D. Nurkse


My father waved good-bye.
I didn't wave back,
scared I might drop
my new cold smoky marble.

At the core a spiral
glinted and coiled
like a small windy flame
turning in on itself.

That night my mother
shook me from a dream,
whispering he was dead,
he was dead, he was dead,
as if to teach a language
and I answered: he is dead.

Even in sleep
my hands had not opened.

A Couple in Garden City


Great Love, like a hostile parent,
always watched us
to see if our nails were clean,
if there were crumbs
at the corners of our mouths—

imperious Love, irascible,
muttered about a catastrophe
we would never know, close
and remote as a lit window—

you will never know how I suffered
in Logos because of your ignorance

and we lovers unbuttoned shyly
in the night of war and amazing wealth,
sad for each other, telling each other
little jokes to make it easier,
wanting nothing except twilight:

but that Love always with a project:
the darkest night; sharpest pencil;
softest pillow; cruelest betrayal;

so we blessed each other
in a language we invented,
more silent than thought,
each word backlit as in a dream
where there is no choice but kindness,

and that Love, furious, searched
among the laws for a single name,
erased on the day we met.


The rake splayed on the lawn,
a hose glittered over daffodils,
the brillo pad circled the dish,
smoke hovered above the chimney,
the comb journeyed with many setbacks
through a forest of scented hair,
and the voice cried in a dark room.
If we were lost in a second of happiness,
how bright will we burn in paradise?

Not even God may enter the past
yet we sneaked there
hand in hand and carved our names
in the pith of the apple tree.

If loneliness were a taxi,
I'd give it our old address:
1 Pison Drive, a block from Euphrates:

picket fence, gambrel roof,
bent hoop, bug light, dangling tire,
in the garage a bike with training wheels,
waiting to take us to our father's mansion.

How We Are made Light

Pity the visitors
bent under shopping bags,
who have kept their huge hats
here where there are no seasons,
who run from station to station
with a question so inconsequential
even we patients smile.

Admire the nurse and the aide
who fill out a form,
one beginning at the front, the other at the end,
speaking of Bon Jovi;
the doctors, washing side by side,
discussing an even greater doctor;

most of all, revered the orderlies
who have come from across the sea
to wheel us through the corridors
to a place where we will be tested,
where we will finally belong
even more inherently than here,
where we will no longer be watchers
but the matter itself,
flesh and soul transposed
to degrees on a scale of radiance.

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    Excerpted from The Fall by D. Nurkse. Copyright © 2002 by D. Nurkse. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.