The eye chart

I scowl towards his voice. He says the map
marks how far vision goes. If I could creep

up close I’d learn the journey. His technique
restricts me to a chair so he can track

how far I travel down the chart alone
before I pause. I grope in the third line –

my limit the next shape I recognize –
then stop. No way. I still believe my eyes

can hold a solar system, catch all lights,
deliver to the doctor alphabets

as small as atoms. But this world is smudge.
I’m huddled at the bottom of the page,

trying to hide my dark. Wherever I am,
I’ve bypassed every symbol I can name

and stumble at my vision’s borders
where letters are illegible as stars.

Poem written by Nuala Watt.


The eye chart is familiar to all doctors. It offers a simple rapid way of assessing visual acuity. But how do patients relate to it?

Here is one take by partially-sighted Glasgow poet Nuala Watt: Patients have different ways of seeing our clinical world!

More info

  • Watt, Nuala.  Dialogue on the dark.  pp28.Calderwood Press, Dunbar. 2015
  • Poems by Nuala Watt

Contributed by

John Gillies

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