Dip Room Blues

Read more about this in Men Without Fear, available at Amazon.

After missing a year of high school to a life-threatening illness, Fred Tarrant would need an extra year to earn his high school diploma. Not a great student to begin with, he found himself falling just short of the credits he needed to graduate. Unwilling to trade discrete favors with one of his teachers, he returned home in 1946, sans diploma, to Saratoga Springs to work at Tarrant Manufacturing. He started in the factory dip room, alone, hooking machine frames onto an electric lift and lowering them into huge vats of paint and thinner, afterward sliding each frame over a thirty-foot drip pan. He did this over and over while, unbeknownst to him, the lift threw sparks here and there, trying its best to set the place on fire.

By 1952, Fred had saved up just enough money to fly to Managua, Nicaragua and marry his sweetheart Odilie. He’d met her years back at the Institute when she came to train at working with the blind. Fred and Odilie returned to New York and started a life and a family together, while Fred continued to work at the factory, climbing up the corporate ladder to supervision and design.

In late 1968, after 22 years at the factory, Fred’s eyesight entered a phase of rapid degeneration. Within six to eight months, the remainder of his eyesight was lost. His father Fred Sr., at the prompting of his older brother Bill, wrote Fred out of the family business.

Bill Tarrant was far from fortunate, having been stricken with the same vision disorder as Fred but also cursed with polio, yet he was the eldest son. He had the power. Bill was a tough customer when it came to sharing the family spoils, and he made sure the business would be all his. Fred was now totally blind and unemployed, with a family to care for. Odilie, having to consider their two children, contemplated leaving Fred, who though fearing that his brother might go so far as to murder him, made preparations for suicide.

There was little or no fraternity of the blind to fall back on or even to commiserate with. For most of the kids at the Institute, the society of the blind was a society of workshop laborers. There was a strong sense in which the only escape for these kids demanded that they escape each other. Reading the few autobiographies and recollections available, one is given the impression that each writer saw himself as the sole survivor; on his own in a windowless capsule upon a sea of sighted people. Each one might as well have been the only one.

Fred’s buddy John Jensen was far off on the California coast, married with five kids, building a prosperous business and dreaming of moving back to South Carolina to spread God’s Word. Fred probably hadn’t talked to John in over a decade.

Louis Mitchell wasn’t so far off, an English professor down in Pennsylvania, finding his place in the Civil Rights movement. Fred called Louis once or twice, hoping Louis had heard from John.

Arthur Torgersen, married with four kids (so far), was still in the New York area, working as an electrical engineer. Though Torgersen and Jensen had seemed like twins at one time, they seemed to have lost track of each other completely.

Gene Manfrini had a good thing going tuning pianos, and though he had a band and a name among New York musicians, it seems none of his former schoolmates were aware of it.

Anthony Mattei had his family and was teaching math out of the edge of Queens. He’d never showed much interest in keeping connected to the blind crowd. He wasn’t alone in that regard.

The list goes on.

In the end, Fred didn’t use the hanging rope, and Odilie—she held on.

Tapping his industry experience, Fred started his own manufacturing business, but he could barely manage to break even, so after four years of that struggle he gave real estate a try. That kept Fred, Odilie, and their two kids sheltered and fed for twenty years. They then moved to Naples, Florida, where after some time Fred got involved in municipal government.

As a city councilman, Tarrant once made the news by objecting to the public display of artwork on city property that he deemed inappropriate. Some people found this laughable, seeing that Tarrant was blind, but of course people regularly express opinions based on accounts from trusted sources. When a blind man does so, some people don’t judge him by the same standard. But no matter: Fred battled on.

In 2005, Fred and Odilie cashed in their chips and retired to the mountains of Costa Rica. The summer heat in Florida had been hard on Fred, so he is much more comfortable at a kilometer above sea level in the highlands of Costa Rica. After a decade in Odilie’s native Central America, Odilie passed away. Now she has joined the ranks of the absent, along with Twersky, Russell, Jensen, Torgersen, Mitchell, Manfrini, Mattei, and Downs.

Fred continues on his own, watching from his mountain porch, still sharp, writing verse and pumping iron at 90. Fred will be joining them sooner or later. He’s not a religious man, but he writes a damned good poem about God:

by Fred K. Tarrant, Jr.[1]

Seen God in a dream
Seen him plain as day I did
Big scoop shovel in his hands
Barefoot, naked to the waist
Shovelin golden pea coal
Shovelin into a monster furnace.
Furnace bigger than any I ever seen.
Sparks flyin up the stack
Billions of sparks exploding
Into zillions of stars, everything all lit up
For miles around, smoke stars and sparks
God a smiling an bendin to his work.
Wanted to rap with him but seen
Him as being too busy keepin things goin
Job so big only God could do it.
Made me feel good knowin at last
How it all works and all of us a part of it.

[1] Tarrant, Fred K., Jr., ODDS AND ENDS. June 6, 2014

© 2016 Kaweah

Mr. Wrestling

Read more about this in Men Without Fear, available at Amazon.

For many boys at the New York Institute, the man that made self-respect achievable was one Clyde L. Downs of Downsville, Maryland.

When Clyde Downs first came to the Institute in 1929 at age 21, the Institute did not have a wrestling program, and Downs did not come as a wrestling coach. He appears to have been a general physical education coach, engaging students in a variety of activities.

Overbrook School in Philadelphia has been credited with the first wrestling program for blind kids, started in 1929,[3] the very same year that NYI hired Clyde Downs. The Institute would sometimes compete against Overbrook. The Philadelphia-based program was an all-white program, while the New York Institute was integrated. When the two teams met, the Institute’s non-white players were not able to participate, so the Institute was subjected to a handicap. But it seems that in the early years Overbrook had a genuinely superior program. A February 1937 story in Time Magazine describes a 22–5 beating handed to the Institute by Overbrook. By 1942, however, New York Institute students and graduates began to appear at or near the top of regional and national tournaments to a degree that Overbrook never had.

Though Coach Downs led the NYI wrestlers to meets with Overbrook and likely other racially exclusive schools, there was a point at which he drew the line. Joe Giovanelli recalls the day when Coach Downs decided not to take the team to a White-only meet:

On one particular day in gym just before our team was to travel to Georgia for a match, the gym teacher had all of us sitting on the floor as he talked to us in a way which was unlike anything he had ever said. He told us that our team would not be going to Georgia. He said that it had to do with something called “Jim Crow”. I never heard of that, and I’m not sure if any of the rest of the guys had heard of it. The instructor told us about something I surely didn’t know anything about. He told us that some of our team members were African-Americans and that the Georgia school wouldn’t wrestle with any of them. The only way that our team could be invited was to leave the black kids behind. The instructor said that this was absolutely unacceptable, so the team would not go …[4]

Clyde Downs was very likely the founder of the Institute’s wrestling program, and he was certainly the one who put together the Institute’s first competitive wresting squad in late 1934.

Downs also directed the Institute’s summer camp in the Green Mountains of Vermont, Camp Wapanacki. The camp was first opened in 1938 and Downs first became camp Director in 1940. He remained Camp Director for most of his remaining years at the Institute.

His strength as a coach, so far as I can discern from a range of reports, derived from his natural talent, his insistence on constant intra-team competition, and his passionate concern for the kids put into his care. What his wrestlers accomplished was largely due to his support, such as getting the team to meets and tournaments as distant as Baltimore and San Francisco, often in his own clunker of a car, but it seems as though he was no wrestling expert, at least not to begin with.

Coach Downs kept the boys on their toes. No spot on the squad was secure. It could be challenged at any time. If a boy’s spot was challenged by another, he would have to wrestle to defend it, and if he lost the match he would have to forfeit not only his position on the squad but also his beautiful gold-on-blue letter jacket.

Downs could be downright mean, but even at his worst he ever seemed to have the boys’ best interests at heart. Perhaps the best example of this is Robert Russell’s account of his experience with Coach Downs in his bestselling memoir, To Catch an Angel.

Young Robert Russell was introverted, timid, and overweight, but Downs approached him about giving wrestling a try. Wrestling didn’t come easy for Robert. When the boy couldn’t keep up with Coach Down’s rigorous physical training regimen, Downs would call him names like “Fat.” The myriad of echoing noises of the gym overwhelmed the boy, and he was uncomfortable wrestling strangers from other schools. When he failed utterly against an opponent on Columbia University’s JV squad, Robert quit the team. When he quit, he stayed quit, but Coach Down refused to gave up on him. Downs kept coming back to Russell and giving him opportunities to try again, for instance during ordinary gym class workouts. Russell eventually returned to the team, and he would become one of the Institute’s best wrestlers by the time he graduated in 1941. Among his accomplishments was winning his weight class at the Westchester County Championships. He would later wrestle for Yale University’s varsity squad.

Though Downs had been particularly hard on Russell, yet Russell saw in his coach an exceptional ability to divine the psychological needs of a child:[5]

Mr. Downs was an excellent coach and he trained some really first-rate wrestlers, but he was much more important as a molder of character and attitude. He did everything he could to make people like me aggressive, … Clyde Downs was one of the few people at the Institute who worked creatively with our psychological problems. He taught us that we could win in competitions with the sighted.

