The Sunday Poem: D. Nurkse




The Present


We made models: this is a moment of happiness,
this is a maple-shaded street, its yellow median line
littered with double wings: some day we might know such things
in our real lives, not just in desire.

We invented Cherryfield, Maine, nine pearl-gray Capes
with sagging porches held together by coats of gesso.
Behind the scrim of birches the Middle Branch River
glittered like the galvanized roof to a tackle shed.

We were quick and replicated a shack with a chalk sign
CHUBBS SMELTS CROAKERS; there was barely time to read it
before it whirled into the past. 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.

Then we were in Holyfield and it was the hour when the child
waves from a Welcome mat, his eyes full of longing, before turning
inward to his enforced sleep. We waved back but we were gone.

The hour when two moths bump together above a pail of lures.

The hour when the Coleman lamp flickers in the screen house
above the blur of cards being shuffled and dealt amazingly fast.

All my life I have been dying, of hope and self pity,
and an unknown force has been knitting me back together.
It happens in secret. I want to touch her and I touch her
and it registers on the glittering gauges that make the car darker
and swifter and we come to the mountains and this is all I ever wanted:

to enter the moth’s pinhead eye, now, and never return.



About D. Nurkse

D. Nurkse (Photo by Jemimah Kuhfeld)

D. