The Deaf Man Came to My House*

*This is a self-styled poem I wrote about my experience as a hearing child of deaf adults, encountering other deaf adults, mostly my parents’ friends and guests.

The Deaf man came to my house

grunting, moaning, his hands a knife of ideas

The air changed, and purple and red dots of shame

dyed my ears, my backwards ears


And I was invalid because of that man!

Through our teeth we mumbled in silence,

knowing both that I am his vassal.

He comes with signs that to me will always be magical spells.


To send words into the mind that harpoon sweet ideas into souls blessed with Deafness,

while I could only scrape the bottom of their barrel with my feet, fingers shoved in my ears.

I damn those ears, for they build a wall between me and the Men of Many Hands.

and I damn that Deaf man who stole my family with his talking fingers.


5 Responses to “The Deaf Man Came to My House*”

  1. Uzza Says:

    There’s some awesome imagery in there–‘knife of ideas’ ‘Men of Many Hands’, ‘backward ears’, FTW. I have to admit I don’t understand, though; it hints at attitudes foreign to me. I suck at poetry though and I would love to see some exegesis of this. How about a whole post?

  2. freidenker24 Says:

    The “knife of ideas” combines the ripping feeling I have when I cannot reach the real meaning of signs when I view the deaf communicate with each other. The knife is the pain I feel, the ideas is what they convey with such ease and nonchalance.

    “Man of Many Hands” is a play of words. To call someone a man of many hands can refer to one’s ability to perform a multitude of tasks, but that is not what I mean. To me, a “hand” is a word, so the “man with many hands” is actually “the man with many words”. More words than I have, words, sometimes, that I cannot have.

    My backwards ears are a reference to the fact that it is my ears to blame for the buffer between me and the Deaf. As an interpreter, I’ve always managed to transform the audio into the video,

    but I was never a part of the Deaf, I was never assimilated, I couldn’t, because my ears impeded upon me. So I view my hearing as an obstruction, as an obstacle for me to be part of what I really want to be part of – the Deaf. There’s that look I get when a Deaf person realizes I can hear. It means : “You don’t belong to us”.

  3. uzza Says:

    Thank you for that. It’s weird, for me (late-deafened, L2 ASL) signing is my bridge of welcome into the world of the deaf, and I have feelings of inclusion. (well, as much as I ever felt included in hearing society either, lol) You’re at the other end of the spectrum, feeling excluded. Another example of the Middle Way, I guess.

  4. freidenker24 Says:

    Consider the fact that my exclusion stems not only from the fact that I’m not Deaf – I’m also not my parents’ age and Israeli Deaf adults aren’t as “aware” of “modern” problems like feeling excluded. When I was little, my parents barely even signed to me, they tried to use oral communication and it sucked and until I was a teenager, and I took an ISL picture book and taught myself a lot of missing vocabulary, communicating with them was practically impossible.

    I envy you, for what you said. I wish knowing sign language was enough for me to be Deaf.

  5. Uzza Says:

    OOooh, yeah, that expalins a lot. Not being able to communicate with your own parents, I can’t even imagine what that would be like. “modern problems”, yeah.

    Seems like a watershed is passed when a deaf community takes possession of the idea that their signing is a real language, and thus something to be proud of, rather than some poor imitation of the Sacred Spoken Word. Sure makes a difference.

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