Jill Khoury


Orientation and mobility is like
survivalist training for the blind.
And I have just fucked up the lesson
beyond repair. I have lost us both
in our small city. I have lost
our instructor. I am thirteen; I am
really in for it as soon as I solve
this mess.

Amenie and I practice
upon the grid-shaped streets
because we hope for what may come
eventually: independence.
So far I'd held the grid in my head,
memorized a sequence of lefts-rights-
norths-souths that piled up like Escher stairs.
And then I lost it. When I look down
at Amenie's olive skin, dark glasses,
I want to ask her where she hopes to go
when we're no longer here.

Landmarks sequence through my brain:
odd-angled slides of Hell Vacation.
Coffee vender, theater marquee,
huge department store where we had to ride
the elevator to the top and escalate
back down. Hot dog stand. Porn shop.
Someone has upended the slide tray, spilled
out my geography onto the shag.

We duck into a bus shelter. Shame starts
in my stomach, works up to my throat.
I'm the oldest. Even I, only child, know
that the oldest takes care, takes credit, blame.
I'm trying not to vomit into a planter
when Amenie hisses what now? I don't know
how to appease little sisters.
I stare down into her dark glasses.
Maybe we should wait here until he finds us.
Our instructor, giant-tall, is easy for me to spot.
I peer out. No man with his shape in the long shot
I aim down the block. Then Amenie
starts hitting me. Small punches.
I grab her arms. She wriggles free.

* * *

For Priyasha

When I hold her, she
points to the ways I am
different from her mommy:
fingers my pink hair, nose ring,
while her mother
murmurs, gentle.

I let her hands explore
my face, even drift
into my mouth.
I say ma ma ma.

She points to my chipped
black toenail polish, traces
the lines of my tattoos.

When we have walked
along Carson to the car,
she wants to touch
a brick wall I would have found
interesting, snapped
a picture of its mottled
texture. But I'm
loaded down with
bags and cane.
The cane takes
one hand.

Her mommy says brick.
She says brick.
Now she wants down;
she wants to walk
toward me
and my cane.

She asks what is it?
I say, white cane.
She runs her palm
up the side, like me when I first
felt the smoothness
of this new cane.
Fiberglass, telescoping.
Now, she wants
to walk with it, so we do.
At first
and then spinning
around it like
a maypole.

I hold up high
and she holds low.
She is joyous.
I am circumscribed.
I try to keep
the tip solid
on the sidewalk
so she won't slip.
Her feet follow me or
their own rhythm.
She doesn't sense
my awkward tilt.

I try my best to be
the spinning wheel
of the gyroscope.
I chant spin spin .
I don't care
who sees us.

* * *


Three blocks
from the bus stop
to my house.
                      I know
the terrain well enough
in the day.
                      After dark,
the tip jogs over
uprooted sidewalk,
sticks in every gash.

                      [The ruins of a micro-
                     civilization take form
                     under my hand.
                                             Here is
                     the ceremonial balustrade.

                     Here is the precipice,
                     off of which sacrifices

A pickup overtakes me,
splits the road down
the middle.
                      My heartbeat
like a gunned engine.

My cane
glows white
in headlight or
                      But the streetlights
seem to buzz out, one
after another.

I feel my father
behind my eyes.
                      He says
you're a target.

I think
this is why man
invented God

At home I
the old linen,
replace it
with new.

Cold, I want
to pull a cotton quilt
to my chin.

* * *



The boy across the street points at me and lisps–now I know what they mean in books when they say children lisp. He wears a red and white striped t-shirt, addresses my friend who walks beside me. I ask people to please walk on my left side. It's the eye that's not completely dead I say. They always move over. The boy addresses my friend with her blonde hair braided at the sides of her head. The boy asks my friend–freckles on her shoulders, her forehead–a question. It's the first day of summer and she looks like summer sun at noon, my friend. I am the fathomless white sky of winter. I fold in and in, like this cane I use. The boy asks Can she see? I flinch but say nothing. Again: Can she see? My friend says to me he's asking if you can see. I don't know how to speak to children this small. Their manic pop and dodge through my visual field. Their penetrating questions.


To find the right vibrations to make sound = swallowing ice, clouds, outer space.
articulate against a current, a watery pressure.
should be drowning. Instead I–

Certain seams crack, billow open.


Increased occasions like this with the boy = crying more after.
I hate 1) myself 2) everyone else.

Sadness flows out of me, according to my guru. I imagine secreting it, like oilslick.

Diving into the river open-mouthed ? recurring dream. Speaking in synthesized voices ?
recurring dream. Speaking through the hole in my neck from where my head is missing ?
recurring dream.


Like the way my nerves weave a fiery net. Like the way I want my psyche to be smooth like metal on metal. Like the pain of this particular burning. Or the way this new cane tip rolls across the ripped-up sidewalk.

A little bit, I yell across the street. In my neighborhood people close boundaries. The child asks my friend, can she see? I don't know how to answer. I want her to answer instead.


*"Certain Seams" was the third palce winner in the 2012 Split this Rock Poetry Competition.


Jill Khoury earned her Masters of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Sentence, RHINO, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Harpur Palate. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice by Breath and Shadow: A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature, and has a chapbook, Borrowed Bodies (Pudding House Press).