The medals that Coach Downs’ wrestlers won at Metropolitan and National championships were won without a sophisticated training program. This was a school that graduated only about 15 students per year.[6] My guess is that over the years, Downs learned as much from his wrestlers (collectively) as they learned from him, and surely much of what Jensen, Tarrant, and (later) Manfrini learned they learned at the 23rd Street YMCA.

Altogether, Coach Downs was nothing less than a miracle, a miracle that extended far beyond the sport of wrestling. Fred Tarrant relates:

Clyde L. Downs was the total picture as regards wrestling at the Institute. Without him it would have been a void. The blind girls had no such challenging program and so got the short end of the stick.

In addition, here’s an anecdote offered by Tarrant:

Coach Downs at one point attended night court down near the Battery in connection to a course he was “struggling with” at Columbia University.

A big bum jumped from a doorway grabbing Downs from behind in a bear hug. He had a knife. Downs had his hands in his overcoat pockets as it was winter and cold. As he could not get his hands out from his pockets he did the next best thing: [he] tore both pockets from the coat and dumped the poor devil on top of a fire plug; put the bum in hospital for three weeks but went to visit him taking him packs of cigarettes and so forth.

This says much about Coach Downs. Had he himself entered the Nationals as a heavyweight or near to it, he would have taken the gold no doubt, but he never competed.

His teaching was on the mat, hands-on always. Fabulous! [7]

As Jensen’s and Tarrant’s lights faded in 1944, Coach Downs would continue to coach younger wrestlers, including rising stars Anthony Mattei and Gene Manfrini who went on to win Metropolitan titles.

In 1947, after accompanying his remaining star Eugene Manfrini to the Senior National Championships in San Francisco,[1] Downs returned to his native Maryland, where he would become known as “Mr. Wrestling.” He was inducted into Maryland’s Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1981.[2] The NY Institute’s wrestling program returned to obscurity after Downs’ departure.

The bulk of Clyde L. Downs’ obituary follows:

Born Oct. 17, 1907, in Downsville, he was the son of the late Ross Wolford and Emma Katherine Hetzer Downs.

His wife, Martha Haines Gormley Downs, died in 1986.

He was a graduate of Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., and received his master’s degree in education from Columbia University in New York City.

He was employed as a teacher at the Institute for the Education of the Blind in Bronx, N.Y., from 1929 to 1947. He taught physical education and health at Washington Street School in Hagerstown from 1948 until his retirement in 1976.

He started instruction in wrestling at Washington Street School and at the YMCA. Many state champions resulted from the program. He instructed at a referees’ school at South Hagerstown High School. In a 1981 Daily Mail article, he was referred to as “Mr. Wrestling.” He was inducted into the Maryland State Wrestling Hall of Fame for Secondary Schools in 1981 and was inducted into the Washington County Hall of Fame in 1989.

He also was a Boy Scout leader in New York City, and camps director for the blind at Camp Beacon Lodge in Lewistown, Pa., and Camp Wapanacki in Hardwick, Vt.

He was a member of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Williamsport.

He also was a member of Optimist Club, Order of Eagles and YMCA in Hagerstown.

© 2016 Kaweah

[1] Pelham Progress, June 20, 1947 (Vol. 9, No. 2)

[2] To this day, the winner of the Washington County Wrestling Tournament receives the “Clyde Downs Trophy.”

[3] According to Time Magazine, 22 Feb 1937

[4] Giovanelli, Joe. Let There Be Light: The Inspirational Achievements of a Man Born Blind. 2010. Page 46. It is possible, but unlikely, that Giovanelli is recollecting someone other than Coach Downs in this passage.

[5] Russell, Robert. To Catch an Angel. The Vanguard Press, Inc. New York (1962), page 60

[6] NYI graduated 17, 7, 16, and 13 in 1942, ’43. ’45, and ’47 (respectively).

[7] Letter dated August 2, 2016 from Fred Tarrant to Dan Jensen.

The Strike of ’43

Read more about this in Men Without Fear, available at Amazon.

When it came to John Jensen’s character, his failures could be as telling as his successes. Fred Tarrant recalls a night when his buddy John was heading out on a big date. Fred, though blind, could see better than John, so John had him inspect his outfit. Fred was impressed with John’s stunning white suit and red boutonnière, and sent John off into the New York night with his full approval. John returned later that night with his white suit splattered with grease, soil, and blood. He had fallen off a train platform en route to his date!

Here Fred recollects another mishap: [1]

I am sure I told you about your dad’s disappearing down a freight loading opening in the sidewalk in NYC. The workers left the metal door open and down he went onto a pile of scrap iron.

John wasn’t the only blind kid roaming the streets of Manhattan without so much as a cane. The Institute encouraged students to conceal their blindness, as did a kind of daredevil subculture among some of the students.

Even the games played on the Institute grounds seemed inordinately hazardous, for instance a form of football in which teams of blind kids rushed simultaneously after a loose football.

