“No modern poem was ever as obscure as Miss
Sullivan’s naming water water for Helen Keller.”
– Walker Percy
When a bear hears ice crack he doesn’t listen,
He moves. He doesn’t think water or know it
And never begins articulating ice. He
Redistributes his weight one way or another.
Cold and wet he feels; of water he knows nothing.
Yet in that seam of ice he hears an Arctic chord.
At the end of a New York novel a man
Trades sunglasses for bread. Helen Keller
Began with water. So she knew it for the first time
After feeling it in her hands a thousand, blind
And deaf, but understanding that water means
And translating at last what the feeling meant.
The sunglasses? A pair of designer shades
Almost weightless in his hand that he barters
For bread, kneeling and tasting, trying to learn.