Admission Essay to Columbia University
By Evan Bailyn
I am completely blind and live to fill the void it creates. I want only to touch upon what I'm missing, to poke a pinpoint through my darkness, so I can see red, and green, and periwinkle, and the night sky, and the sun. All I want is a speck of vision.
Yesterday I looked through my old pictures stashed in a dusty bin, strewn on the floor before me. That my childhood should be reduced to a bunch of images on glossy 4" x 5" paper, the ones I could harness together from the top of my dusty shelf, reminded me of how quickly the past slips away when you. I lay down on my bed and closed my eyes, trying to recall some of the happy memories in those pictures. When I opened my eyes a few minutes later, the track lighting on my ceiling suddenly seemed to blind me, and I winced away in pain.
But it wasn't the track lighting that made me blind. In fact, it is an affliction that all people suffer from as a consequence of having just one opportunity at life. Like blindness, it is the condition of missing a very vital sense: that childhood can be neither relived nor reanimated. I am blind because I am without the ability to re-experience what was once mine, and saddened because this makes me realize that I am missing valuable colors about from the palette of my mind.
I cringe at the notion of time passing, and leaving childhood behind, because I am a visual poet, because I shape my surroundings, along with my deepest feelings-my love, my anger, my hope-into stanzas. And it is frustrating for me not to have the true-to-life sensations of childhood in my repertoire. Poetry makes sense of the world I live in. For anything that matters, I record, and anything I record can never be lost. Poetry opens up channels that flow inward, abounding with the colors of my palette, which converge into a picture of myself.
Bringing forth into words what really is ineffable is the greatest trick poets, and all writers, must perform. There is no greater pleasure for me than creating the necessary images to transmit feelings from my mind to someone else's. This is a beautiful part of life known as art. Art adds to one's understanding of oneself, and doing so helps one to live in peace.
To say that I am blind is, to me, admitting that I cannot feel anymore what a small child feels about. I cannot use the colors of youth to paint a poem that might expose the process of emotional learning, or elucidate the sensitivity of youth. This is my blindness.
Staring now at the photos, I think about the real, unwritten poetry in childhood: of puppy love, of pride and embarrassment, of falling and scraping your knees. Though I acknowledge that I can never restore the black and white photos to their pristine moments, I can always hold my palette snug to me; and add new, wonderful pigments to the ever-expanding portrait every day.
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