1919 [poem] by Stephen Kuusisto

Now the children have climbed into the trees though it’s winter. Look at them, they are both preoccupied and disinterested.

{Marginalia} True: the poet hasn’t shown the children. Accordingly you have only propositions. The children high in the snowy branches look like scientists or aesthetes. But are they boys and girls? Girls only?

{Marginalia} The poet is filled with ideas but stingy.

So the poet goes back to work: the year, 1919. Finland. Starvation. The children were sent into the branches since the elders believed air was cleaner up there. The adults imagined influenza was down by the roots.

{Marginalia} Images make poems, facts make life. One little girl in a tall birch had such impudent beautiful eyes. Eyes blue-going-to-grey. “Wisdom eyes” her grandfather called them.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: this poem put the editors in mind of the poem “Where They Were Sent” by JC Todd.]

Image by Paul Van der W

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.