Then there are the social hazards. Fred Tarrant recalls: [2]

I know one time we were to meet in the cocktail lounge at the Hotel Victoria, [3] … I arrived late and found J.J. dreadfully depressed. He said he had tried to order a drink and the bartender refused as he was blind.

Bob Russell offered some good anecdotes about blind people being refused service in his memoir, one of which is quite funny. I sometimes wonder whether incidents like this made my father more sensitive to the plight of the targets of racial discrimination. As noted earlier, the Institute itself was racially integrated and sometimes was not permitted to field its best athletes against white-only schools. That alone, with a little competitive spirit, would be enough to turn a segregator into an integrator. Perhaps both of these factors would make my father more inclined to resist racism in South Carolina and South Africa.

John Jensen was sometimes a student leader and sometimes a maverick; even a nuisance. One particular incident comes to mind. It occurred in April 1943, when John, now 18, had reached an age when a sighted person might be permitted to pass an hour with the opposite sex. It was also a time when John’s glaucoma began to flare up. John and Fred decided to protest the rigid separation of girls and boys at the Institute. They organized a sit-down strike in assembly to protest school conditions, including restrictions to contact between girls and boys, and limits to weekend permits. There was no rioting or shouting, only silent “civil disobedience.” Principal Frampton lost his temper and suspended the many students who followed John and Fred into the strike. They were all suspended. Fred went home with John to Mount Kisco.

Fred recalls:[4]

When your dad and I were kicked out of the Institute that same day … we went to talk with the powers that be at the high school in Chappaqua, Westchester County, to see if we could enroll there. Got turned down fast.

Joe Giovanelli, Class of ’47, was of middle school age—just turning 14, and did not follow through on the strike. His perspective on the matter is illuminating:

… I sensed some restlessness among many of the students. Something really big was brewing! Bob[5] asked me if I’d join what he called a “strike.” He talked about the fact that we (the students) didn’t have any representation.

It was a week or so before Easter. Morning Assembly was convened as usual. A few of us refused to leave our seats. The principal, Dr. Frampton, (whom we all hated) was in charge on that fateful morning. Assembly was dismissed. As people filed out of the room, the others remained seated. One person shouted that we wouldn’t leave until our grievances against the school were addressed. The principal immediately shouted to one of the proctors: “Take down the names of these students and send them all home!” Bob was among those “rebels”. Well inasmuch as I really didn’t understand what the whole business was about, I quickly got out of there before my name could be taken.

… the halls and classrooms were emptier than usual. A hush fell on everything. Would these kids come back? Would I ever see Bob again? … I was sad to the point of tears. …

After 19 days of suspension, the suspended students were offered amnesty in exchange for an apology. John and Fred did not apologize, so their suspensions were extended, and they packed up and returned to Mount Kisco. After a couple weeks, the Institute’s board of directors inquired into the suspensions and chose to terminate the suspensions unconditionally. John and Fred returned to the Bronx, no strings attached. Fred reports that Principal Frampton was extra nice after the two returned to school. Fred also reports that John’s father was not happy about John losing school time. Fred assures me that Mr. Jensen did not lose his temper, but he was very serious about his dream of his son becoming a doctor, and he made it clear that he was disappointed.

Joe Giovanelli continues:

A week went by and none of the guys came back. There was a rumor going around that some were back and having a meeting with the principal. Then I saw for myself that all of those who were dismissed were back. In one of those assemblies the principal explained that there would be some changes as to how the school was run. The way it was, if someone did something wrong, he or she would have been suspended or expelled. Now there would be a merit system. Slight misbehavior would earn one demerit. If a person got ten demerits, he would be called to the principal’s office and might or might not be dismissed for a while. … A Student Government was also set up so that many problems would be referred to that body for judgment rather than going directly to the principal.

One of the grievances was that it was important for boys and girls to learn how to act with one another. What the principal called a “Social Hour” would be arranges so that for about forty-five minutes after supper, boys and girls would mingle in the common lobby. Every once in a while dances would be held …

These were unbelievable concessions. …

The Strike was a success, though it probably didn’t make John and Fred any more beloved by the school administration.

© 2016 Kaweah

[1] Letter from Fred Tarrant to Dan Jensen, dated, dated 26 February 2015

[2] Letter from Fred Tarrant to Dan Jensen, dated 4 June 2015

[3] 145 West 51st Street at 7th Avenue, NE corner (Times Square)

[4] Letter from Fred Tarrant to Dan Jensen, dated, dated 22 June 2015

[5] Robert Whitstock.

Blind Guide: Father Sutcliffe

Read more about this in Men Without Fear, available at Amazon.

