Poems relatetd to the Deaf experience

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You Have to be deaf to understand the deaf

  What is it like to "hear" a hand?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to be a small child,
  In a school, in a room void of sound --
  With a teacher who talks and talks and talks;
  And then when she does come around to you,
  She expects you to know what she's said?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  Or the teacher thinks that to make you smart,
  You must first learn how to talk with your voice;
  So mumbo-jumbo with hands on your face
  For hours and hours without patience or end,
  Until out comes a faint resembling sound?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to be curious,
  To thirst for knowledge you can call your own,
  With an inner desire that's set on fire --
  And you ask a brother, sister, or friend
  Who looks in answer and says, "Never Mind"?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What it is like in a corner to stand,
  Though there's nothing you've done really wrong,
  Other than try to make use of your hands
  To a silent peer to communicate
  A thought that comes to your mind all at once?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to be shouted at
  When one thinks that will help you to hear;
  Or misunderstand the words of a friend
  Who is trying to make a joke clear,
  And you don't get the point because he's failed?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to be laughed in the face
  When you try to repeat what is said;
  Just to make sure that you've understood,
  And you find that the words were misread --
  And you want to cry out, "Please help me, friend"?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to have to depend
  Upon one who can hear to phone a friend;
  Or place a call to a business firm
  And be forced to share what's personal, and,
  Then find that your message wasn't made clear?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to be deaf and alone
  In the company of those who can hear --
  And you only guess as you go along,
  For no one's there with a helping hand,
  As you try to keep up with words and song?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like on the road of life
  To meet with a stranger who opens his mouth --
  And speaks out a line at a rapid pace;
  And you can't understand the look in his face
  Because it is new and you're lost in the race?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to comprehend
  Some nimble fingers that paint the scene,
  And make you smile and feel serene,
  With the "spoken word" of the moving hand
  That makes you part of the word at large?
  You have to be deaf to understand.

  What is it like to "hear" a hand?
  Yes, you have to be deaf to understand.

(Written at 1971 by Willard J. Madsen, professor of journalism at Gallaudet University. This poem was translated into seven different languages and reprinted in publications, including DEAF HERITAGE, p. 380.)

Thoughts of a Deaf Child

My family knew that I was deaf
When I was only three, and since then fifteen years ago
Have never signed to me.
I know when I'm around the house,
I try and use my voice,
It makes them feel more comfortable;
For me, I have no choice.
I try, communicate their way-
Uncomfortable for me.
My parents wouldn't learn sign
Ashamed or apathy?
I never cared about the sound of radios and bands;
What hurts me most is, I never heard
My parents' signing hands.

-Stephen J. Bellitz
Reprinted from Senior News, July 1991

Feelings

(Contributed by Dorinda Byers d-byers1@uiuc.edu at 28 Jun 1995.)

Here is a poem written by my son Rich when he was 16. Kind of shines a light on how he feels about his deaf life.

        I have not gold
        I have the richness of faith in the fold
        I have not hate
        I have thousands of peers with which to relate
        I have not a mansion
        I have only great passion
        I have not a treasure
        I have hope that one cannot measure
        I have not fear
        I have in my heart life which is dear
        I have not hearing
        I have the favor of caring.

Ode to a Deaf Child . . .

One day I saw a little child as lovely as a flower,
She danced and ran, she jumped and turned ...
                              I watched her for an hour.

This child of God was all the things I'd want my own to be,
Magnificient of heart adn limb a curiosity.

But when God made this little one he didn't give her sound,
He left her in silent world where quiet is profound.

A deep abyss, a lonely world, away from all who hear,
To never know the voice of man in happiness or fear.

And as I watched her hands make pictures in the air,
A silent unknown rhythm that I could never share.

For in this world of silence the hearing rarely go,
Because they lack the picture words it never can be so.

This causes me to wonder about the world of sound,
What is it that we're missing where the silence is profound?

And then I knew the answer, it suddenly was there--
To live and love togethere means people have to share.

Thus in the world of picture words where pretty symbols flow,
The meanings of I LOVE YOU is there for all who know.

And so I guess the world of sound will stay a world apart,
Until it learns the picture words, it cannot share the same heart.

Philip A. Bellefleur, Ph.D.

Thunk! A noisy world

(Contributed by Henry W. Meyerding hwm@halcyon.com at 23 Mar 1995.)
Thunk! A noisy world,
A world whose dinn you cannot escape
Surrounds you --- damn.
The wind claws you, the sea bellows,
The wrath of its roiled torrents
Are multimedia bazar.

The screeching of fowl -- You never escape the buzzard's bark
The incessant twittering of idiot pests
Nor even the pounding of the woodpecker
For you this torture is.

Only a babble of incessant chatter, of thoughtless noise;
Or else, certainly you quiver
Attacked by booming resonant explosions
Ah, the jest of dynamite -- What ho the NITRO

Thunk again!  Your wife's nagging,
Full of certain rectitude for you it never ceases
Even your own name you ignore at every possible opportunity;
You know you're as thick as a plank
To the astonishment of no one else.

Ah! you who Deaf!
Forget not all those foolish hearies
Cursed by an impossibility of silence
Incapable of coherant or determined cogitation in a world they define
To be most beneficial for themselves
They are doubly damnned.

Think! and forget them not.

When I started to parody this little tome, I didn't know it was so LONG! I especially groaned at the splashing ripples!

Anyone else here remember the Desiderata? It was a homely little tome that someone claimed to have found on a gravestone somewhere. It was later porven to be a total fake, but not before National Lampoon got through with it and authored the "Deteriorata."

        Take comfort amidst the toil of life
        That your dog is finally getting enough cheese... etc
God bless her and all who sail in her...

Henry W. Meyerding

Last update date: 
2011 Jun 3