Russell Susumu Endo

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In Japanese, kokoro means “with open heart.” This is how Endo first came to poetry, learning to appreciate words and sounds from his adopted-by-heart Russian Jewish Uncle who urged him to become a poet while in high school. But Endo was afraid “what poetry could do to a career.” He began writing poetry when studying for the Bar Exam. While practicing law in the City Solicitor’s Office of Philadelphia in Health and Human Services, he became a member of the Etheridge Knight’s Free Peoples' Poetry Workshop of Philadelphia (Etheridge called him “Little Brother”). 

Endo has read his poems at multiple venues in Pennsylvania and in Delaware, including Philadelphia Free Library, Logan Circle, Haverford College, Kent County Library, Dover Library, Lewes Library, Rehobeth Arts League, Gallery 37. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, The Cortland Review, the Delaware Poetry Review, Poetry, and have been exhibited at Mellon Bank in Philadelphia, at the Biggs Museum of American Art. “Susumu, My Name” inspired jazz artist Sumi Tonooka's orchestration, “Out of Silence,” which appeared on PBS, and was also reprinted in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Endo received a Professional Grant in Poetry in 2011 from the Delaware Division of the Arts and teaches poetry and literature to older adults at the University of Delaware Osher Institute in Dover, Delaware.




πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος,

τῶν μὲν ὄντων ὡς ἔστιν, τῶν δὲ οὐκ ὄντων ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν.

"Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are,

and of things which are not, that they are not"



After an evening of snow fall, blinking in late-morning sun, after traveling over four overlooks at Canyon de Chelly, I gazed down to the canyon below upon Spider Rock-- all whispery quiet, its sandstone spire worn and shaped as by a river, movement of time's particles. According to Navajo legend, Spider Woman once sat upon Spider Rock, weaving the cosmos, her awe gathering a people together. I believe poetry to be just like that—through an inward swipe—a whispering, a calling forth, shamanistic, diffusing boundaries, reconnecting threads and lines, binding corners of our imagination. Poetry can be a shout, or a breeze, sending something deeply held, into our Canyon. Poetry can engender seeds latent within the ground—vital—propelling us unexpectedly in furrowing waves that may overcome, and pass through, if we stop to listen.




My name means progress in Japanese,
the progress of prosperity and good fortune.
The dust that cleaved
makeshift barracks in Arizona,
whetted my parents’ 
thirst for the American Dream,
but my luck will have to be different.

I want my wheels to skim like blades in the wind across all ruts.
I want my wheels to spin so fast, we stand still.

Are you with me? Then, we may
whisper, in summer breeze,
in susurrus of swept reeds,

The Great Wave

The Great Wave at Kanegawa unfurls,
always curling, always roaring,
bounteous, overcoming everything,
a French horn in the ear of memory;
always curling, always roaring,
all motion becoming one wave,
a French horn in the ear of memory
residing in harmonizing octaves,

all motion becoming one wave --
I never saw it, did you ever see it? –
residing in harmonizing octaves:
reality, imagined reality, the one, the same.

I never saw it, did you ever see it?
Curls and sharp corners, curlicues,
reality, imagined reality, the one, the same:
the concept is always changing:

curls and sharp corners, curlicues
replicated in its pixelated images.
The concept is always changing,
dots like atoms or ants or circumstance

replicated in its pixelated images
in which we are moved to a different place,
dots like atoms or ants or circumstance --
we are tossed and turned about in space

in which we are moved to a different place,
the movement of history’s events.
We are tossed and turned about in space,
the memories to which we are assigned.

The movement of history’s events
bounteous, overcoming everything,
the memories to which we are assigned:
the Great Wave at Kanegawa unfurls.