beautiful.
Don’t know; i hope so,
in more than a skin-deep sort of way.
In a thick-skinned, trying-to-forgive sort of way.
Staring into the sun, damage done,
i’m satisfied to feel its warmth
and raise unseen fingers to tickle the wind.
(for the beautiful Arabella)
Bio: Tom Hooten received his Master’s Degree in Physiological Psychology from Auburn University, was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force (retired), and had a second career as a Human Resources Director. He has published two scientific research papers (co-authored), a science fiction novel, Hollytime, and an essay, "The Physics of Fidget Energy." He is retired in sunny Florida where he often writes aboard his sailboat, Lone Hoot.