Harry J. Sutcliffe was born in Brooklyn, New York on 10 August 1925. He was delivered premature and lost his sight soon thereafter to an incubator mishap.

Father Harry Sutcliffe

Father Harry Sutcliffe


The “age of radio” was a special time to be a blind kid. Amateur radio was also a fascination of many blind hobbyists, one of whom was young Harry Sutcliffe. Anthony Mannino describes Sutcliffe’s career as a “ham” operator in his April 1963 Blind American article:

At the age of thirteen the young student became interested in amateur radio, and by the time he was sixteen was a confirmed “ham” operator. He did a great deal of reading of technical material on the subject and studied under the expert teaching of Bob Gunderson, well-known teacher of the blind. During World War II there were fifteen or twenty amateur radio operators at the school, who worked for the Radio Intelligence Division of the Federal Communications Commission, engaged in recording propaganda broadcasts. Young Sutcliffe also worked for the War Emergencies Radio Services of the Office of Civilian Defense of New York, covering telephone failures resulting from attack or other emergencies. For his participation in this important work he was awarded a citation by the late Fiorello LaGuardia, then Mayor of New York City.[1]

One of Harry’s schoolmates, Joseph Giovanelli, who was often bullied at the Institute, remembered Harry thus in his 2010 autobiography:

Harry Sutcliffe, … like me, was mistreated quite often. He handled it better than I could. … Ham radio changed him from an introverted boy who lacked confidence into an out-going and well-adjusted guy.

… Harry reached a point in his studies where he learned enough to become a licensed amateur radio operator. He patiently explained some basic principles by which radios worked. Sometimes when I was home on a weekend I would hear Harry talking to other amateur radio operators (hams). That was really exciting.[2]

CBS Roundtable

Unlike my father and so many other boys at the Institute, Harry was no wrestler, though he seemed to keep himself in outstanding physical condition. He was not an extraordinary high school student. He was nearly 19 when he graduated from the Institute. Though Harry and Dad did not appear to know each other very well, they would turn out to have one thing in common: a love for scripture.

Throughout his life, Harry would be a student of language. Though not always the consummate student he was a heady young man, and like many of the blind, he developed a love for the written and spoken word. One of the Institute’s teachers reported on Harry in the following limerick:

He is an indefatigable student of Latin
At home in the judge’s velvets and satins
Fond of rational spiels
And radio squeals,
And frequently is late for his matins.[3]


After Harry graduated in 1944, the New York Institute’s Pelham Progress reported:

Harry Sutcliffe, who has always intended entering the ministry, has at last realized his ambition and he is now at Wittenberg College in Ohio preparing for the Lutheran church.

Harry graduated magna cum laude in four years, a member of a number of honor societies: Delta Phi Alpha, Phi Mu Alpha Symphonia, Phi Eta Sigma, national Blue Key honorary, Pi Sigma Alpha and Phi Sigma Iota.[4]

Harry attended the Lutheran seminary at Mount Airy in Philadelphia, and earned a bachelor of divinity there in 1951. He specialized in exegetical theology, the study of sacred scriptures with Hebrew and Aramaic.[5] He graduated second in his class. 

The Priesthood

Harry didn’t remain a Lutheran. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in the year after he graduated from Mt. Airy. At first, the Episcopal Church rejected him because of his blindness, but Harry found a way. The Assyrian rite contains a special form of ordination for the blind (priests were sometimes blinded in Ottoman Turkey), so Harry ‘studied for the priesthood at the Aramaic Church of the East church “St. Thomas Church” on Cabot Street in New Britain,’ Connecticut. He was ordained in the Assyrian “Church of the East,” the first non-Assyrian to be ordained in the American chapter of the Church of the East. His first position was as an assistant in the Chicago Parish of Mar Sargis. His assignment was to “render into the Braille alphabet all the services of the Church translated into English from the Aramaic, and will conduct them according to the traditional forms, but in English.”

The newly ordained “Father Sutcliffe” is third from the right in the following photograph:

Harry Sutcliffe's ordination

Now an ordained priest, Harry Sutcliffe was able to transfer to the Episcopal Church.

Interfaith Service

In 1956, the American Church Union of the Episcopal Church started a new fellowship for the blind and appointed Father Sutcliffe its chaplain.[6]

In 1958, Father Sutcliffe began work as an instructor at the Jewish Braille Institute.[7] He was appointed director of the Episcopal Guild for the Blind when that body was founded in 1959, and he would remain in that position for at least 28 years.[8]

Bishop Bert Schlossberg, once a reader for Father Sutcliffe, remembers him thus:[9]

Harry was a Lutheran, … who was sick (though a Gentile) of the anti-semitism in his church, so he became an Episcopalian, and an Anglo-Catholic one at that, learned Yiddish, he already knew German having broken one of the German codes for the War Department, and became a featured speaker at both B’nai B’rith, (they loved him), and the Hebrew Christian Alliance (we loved him too). As an Episcopal priest, Harry became the one man Episcopal Guild for the Blind, sending out and marking Braille Bible studies. ….

