When Vision Fails

When Vision Fails

A Poem by Paul Teese


Finding the way by flashlight that night

back to our tent in the pinelands, I stopped

and stood behind you, holding your shoulders,

turning you to face the far-off bird call,

then I cupped my hands behind your ears,

until you heard it too.

So many years ago.


I have longed for birds lit in sunlight,

the brilliant orange of an oriole,

the iridescent black of a grackle,

the colorful implausibility of a wood duck.

But so often it’s sound that first alerts me,

a fluted note, a rasp, a shriek.


Now my vision is poor.

Glare obscures clarity.

Floaters drift.

My eyes are misaligned.


We’re told that at the very end, when vision fails,

touch and hearing are the last to leave.


So what was the world trying to say,

that night so long ago? The bird,

with its emphatic message,

repeated over and over,

incessant, but inscrutable.





My vision is gone now.

I see only feelings, and

murky wisps of memory.


We are there again,

in the chill of night,

standing on sodden pine needles,

listening for all we’re worth.


We face the darkness.

I hold your shoulders.

We wait.

Paul Teese was born and raised on Long Island. He attended Gettysburg College where he majored in Business Administration. Over his varied work life, he has been a tennis instructor, an officer in the USAF, a federal bureaucrat, an ecological researcher, an instructor at a university, the director of a small non-profit, and a candidate for public office. Along the way, he took a few years off to live on a commune where he learned to milk cows and weave hammocks. Now retired, he has recently taken up creative writing and is working on his first novel, The Flora of Heaven. He lives with his wife in a quiet village in rural upper Bucks County.