Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Emptiness, a poem by Charlene Groves

"Emptiness." Illustration by the author.
I met Charlene Groves at a coffeehouse sometime in late 1974, a blind writer and poet from Martinsville, New Jersey. Though I had written some stories in college--which to this day I regret having lost--I had not yet determined to pursue a career as a writer.

Charlene was roughly 30 at that time. In addition to fixing music boxes, she was a prolific writer, having produced numerous short stories and countless poems. She also had a couple novel manuscripts under her belt, in the sci-fi genre.

The first story I'd read of hers was called A New Toy. It was a heartbreaking story about an alien who had come to earth and was put in a cage by scientists to be studied, treated like an object and not a person. (EdNote: In re-reading today, the story brings to mind the story of Ota Benga, a pygmy from the African bush country who was caged in the primates wing of the Bronx Zoo early in the last century.)

In 2013 I here shared her poem The Hermit, which I later read at a poetry reading the following Spring. What I like about her writing is the authenticity of her imagery, and the manner in which her words weld themselves to deep places in our hearts.

Today Charlene lives in New Brunswick, New Jersey.


Emptiness is rain beating a tin can.
It's having words leap forth with quick and ready flame,
While the important things go unsaid.
It's standing on a street corner somewhere,
Waiting for someone who never comes.
Emptiness is not found in being alone.
It's being lonely.
It's your thoughts growing old with rejection.
It's people not understanding when you need them most.
It's hate and indifference.
It's always being just a little short of your goal.
But mostly it's people passing each other,
Not even trying any more to be together.

* * * *

Charlene Groves isn't the first blind poet who has been influential in my life. My grandmother's great uncle was John S. Hall, the Blind Poet of Ritchie County. Her Uncle John lost his eyesight during the Civil War where he'd run away to be a teamster in Sherman's army. Five months in a Nashville hospital left him blind for life. After attending the Ohio School for the Blind he became a lawyer for a bit before founding publisher/editor of two West Virginia newspapers. His influence on my grandmother during her formative years resulted in her becoming a poet, and influencing myself in poetic appreciation.

You can read my imaginary interview with John Hall here on Medium.

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