Harry’s interfaith work, including teaching Hebrew and Hebrew Braille to sightless Jews, earned him the appreciation of organizations such as the Hebrew Christian Alliance and B’nai B’rith International (an prominent Jewish community service organization), whose lodge in Lowell, Massachusetts awarded Father Sutcliffe its “Man of the Year Award” on Feb. 24, 1959. The award was presented by Frank Goldman, the Honorary International President of B’nai B’rith.[10]

Man of the Year Award

Receiving the B’nai B’rith
Man of the Year award


Sutcliffe also delivered talks before the Anti-Defamation League.

Schlossberg fondly reminisces about an incident that occurred at about the time Harry Sutcliffe won that award:[11]

One day, I was about 20 years old,[12] then, Harry wanted me to take him to Greenwich Village in Manhattan, N.Y. to the Club Sabra, an Israeli, mainly Hebrew language, night club, in order to hear a famous, exotic Yemenite Israeli singer, Shoshana Damari. She would be found many times on the front lines with Israeli soldiers, much like Bob Hope with American soldiers. That’s all Harry told me. Harry was short of comment, straight to the point, truly humble of spirit, and trusted God. And he just loved the music of Shoshana Damari. …

… We arrived at the Club Sabra, which was almost completely darkened, except for an open area in the center, from which, subdued lighting was filtering amongst the many people milling about, talking, many in Hebrew, drinking, laughing. I made my way toward the light, leading Harry holding on to my arm (this is always the way to lead a blind person – do not grab his arm, let him hold your arm). I was trying to look for a table where we could sit, and be comfortable waiting for the show. Finally we made our way toward the dim light flickering through moving bodies, until I had to lead Harry, dressed as always, in his black clergy suit and white priest’s collar, very clumsily, up onto an elevation (“Sorry, Harry!”) near the light, where I thought there would be some tables.

Instead, where I had led Harry (my poor vision), was onto the stage, where he and I found ourselves standing in the center, and now right in the center of the spot light—and right next to us was Shoshana Damari! Shoshana turned around, looked at us with delight, and with microphone in hand, turned to the audience, hushed them, and excitedly said with a great deal of happiness, “I want to introduce you all to my good friend, Father Harry Sutcliffe!” to a good, loud, round of applause by an Israeli audience who had absolutely no idea who in the world was Fr. Harry Sutcliffe, except that he was Shoshana’s friend. But Shoshana knew! And, of course, so did God. That one was from God, straight for Harry, for him alone, with Shoshana and me for witnesses – but I tell it to you now.

In summer 1962, Father Sutcliffe went on a nationwide lecture tour. The impression he left upon people was later remarked upon by Anthony Mannino:

Even in the limited time of a most enjoyable afternoon visit at the Brotherhood office, we were deeply impressed by the magnetism of his personality, fine stature and obvious physical fitness.[13]

Mannino observed how hard a worker Father Sutcliffe was known to be:

From his own office he serves as an instructor for the Hadley School for the Blind of Winnetka, Illinois, supervising the correspondence courses in Greek and Hebrew. In connection with the Hadley program, he is at present rewriting the school’s Bible survey course, with additional chapters on later developments such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and other archeological discoveries.[14]

Father Sutcliffe was a tireless advocate of what he called “the organized blind movement.” Mannino points to a distinction between Sutcliffe’s efforts to bring dignity to the blind and efforts of others to employ the blind in “sheltered” sweat shops:

In summarizing the reasons for his own efforts on behalf of the blind, he maintains that if “work for the blind”—a wonderful phrase which sometimes covers a multitude of sins—is truly sincere in its wish to see blind persons integrated into the community, then the agencies and groups who represent work for the blind will not fight the organized blind movement.[15]

Father Sutcliffe appeared to have obtained a PhD at some point between 1963 and 1980.[16] In 1987 he was appointed onto the National Council on the Handicapped (by President Reagan). So far as I can guess he is still around at 91 years, living in his hometown of Brooklyn.

© 2016 Kaweah

[1] Mannino, Anthony G. “Father Sutcliffe: A Brother to Others.” The Blind American. April 1963

[2] Giovanelli, Joe. Let There Be Light: The Inspirational Achievements of a Man Born Blind. 2010. Pp. 33–34, 84

[3] Hoard, Seth. Pelham Progress, 15 March 1944

[4] Mannino, Anthony G. “Father Sutcliffe: A Brother to Others.” The Blind American. April 1963

[5] ibid.

