The Writing Prompt [poem] by Stephen Kuusisto

—for Doug Anderson


Think about the pressure that makes each fact float,
high rise buildings at the edge of___________,
in my case, Helsinki, the apartment complexes
“post-war” vaguely Stalinist, “a good place
for electro-shock” and the architect
now in a mad house. 4A stands where
once, in ’38, they made machine guns
and a row of bicycles waits
like old horses queuing for hay,
children pitch coins at the bus stop,
flickering faces share structural damage
from repeated loading–half the locals
have turned to stones or worse.
My trick was to rise early,
walk out “into” one of those photos
from the last century,
forget the hell of nothing
and show off my brand new suit
to a circle of crows.
I was young back then
and used to think about two truths approaching,
money and labor, music and envy,
tautological, drunk,
seeing the stains through the wallpaper,
blind of course, pushed across the streets
by strangers, what a muddle!
Think about the pressure that makes each fact float.
Think about the invisible ink invented
by George Washington, and remember
despite his caution, our first president
also wrote in code.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem put the editors in mind of the story “Winter Palace” by Rosalie Morales Kearns.]

Image by Kimmo Raisanen

Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs 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.