Covid poem: Sisu

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In a dark season of waiting
a friend writes,
tells me about „Sisu“
how the Finns will sit
in whatever it is that we must sit

They have lived long winters
dive into ice water
stun themselves
with a thousand frozen needles
train themselves to say „ah“
and lift their arms in endorphin hallelujah. 

Then, as they dress for home, 
their smiles steadied,
their almost imperceptible eye-crinkles
lift with endurance.

Sisu bears
the early afternoon sunsets of December
and all that human adolescence keeps refusing. 

The ancient stoics taught 
Sisu in warmer climes. 

I mouth the word,
practice to make it my own,
then search my memory for others who knew this:

Prince Siddhartha
sitting in Sisu under the Bodhi tree
embodied persistent openness–
even the anguished terrors
of a thousand maiming thoughts
were followed by the “ah”
of freedoms greater than anything
we have found in easier times.


We can, if we like, train this muscle now,

this sitting in whatever it is we must sit,

this Sisu.

 „Unknown beach“ by Maria Hiske (c) 2019


Reinekke Lengelle, PhD, is a researcher, poet, and assistant professor with Athabasca University, Canada and The Hague University, The Netherlands. Her area of expertise is writing for personal development. She is the co-creator of “Career Writing” where writing narratively and dialogically is a means by which to develop and contemplate career identity. Her autoethnographic book “Writing the Self in Bereavement” will be coming out with Routledge in early 2021. Find out more: www.writingtheself.ca


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