[6] “Program for the Blind: New ACU Project.” The Living Church, vol. 132, 18 March 1956.

[7] Jewish Post, 26 Feb 1960

[8] “Help for the Sight and Hearing Impaired.” Ministry: International Journal for Pastors, July 1981. Father Sutcliffe appears to have remained director of the guild when he was appointed to the National Council on the Handicapped in 1987.

[9] Facebook. Bishop Bert Schlossberg, 28 August 2016

[10] St. Petersburg Times, 1961

[11] Facebook. Bishop Bert Schlossberg, Syro-Chaldean Church of North America, 28 August 2016

[12] 1958/59.

[13] Mannino, April 1963

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

[16] Simons, D.B. “Christian Record Extends Loving Care.” The Mid-America Adventist Reaper, 12 June 1980, page 2. Also see “Help for the Sight and Hearing Impaired.” Ministry: International Journal for Pastors, July 1981.

The Wreck of the Farallon

Under the grey deep, the plains, canyons, peaks,
the flooded floor of the world rolls on to Laurentia,
pressing on the Farallon, plank, mast, and sail
out ahead on a black stone wave,
driving her under the buoyant earth,
caught in the undertow of her
sunken bow, sinking deeper,
ever deeper under the world,
compressed and cooked, her wet soul bleeds out,
hot and convecting, boils stone,
hollows out Pluto’s chambers,
mothers strata of generations
of volcanic boils, dead, young, and dying,
trembling in the California sun.

When the great sea-world strikes the land,
the submarine ridge is crushed,
her mid-seam ripped ajar,
her bow pulled into the earth,
stern slammed into the continent’s edge;
all the wreckage tangled in a heap.

Here and there, the demolition done,
the old world digested, the continental belly
heaves up; Pacifica, Laurentia knock and shear
in their tectonic intercourse; mountain roots
severed and sucked off in the wake,
the subterranean bone of dead volcanoes floats up,
breaks through the surface; and seaward, bits of bone
shattered and blended with the sea-bottom
sediments of eons, and mother’s clotted blood.

© 2016 Kaweah

Personality Disorders

Sam Barber, sitting in the redwood parlor playing Adagio
for Strings on the Steinway, and Una’s in the bathtub
running the cold tap with a pistol in her hand and a bullet
in her breast, her black broth bleeding out, making warm
curlicues all around her, an arm reaching out
for more sleeping pills.

Behind the piano, the door to the guest room is closed
for J.R. and his guest, romping on the deathbed
and I’m seasick on the heaving edge, looking out
the west window—the reaper in the surf.

Yeats, J.R.’s comrade is fog-white with age
and madness and running naked through the poppies
singing for the tatters in his coat and brandishing
Una’s best cleaver at the star-eyed tourists.

© 2016 Kaweah

Falco urbanus

“Jeffers is my God.” — Charles Bukowski

When the blades of the falcon’s
    silhouette flash
Between the bright towers of the City
    we rub our eyes.
Pigeons squat in gutters
    on watch for shadows.
Not the ruddy-tailed buzzard
    the poet lionized;
Bagger of rodents, wounded birds,
    wayward fledglings,
Squats atop Tudor cottages and
    unicorn castles;
The brute too clumsy to thread
    a cypress hedge,
Hover above the moor, nosedive
    from infinity.

It being so, he snapped its wings,
crucified it, prayed upon it.

Too late to ask. The poet is dead
    and falcons
Haunt the cities, bed down
    high on steel
Cliffs, far above the mischief
    of raccoonery; prey
Mob the bald valleys below.

Looking up the canyon walls and down
On the long-suffering pigeons,
Wayfarers like drunken hounds,
They lead me to Monsanto's bookshop
But stay back by the curb
    and bob for crumbs.

I climb the back stair
    to the Ginsberg room
To gather paper pigeons,
    and against the back wall
A shelf, drunk with Bukowski.

I pull out an old friend
and leaf through. He tells me
about his god, and I go seeking
through the poem-laden planks.
I survey the surnames
of a hundred creators.
They are legion, and yet
Hank’s is nowhere
to be found; but eyes
adapt to the darkness,
and what had just been
mere length gains width,
depth with finer focus,
and with a lover’s touch
the bindings are coaxed apart,
and heads turn ‘round the room
as the packed spines sigh
and you vanish down a dark
alley, and there he is,
cowering in the shadow,
your wounded songbird.
© 2015–16 Kaweah

Rites of Disposal

When I’m finally done, when all
my smoldering embers go cold, put me away.
Clean me up, straighten me out, and put me in my box.

Take it up to that green landfill
where they dump such things
and label them with cut stones.
Find me a plot, dig me a hole.
Sow me deep like a pumpkin seed
that you don’t want to grow.
Cover me there with earth by the yard,
and if you must speak, be brief.

