Denise Duhamel


That the image is reflected upside-down
before the brain switches it around
so we can see it. That if you cough too much
when you're little (let's say you have
asthma or bronchitis) your eye muscles
will feel the strain and one of your eyes
will become tired and you'll begin
to go cross-eyed (it happened to me)
but then if the doctor catches it in time
(like mine did) he'll put a patch
over the the good eye to make the lazy one work
and even though you will still cough
this lazy eye will straighten itself out.
That we blink so fast so often
that we can't detect that blinking in others
with our own naked eyes that are also blinking.
That when I was little
kids teased the other kids who had to wear glasses
and called them four-eyes.
But that suddenly it became fashionable to wear glasses.
That people wearing glasses look smarter.
That contacts are very popular.
(My husband wears them.)
That you can be blind and still have
the most beautiful eyes.
That you shouldn't ever look
directly into the sun or at an eclipse.
That the disease commonly called "pink eye"
is technically conjunctivitis.
That a "red eye" flight will take you
from N.Y. to L.A. or vice versa overnight.
That when you close your eyes after staring
at an object you'll see its outline
in opposite colors.
That eyes produce eye snot
(what my aunt called it)
or sleepy seeds (what my mother-in-law
called it) especially when you have a cold.
That eyes get bloodshot when they don't rest enough.
That eyes are stolen out of some children
who live in El Salvador (I know this sounds
utterly impossible but it's true)
and sold for eye transplants in other countries.
That the children are kidnapped
like the British businessman was in New York--
he was kidnapped and drugged
and taken to some quack clinic
and then woke up the next day on a park bench in pain
because of the sloppy stitches.
That his kidneys had been stolen (this is all true--
I met a friend of this fellow at a party)
and organs are big sellers in certain parts of Asia
because it's against the law in certain countries
to donate your body to science.
That the eyes are taken from children
who will never see again.
That those children's eyelids will close
and fold into their eye sockets and they
will scare you for a minute when you look at them--
that is if they survive.
That I imagine most will die in the operation
because of the loss of blood and because
of the bad conditions under which it's performed.
That someone miles away
will pay good money for the eyes
of these children and use them as their own
(let's say the buyer has diabetes or glaucoma
or was born blind) and some of these eyes won't even take
because, after all, it's a difficult procedure
and there are no guarantees.
That someone you see on the street
may be looking at you with the eyes of a child
from El Salvador and not even know it.
That they may look away or squint to read small print.
That you may be farsighted or nearsighted or have astigmatism.
That it takes time for eyes to adjust
when you walk into a dark theater
and the movie's already started.
That you can't tell what you're buying anymore
just by looking at it with your eyes.

THE LITTLE I KNOW ABOUT EYES appeared in "The Star-Spangled Banner" (Southern Illinois University Press, 1999)