Ruben with the quiet voice, so soft I must bend down and lean in to hear him. He suffers from degenerative glaucoma, will be blind soon. Today, with his aide, we taught him symbolism through the eyes of Paul Laurence Dunbar, a black writer in the mid-century South, who wrote of freedom and imprisonment in “Sympathy.”
Ruben will be trapped within darkness soon, who must quickly learn to read braille and learn to decipher the words he sees each day. He sees and tells me the words, within the poem: the trees, the sky, sunlight that are freedom, that soon he will not see except as a memory.
“I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass”
He shows me the cage, the bars, the perch of darkness, that are prison, that he will inhabit someday.
“I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!”
He smiles, softly explaining the ideas to me. And I know that I can walk outside, look at the sunset, and smile too.