Only Bread, Only Light

Stephen Kuusisto

At times the blind see light,
And that moment is the Sistine ceiling,

Grace among buildings—no one asks
For it, no one asks.

After all, this is solitude,
Daylight’s finger,

Blake’s angel
Parting willow leaves.

I should know better.
Get with the business

Of walking the lovely, satisfied,
Indifferent weather—

Bread baking
On Arthur Avenue

This first warm day of June.
I stand on the corner

For priceless seconds.
Now everything to me falls shadow.

More by Stephen Kuusisto

Letter to Borges from London

When I was a boy I made a beehive
From old letters—dark scraps from a trunk,
Lost loves; assurances from travelers.
It was intricate work.
The blind kid and the worker bee lost whole days.
I made a library for inchworms.

Now I’m a natural philosopher but with the same restless hands.
Some days I put cities together—
Santiago and Carthage;
Toronto and Damascus.
If strangers watch closely, Borges,
They’ll see my fingers working at nothing.

In Hyde Park near the Albert Memorial and alone on a bench
I reconstructed the boroughs of New York—
Brooklyn was at the center, Kyoto in place of Queens.
This was a city of bells and gardens, a town for immigrants.
The old woman passing by saw my hands at work.
She thought I was a lost blind man, a simpleton,
Said, “Poor Dearie!” and gave me a quid.

Essay on November

There is at times a small fire
In the brain, partita for violin,
Brier, black stem,
All burning in the quarter notes.
And the hedgerow
Beyond the barn
Calls its starlings in.
Then frost, sere leaves,
A swollen half-moon
Like a drowsy fingertip
Above the apple trees.

Night Seasons

Up late, reading alone,
I feed printed pages
Into the Kurzweil scanner,
An electronic reader
For the blind.

Randomly now
I take books from my shelves,
Open the mysterious volumes,
And lay them flat on the machine.
I can’t say
What’s coming next—
I wait in perfect silence
For the voice to begin,
This synthetic child
Reading to an old man.

The body, stalled,
Picks fragments,
Frottage,
Scraps of paper,
Whatever comes.

Pico della Mirandola,
Egyptian love poems,
Essene communes beside the Red Sea,
Paavo Haavikko’s “König Harald”…
An old professor,
Bitter at the graceful way
The poets have
Of gathering terms
Inexactly,
Told me, “The poets are fools.
They read
Only in fragments.”

I’m the fool
Of the night seasons,
Reading anything, anything.
When daylight comes
And you see me on the street
Or standing for the bus,
Think of the Greek term
Entelechy,
Word for soul and body
Constructing each other
After dark.