Posts Tagged ‘Finland’


Sisu is a Finnish word that describes the Finns. It refers to grit, determination and bravery in the face of obstacles and a willingness to keep going when others would give up.

Superman had his flowing red cape
and Ironman had his red armor,
but my father had
his black wingtip shoes
with one heel built taller
than the other to accommodate
the different lengths of his legs.
He wore them to church,
to the store, to fish, to dialysis.
He slogged in them through puddles
and trampled through slush
and shuffled behind his walker.
He wore them with suits.
He wore them with sweats.
He wore them with blue hospital gowns.

In Finland, when things get difficult,
they say, Eteenpäin sanoi mummo lumessa—
Forward, said the granny in the snow.
And damn, did my dad move forward,
despite deep drifts of pain
that for decades crippled his body.
Though every step hurt, he persisted.

And so, when I carry his shoes to the trash,
I thank them for bearing the weight of his suffering,
and I choke on the sobs that rise.
Thank you, I say. Dad, you’re my hero.
With reverence, I drop the shoes into the bin.

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One Bite of Finland

eating dark rye bread

the taste of joy

thirty years ago

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When you arrive at a home in Finland,
they will ask you to leave your shoes at the door.
They will usher you in where the table is set
with seven kinds of baked goods—berry pastries
and un-iced pound cake, four kinds of cookies,
and braided sweet bread with cardamom. They will ask you
to sit, and regardless what time of day it is,
they will pour you coffee, dark and rich.

With the first cup of coffee, you eat the sweet bread.
With the second cup, you eat cake.
With the third cup of coffee, you eat the pastry.
With the fourth, you try everything else.
It is polite to try everything. It is polite
to go back for more.
The ritual might take all day.

I should like to serve you poems this way,
with your feet bare and with nowhere else to go.
We could nibble the poems together,
feeding some deeper hunger that so seldom
is satisfied, the kind of hunger that cannot
be sated alone. Like the Finns, we would hold
lumps of sugar between our teeth when drinking in
what is dark and bitter. But drink it in we would,

cup after cup. There is so much to be read
between the lines, and we would let
all the unspokens join us at the table.
Not everything must be said. The midnight sun
would not set, and we would go
for a walk, perhaps pick gooseberries,
then rest a while, before
setting the table again.

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