Lying on the Frozen Lawn in Syracuse

Open the door. Newspaper in the grass. Big headline about local basketball team. I decide to lie in the grass.

Don’t be sentimental.

Be sentimental.

When the frost hits my shoulder blades I get up, go into the house. Start a fire with the newspaper.

**

I like Paul. After the road to Damascus he understood folly. Christ risen is the most glorious and improbable thing. You can’t make good sense out of it. And that’s god.

(A thought while lying on the lawn….)

**

As for me….I’m folly too. And I make so many mistakes. But it’s the spiritual ones that matter. Poetry like god is improbable.

**

When I was an undergrad I found a couplet by one of my teachers, the poet James Crenner: “Life is like a game of chess /death is like two games of chess.”

I loved the wit of this and still do. For instance: If you checkmate death (a la Bergman) are you reborn or do you sit throughout all eternity waiting for another opponent? Does death always win? Does Jesus play chess? What about the effects of analogy, to borrow Wallace Stevens’ phrase, that is, since life and death are not like chess what do we gain or lose by saying so?

**

I really was lying on the lawn in the bright frost.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: 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 University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Marigolds

Of blindness I’ve written much
But not of the marigold.
A failing yes.
Astringency—yellow
Happy in birth
As children are not
Or the beautiful foal
Unsteady on her legs
Cannot be.
Your first arrival
Is cream on cream
So bright
The Romans called you
Officinalis
Important in cheer.
Unprompted earth.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: 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 University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
IndieBound.org

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Ripeness is All

Beethoven’s violin concerto is the perfect balance of milk and milk.
Adorno’s dialectic is to body shame as money is to dialysis.
Disability studies is to ableism as crickets in August.
Wallace Stevens is to philosophy as bibles are to baking.
When poets have fun so do the tea cups.
Playing the violin burns about 170 calories per hour.

**

How close am I to becoming someone?
Of course I mean this in a moral sense.
I have the history of morals here in my cup.
Dregs of Aristotle.
Push them with my finger.
Happiness. Virtue. Work.
Remember to be a good flute player.

**

I ask so many questions.
Why do I believe I should soften death?

**

What is someone?
Is it cumulative flowers on a grave?
Even Shakespeare threw up his hands.
I joked once in a Helsinki pub:
Lear is a self help book…
“Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.”

**

Thank God I have the radio for company.
Thank God for William Shakespeare, life coach:
“And worse I may be yet: the worst is not
So long as we can say ‘This is the worst.”

**

After Ecclesiastes:

I haven’t been true to myself lately
I press my face into barberry leaves
I weep among stems
If you know me you’ll not be surprised
If you know me you too will be honest

When I Close My Eyes

Face it: its feeling drives you
No help for it
Bread sits untouched
& the country that isn’t a place
Takes you in

**

Yes I’m blind
I can still see a swan’s track
On the water

**

History calls the sleepless

**

After years
I’m not much of a talker
I prefer to drop things

**

The houses hereabouts have no special beauty
You won’t find gorgeous specificities
Strangers have sorrow smoke in their eyes

**

Up in the tree of boyhood
With a home made arrow and bow
When I close my eyes

Rainy notebook department….

“When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.”

Did Dylan Thomas really mean it?

(Riding a tram in Helsinki.)

**

One likes to imagine death driven by wind—
leaves, snow, what have you…

**

Phenomenology is to the body
As the body is to a seed
Please don’t think too hard about this

**

Handel’s “Water Music” is cheerful, stately, vaguely orgiastic
Radio on a rainy morning

**

Old Folks Poem

I can’t keep up
I can’t keep up
What’s that? A frying pan?

Please don’t think too hard about this

**

One morning early, bending to trash, I saw a flash, a light not of this world. “Maybe my retina has detached,” I thought. The gold white iridescent microburst was passing strange but then it was gone and to date has never returned.

Every now and then that flash, that otherworldly color, returns in mind.

All our eyes expect to be received.

**

Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not. God knows.

—Handel

Leafage

Sometimes I cry aloud
Charon does also
It’s hard work
Living moment to moment

**

Drama is crying with a script
I can’t find mine

One definition of childhood

**

The old dog bit me

**

You can discuss Helen Keller
But you can’t say what words
Perform on the inside

**

Have you seen a cormorant
Enter the sea?

That’s my Helen Keller—
That falling….

**

I sat on the sofa where the former me had been so damned sad.

**

Greek myth, Boolean algebra, Lyell’s hypothesis, Tu Fu—will they come with me?

**

“Leafage is hearsay when you’re blind, until you hear it. Today is May 27.” (Walking in a cemetery in Peterborough, New Hampshire.)

Cloud Houses

In heaven
Where coins are useless
No need for eyeballs

**

Boat rotting on the beach
Ghost still rows
What happens
Is relatively simple

**

Houses, barns, trees
Proclaim in mannered voices
Those who presided here.

**

Turns on his radio
For psychotherapy

**

Andante Favori
A dance with animals, autumn

**

“He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky, proving the sky quite useless for protection.”

—Elizabeth Bishop

Blind man with pictures in his head…

**

I make cloud houses for a living
I’m a fair singer also
**

Don’t judge my posture

**

Poor Achilles, always a mama’s boy

**

Eat more American prunes

**

Cat stares down coyote
Past lives are decisive

**

Best anagram ever: “Public relations” = “Crap built on lies”

**

Imagination had been grudging
Now it was doggish
Over there and over there