KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 2: Winter 2015
Poem: 270 words [R]

Borges: They Are Knocking the Wind
Out of Me in Iowa City

by Stephen Kuusisto
Up late, reading alone, I saw how Minturno was fooled by the intricacies of beauty.
Unfortunately, at that hour there was no one to tell (as a friend once wrote: “Everyone
I know is either dead or still asleep.”)

“Don’t talk to yourself,” I told myself. “Don’t scribble in the margins.”

When Marsilio Ficino said that beauty was just shapes and sounds he was surely
bathing outdoors.

Neo-Platonists ease their bodies into their warm baths. Close your eyes you can see
Minturno bathing under the autumn stars.

& so I went to bed at last & dreamt of my first city—Helsinki, late fifties—the old
man in the harbor selling potatoes from a dory. In the dream as in life that old man
was wearing a red shirt, the first I ever saw.

Minturno: ideal forms are the source of our passionate failures.

The next morning I walked in the street and felt too many things to be judged a success.

A man on stilts was handing out fliers announcing the arrival of a circus. It was a 
French circus. The man was speaking French.

“Ah,” he said in French, “you are blind.”

He withdrew the flier and tottered away.

I resisted the impulse to shout after him in my high school French: “You sound like 
the first dull minute after a train wreck!”

The stilts made a metallic tic-toc on the paving stones.

“Tic-toc, train wreck,” I said to myself, feeling my tongue dent the soft palate. That 
was my method of keeping silent. Tic toc...

—From Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011); republished here by author’s permission and by arrangement with The Permissions Company, as quoted below:

—Stephen Kuusisto, “Borges: They Are Knocking the Wind out of Me in Iowa City” and “Letter to Borges from Estonia” from Letters to Borges. Copyright © 2013 by Stephen Kuusisto. “Only Bread, Only Light” from Only Bread, Only Light. Copyright © 2010 by Stephen Kuusisto. All used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press:

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