Now you’re gone
I could transubstantiate

Become an ethereal megaphone
To tell and ask you things

As we did in Helsinki
Side by side

Bundled in raincoats
Scattered leaves flying

I said “dance”—
You said “death’s butterflies”

We both saw the cruelty
Of money on faces

The solitary pride
Of businessmen

“The city is filled with hearts
That have been condemned

And torn down” I said
Quoting Neruda

You said “can’t build suburbs
Fast enough”

It was fun being poets




—after Jarkko Laine

They speak of god along with cloud-esteem, sheep watching, plenty of softness. A few raise their glasses to the Michelin Man. Some open and close their hands. And sparks from the fire pop as the men drink grog. Night deepens. The walls of the tavern are warmer than the surrounding air. Outside its snow in May. A little psychiatrist with gold framed spectacles talks to himself about the altered situation which has now emerged.




I have to hurry the school bell rings…

This isn’t in the news:
Blood traps are real but the one next door stays hidden

I think of the Egyptologist I once knew
Who held a clean mummified beetle in his palm
His true subject was fate
We shared cigarettes
It was the year of Reagan’s Star Wars
People in Helsinki talked about defending the mind
Though few agreed what it meant

Ruinous spoken jigsaws
Buildings erected in haste on every continent
More places for the poor to envy
A friend once wrote
He wished to have a good
Unpolitical cry
Don’t you know it?

In the words of Omar Khayamm:
As far as you can avoid it,
Do not give grief to anyone.




I was dead drunk in a bar when an old man told me he was responsible for Strindberg’s belief in ghosts—as a boy, he said, he rang the playwright’s doorbell and hid in the bushes. “At the core of superstition,” he said, “you will find childhood pranks.”

Strindberg’s ghosts were in fact afflicted, “under the weather” like all of high society. I knew the story wasn’t true.

You see how it is: men claim significance when it’s a matter of liquor and nostalgic shadows.

That was a sad winter. My blindness got worse. I drank too much. I kept excellent notes




Poetry comes unbidden
Bird-like, tapping

Though the fence
Has sagged

The house
Needs work

The stars

Orphic trees—
At the windows.



Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a professorship in the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is