Notes for the Afterlife Sauna

Oh Wallace Stevens I love you. You are a demi tasss cup with a chipped gold rim. You are the blind man’s imagined peacock, and by God I heard a real one once—it sounded like a human baby being torn apart, though I cannot confirm this sentiment.

Oh Muriel Rukeyser I love you. You pulled from ether Penelope’s unraveled loomings and you were funny. God yes.

Oh Auden.

Oh Ted Berrigan…

Oh Alice Notley…

Oh Herkimer Puccini (my father’s nickname for me, growing up…)


The rich have “panic rooms” which are like bank vaults. They go right in, like Hitler to his bunker.

The poor have “panic shoes” which are like those puffy red envelopes from bill collectors.


“Elämä on ihmiselle annettu,

jotta hän tarkoin harkitsisi,

missä asennossa tahtoo olla kuollut…”

Life was given to man

so he may consider

what position he’ll assume when dead…

Pentti Saarikoski


Oh Pentti…


Oh Elizabeth Bishop:

“Think of the long trip home.

Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?

Where should we be today?

Is it right to be watching strangers in a play

in this strangest of theatres?

What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life

in our bodies, we are determined to rush

to see the sun the other way around?

The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?

To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,

inexplicable and impenetrable,

at any view,

instantly seen and always, always delightful?

Oh, must we dream our dreams

and have them, too?

And have we room

for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?”


Oh Plato, I went down to the Pereus. Walked among the yachts. Saw rich men drinking retsina. Even at twenty two I could see they didn’t have much in the way life.

Plato I loved you that year. And I loved you for this:

“The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture. At the beginning of the journey to the next world, one’s education and culture can either provide the greatest assistance, or else act as the greatest burden, to the person who has just died.”

I hope you and Saarikoski are in the great afterlife sauna…with whisks made from birch leaves…


Author: skuusisto

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

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