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Books  >>  Art

D. Nurkse

A Night in Brooklyn

D. Nurkse A Night In Brooklyn Poems
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Biographical note:

D. NURKSE is the author of nine previous books of poetry. His recent prizes include a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A former poet laureate of Brooklyn, he has also written widely on human rights.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

Waking in Greenpoint in Late August

We wanted so much that there be a world
as we lay naked on our gray-striped mattress,
staring up at a trowel mark on the eggshell-blue ceiling
and waiting, waiting for twilight, darkness, dawn,
marriage, the child, the hoarse names of the city—
let there be a universe in which these lovers can wash
at the pearling spigot, and lick each other dry.


A Night in Brooklyn

We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city—
water towers, cisterns,
hot asphalt roofs, parks,
septic tanks, arterial roads,
Canarsie, the intricate channels,
the seacoast, underwater mountains,
bluffs, islands, the next continent,
using only the palms of our hands
and the tips of our tongues, next
we made darkness itself, by then
it was time for daybreak
and we closed our eyes
until the sun rose
and we had to take it all to pieces
for there could be only one Brooklyn.


The Bars

After work I’d go to the little bars
along the bright green river, Chloe’s Lounge,
Cloverleaf, Barleycorn, it was like dying
to sit at five p.m. with a Bud so cold
it had no taste, it stung my hand,
when I returned home I missed my keys
and rang until my wife’s delicate head
emerged in her high window and retreated
like a snail tucked in a luminous shell—
I couldn’t find my wallet, or my paycheck,
though I drank nothing, only a few sips
that tasted like night air, a ginger ale,
nevertheless a dozen years passed, a century,
always I teetered on that high stool
while the Schlitz globe revolved so slowly,
disclosing Africa, Asia, Antarctica,
unfathomable oceans, radiant poles,
until I was a child, they would not serve me,
they handed me a red hissing balloon
but for spite I let it go, for the joy
of watching it climb past Newton Tool & Die,
for fear of cherishing it, for the pang
of watching it vanish and knowing myself
both cause and consequence.




From the Hardcover edition.

Main description:

D. Nurkse’s deeply satisfying new collection is a haunted love letter to the far corners of his hometown, Brooklyn, New York, and a meditation on the selves that were left behind in those indelible places.

Here Nurkse brings alive the particular details that shape a life, in this case unique to the world of Brooklyn—a job at the Arnold Grill, “topping off drafts with a paddle” for the truckers who came in; the deaf white alley cat that mysteriously survived the winter on a stoop in Bensonhurst; the narrow bed where young love took place; the wild gardens behind the tenements. His exploration of this almost mythic city past is combined with a sense of the future speeding toward us—the ongoing riddle of time and being in a larger universe.
 
 . . . And she who was driving said,
We know the coming disaster intimately but the present is unknowable.
 
Which disaster, I wondered, sexual or geological? But I was shy:
her beauty was like a language she didn’t speak and had never heard.
 
From “The Present”


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