Helsinki, May 1980


A woman sat next to me on the metro and began softly talking to herself, talking like birch leaves at the summer house, talking and talking and I knew that she had no volition. My Finnish isn’t fluent but I could tell she was speaking a pre-war working class slang, a lingo that the old street horses would have known; the open grained speech of her husband and her children. Of course you can see where I’m going. It didn’t take long to learn they were dead and long ago, long ago. There have been so many times I’ve felt how little I know. My capers and satires are thin in these moments. "yes," I think, "I have suffered but my sorrow is a mechanical thing like the pulleys in a dumb waiter, willy nilly window up and window down. But there is something other: wilderness of the thistles, thistles with the worms under the spikes, thistles from which their soup is made, thistles in a dictionary of soldier slang. It was a short train ride. That train couldn’t take me where I wanted to go.

Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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