Jim Ferris


it's good to be
    a little bit
where did grammaw's nana
fall out of line
on the trail where they cried
when one of our people
ordered some of our people
to force our people
out of their homes
so some of our people
could suck the marrow
from the land where
our ancestors rest
    if rest they can

the old ones sighed
through the trees
E-Li-Si called it
nunna daul tsuny

some of our people owned
some of our people – when
the body is property
whose home is secure

mile and mile our people
forced our people, barefoot,
snow, wind – who
is not our people –
she was a little girl –
I was little once –
it's good to be
    a little bit

* * *


      As to the exposure and rearing of children, let there be a law that
      no deformed child shall live.

            Aristotle, Politics

Tell Aristotle I lived.
    Tell him Dave did too.
Tell him the state has not
    yet fallen, though you know
kids these days. Tell him perhaps
    all our words are but
elaborations, repetitions
    of that crier's claim.
Tell Aristotle, tell the Spartans,
    tell the legions of those
who think they can't afford the difference
    that difference makes,
tell Montaigne, tell Hobbes,
    tell Dr. Tiergarten
and that off-key singer
    of sad and silly songs,
tell them the useless eaters
    have survived,
tell them there are more of us now
    than ever, disorderly,
imperfect, splashing out the gene pool,
    what a messy species,
tell them my brother Dave and I
    inhabit this moment,
tell Aristotle we are alive,
    tell them all we thrive.

* * *


Said I'll be your Diego Rivera, baby,
Thought about that uno momento, Why
Not? No hombre is an Island, though I've
Known too many Peninsulas y más
Who should be Put Away on an island,
Starting with Diego, not his real nombre,
Protecting Los Inocentes is well
Beyond either of us, corazón, throw
Some penicillin Into the fire
To chase away the evil Lurking all
Around the hearts of men – is That the heart?
Y Las Mujeres too, who knew? Los ojos,
We All could see it coming, no one to blame,
Not Frida, not even Diego, awash
In the Same sea that calms you
And Intimidates me.

*This poem is part of a poetic sequence exploring, among other things, the impact of disability on the poet's family of origin, particularly after the birth of his youngest brother, David, who has Down syndrome. "Dr. Tiergarten" refers to the infamous Nazi T4 program of exterminating people with disabilities, named for the address of its headquarters at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin. Peter Singer is a philosopher still not fully discredited for his work which argues for a "right" to kill disabled newborns.


Jim Ferris is author of Facts of Life and The Hospital Poems, which Edward Hirsch selected as winner of the Main Street Rag Book Award in 2004. His book Slouching Towards Guantanamo was published in 2011. Ferris, who holds a doctorate in performance studies, has performed at the Kennedy Center and across the United States, Canada and Great Britain. His writing has appeared in dozens of publications, r anging from the Georgia Review to Text & Performance Quarterly, from the Michigan Quarterly Review to weekly newspapers. Past president of the Society for Disability Studies, Ferris holds the Ability Center Endowed Chair in Disability Studies at the University of Toledo.