Editor’s Note: April is National Poetry Month and Former client, Debra Bell, shares about her love of poetry and how it has helped her find peace in dealing with her vision loss and her son’s disability.
Writing Poetry helps me find peace in coping with my son’s illness. For me, writing poetry is an act as natural as breathing is. Poetry is also the best way for me to harness that powerful overflow of feelings that Wordsworth spoke of and recollected, turning them into a universal expression of feeling that we can all relate to.
I have been serious about my poetry for many years. My dedication was recognized in 1993 when I was inducted into the International Society of Poets at a ceremony in Washington, DC, where I performed my best-known poem "Diamond." Since then, I have kept on writing poetry, reciting it and submitting it for inclusion in poetry competitions. My poem “Diamond” is in an anthology collection, called "A Break in the Clouds".
My devotion to my skills as a poet came after I had already explored other artistic avenues. I was first violinist in my school orchestra; performed as a creative dancer and gymnast. I also did some modeling; was recognized in several competitions as one of Atlanta's best creative dancers on skates; and for two years was a dancer on the syndicated TV show "James Brown's Future Shock." I guess I'm really an entertainer at heart. I wrote poetry and short stories as a child, got into performing poetry and creative dance, and kept going.
But everything is secondary to the most important responsibility in my life which is caring for my son, Eddie, 33. He was born with a rare disease called Hurler-Scheie Syndrome which is genetic and affects only 1 out of 100,000 children. It is an enzyme deficiency that causes damage to every organ in the body. I accept that I have a son who has a disability, but I treat him like a normal adult. I want him to live as normally as possible. He is truly my diamond. My son's illness has inspired me to begin thinking of ways I might attract funding for a foundation to promote Hurler-Scheie Syndrome research.
My son's illness has kept me focused on his needs, not mine, but I can still use poetry to express some of the feelings that this experience has caused in me. My son and I are now legally blind due to Stargardt’s Disease. This has caused me not to drive and be able to do what I use to do for him.
The experience of being a client in CVI’s New View Adult Rehab Program has been an anchor for me. I have found a new inspiration to continue higher education. I plan to enroll in a school this year to study creative writing, so that I can finish a book about my life story and a book of poetry. I can say that life is good even with the challenges I have faced. I still have hope.
Below is my most popular poem “Diamond.” I was honored to recite it at the summer 2014 CVI New View Adult Rehab Program graduation ceremony.
By Debra J. Bell
I am a Diamond, a rare jewel
I’ve been refined by the hands of time
I keep crying out for someone to realize it
Here I am the rare jewel you’ve been waiting for
When I arrived, I arrived with grace and splendor
But no one recognized me
My shining brilliance hidden beneath my beauty
Love brought me here; I stood the test of time
How long will I go unnoticed?
What will I have to do-disappear like the wind?
Maybe you’d feel my absence
A real artist would know his masterpiece
He could identify with his awesome power
The ability to create such a beauty in his mind
Then cause it to appear before his eyes
When I arrive he would protect me, take care of me
Because I’m his to love
But sometimes greed causes one to miss the real thing in life
It’s not just a dream
Yes, I am a Diamond, a rare jewel
Diamonds always survive the test of time
I’m special, a jewel
Yes, a beauty!