About skuusisto

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

Autumn Mirror

After summer came and went and some were ill

And some were in love—many traveled—

The world was unsafe or generous

I wept as men do

Choking in my white room

As the spread out

Abstract gas of war

Suffused every inch of me

So that my obedient hands

Become war hands

My neck a battle neck

My tongue dipped

To atrocities

Like a bee ignorant

Of its flower

Unable to distinguish

Where it’s been or what lies ahead

Do you see, it said, my tongue

How the body, even in repose,

Even with this poetry

Is just a war lord’s gavel?



Notebook, End of Summer, 2017

I’m reading the youthful notebooks of a long dead Finnish communist poet and it’s raining in my neighborhood. I too desire houses for the poor and a joyful horse for each child. I want politicians to perform real work. Plant trees. Every day the President of the United States should be required to plant an apple tree before he can open his polluted yap which stinks of dollars and iodine. Meantime think of St Francis of Assisi, his death, what it means to our poems.


Seeing at the edge of daylight as the blind inevitably must. Thumbing through Goethe for balance.


Flaubert was essentially a psychologist. So was Stalin. And Jesus could have been also but he did all his studying in childhood. Poets should really understand the difference.


Razzle dazzle of nincompoop advertising, all that’s left of the USA. Quick! Act now! Buy your own murder! On sale!


Caruso took his mother’s hand once, the day his infant sister died—just the two of them on the steps of the church of Gesu Nuovo. They stood and looked across the piazza at the orange and yellow houses, so cheerful, the sky so impossibly clear, he thought there could be no limbo, no way station for the souls of innocent children. And his mother had removed her hand from his whispering “you are too warm.”


I love the voice of Enrico Caruso. All subsequent tenors want to be him. His was a voice of power, delicacy, warmth, and mystery. It’s the mystery everyone else lacks.


Opening old books to see if postcards fall out.


History of Fingers

What if I could tell you how it felt

Under the skin, intra-nerves

Where the meanings are—

Would you know me,

Kiss me perhaps,

Your lips without

Politics? Yes and no

I say, ambition

Is lovely, the light

Of the mind is like tea

In a Russian glass,

I love you, my heart

Lifts like a taffeta skirt

In a good dance.

No, no, it is mystic

When the party’s over,

When there are no words,

Each of us waving farewell

With printed pages in our hands.


Ode to Fernando Pessoa

I think there’s never enough time for a single man,

His life sparks, wire-like he shudders,

His tiny eyes memories fade,

Why not split into three tragic men?


Each will have mere seconds

On a pitched stage, his own show.

As a blue curtain lifts (no sound)

One has trouble with his legs,


One has problems with his heart.

“The idea,” says the third, “is to sit

In the audience, smack-middle,

Solo but safe in the herd.”


It’s an old joke in the theater—

Looking out, seeing an empty seat,

Actor one whispers to number two:

“Oh look, there’s a dead subscriber.”


Some days I wake to sadness, an arthritic thing, cerebral, black as iodine.

Coffee, a south facing window, two stray dogs under my apple trees.

I love you my dear; there is a cradle on my brow for you—

I would go to some church if I could find one,

To climb into the pulley hands of God,

What else? Sometimes I wake and listen.

I hear the footsteps of neighboring children

As they walk to the bus stop, their low conversations.

Even they are restless, directed against

Themselves, like scientists of imagination,

Testing every step, fate, no fate…


You Come Too

Always the poem about “I” but never about “you”—

Whitman tried but he’s so hairy

And Miss Dickinson’s conversant tombs

Are too high priced.

There’s Robert Frost of course:

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring; 

I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away 

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I shan’t be gone long.—You come too. 

(I know a car salesman when I see one,

The “I’s” outnumber the “you”

Four to one—I hate

To let this aesthetic moment pass

But I’ve got inventory

And I’m in a bit of a hurry.)

Face it—poets want you

Like carnal teenagers.

The “you” when it arrives

Means pull down your pants

Or “you’ve ruined my life.”

A Brief Treatise on Doors

Did you know you were coming alive? Did you know, as you opened your eyes that Noam Chomsky had his hands inside you? I think I knew. All conceits aside, my first spoken word was “door.”

Now the trouble with doors is this: they take and give throughout a life. Bachelard: “How concrete everything becomes in the world of the spirit when an object, a mere door, can give images of hesitation, temptation, desire, security, welcome and respect. If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to re-open, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life.”

Chomsky had his hands on my baby brain. There’s a pre-born door, a neurologic portal if you will, and it has nothing to do with the bardo or birth canals. I can say it has silent hinges.

The spirit also accounts for Noam. And our wiring. Accounts for hostile doors, the portcullis.

“Unscrew the locks,” Whitman said.

Try to picture both sides of a door at once. (A paraphrase from the poet Marvin Bell, who asks us to do the same with the umbrella.)

Remember your first door if you can.

Old Chomsky again…I don’t believe death has a door, only a sequence of numbers.

That is of course an elegant joke.