If it were up to me (and it won’t be)
I’d rather not end up there.
Just pay the man who runs the oven,
he’ll fire me down till I fit in a box for baby shoes.
When you get the box back (hoping the contents are mine),
put it on the mantle with old photos and Christmas stockings.
If that’s how you like me, be careful not to spill me,
or if you’d like to toss me out the back door
or off some hill somewhere, it’s just as well.

But when I look forward to my end,
it’s hard to think of me not hanging around somehow
(after all I’ve been around as long as I can recall).
And when I think of that day,
I’d sooner see me roasting over an open fire,
all the smoke and gas of the sticks and me
commingling and wafting up into the air
on the wings of a flame,
a handful of friends and family
singing campfire songs,
but if you fear I’ll smell too much like bacon,
and you’re not sure how you’ll handle the temptation,

There are wings to take me that are not made of flame.
Haul me up to that mountain top, high above the sunset,
where we go to meet the condors. Lay me down
under the sun, and go on home, but before you do,
bid our broad-winged friends a bon appétit, and please
do remind them, you are who you eat.

© 2016 Kaweah

Inscription on Helicon

I have seen her now: seasoned with eternity,
simmers in her sky-cold sylvan pool, hard and white
as the waning moon and quartzite banks, the last softening
membrane of youth seared away in the slow forge of forever;
breast peppered with translucent constellations
when the sun breaks through the leaves.

No fleshy delicacy—even of the slightest young brides,
but the taut, radiant hide of an ageless queen,
Immortal virgin, so say they, but naught of docile innocence;
her purity: homicidal violence.

She it is who haunts the dread hinterland,
    forbidden interior, wildland of man;
        No love for the society of Olympus,
and no Earth Mother, more terrible
    than any Aphrodite.

I have etched here these scars on this stone, scraped
    as I hide, catching my breath, wrapping my wounds,
        year over year, binding my bones,
        to report that I have run this long,
    even to the sacred springs on Helicon.
Not pious nor merciful, she makes sport of me still.
    The hounds come.
© 2015–16 Kaweah

Hotel Jericho

Lowcountry, maybe twenty
upstream miles from the Battery
and a few feet above the sea;
the gators and the blackwater
patiently flow, and you can just about
hear the ghost-song of the ivory bill
echo off the cypress knees.

On the south bank, the land
swells forty or so feet
to lanky yellow pine stands
and narrow Old Jacksonboro Road,
holding to the rim till a finger
of the Caw Caw points to where
the road meets the Savannah Highway
and the tracks at Adams Run.

When the sun is born in May,
a fragrant broth simmers on the land,
steams, swirls, rises,
draws in more of its own
from the sea next-door.

The day breaks into a boil,
the amnion bursts,
the blood showers in,
blending with the soil,
flows through seen and secret channels,
slides down the ramp to the swamp
and all the varieties of God.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Back in ‘70 the junction had a small
grocery with a post office a pair of
gas pumps and a coke machine.

Next door, a boarding house,
with three floors and ten rooms,
formerly a home for disenfranchised
white boys, looked old enough to be
antebellum, antediluvian.

Mom and dad had big plans for the place:
a home, gospel center,
chiropractic clinic; all under one roof
and two narrow, towering chimneys.

They’d come east to share the Good News
of the New Jerusalem and God’s new plan
in the ancient land
of the unspoiled Blackman.

What they found when they drove up
was a tired old ruin behind its very own
landfill of dispossession,
floors sagging, all the showers
out of order, one working
tub in the attic.

The folks might’ve fixed it up
and still watched it cave in, so
they put it up for sale instead.

Couldn’t really wait around
for the next fool’s money,
so they packed us up and drove us
down the Lowcountry Highway
to watch the earth die,
sprout, and rise before the Lord
found a buyer, not too long
before the fire.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

All the while, back of the house,
hid behind that pinewood screen,
up among the spots of marsh,
was a whispering factory where
men mixed up fertilizer and sold it
to farmers in Bangladesh, Australia,
so as the people there could feed
their babies.

The Green Revolution; real science
solving real problems for real markets.

The boys out back shipped out more
and more nourishment for decades
till someone found the stuff
spiced with lead, cadmium,
and other little surprises.
What they didn’t sell, they bestowed
upon the Jericho soil.

That’s where the rain found it,
flushed the Green Revolution down
through the earth, deeper
than the Hotel Jericho, down
the piney rim to the Caw Caw
murmuring below.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Kerr-McGee Chemical owned and operated the facility from 1962 to 1978, and was also featured in the Karen Silkwood story. Stoller Chemical Company, the corporation that ran the plant later, went bankrupt before any claims could be made against it.

© 2015 Kaweah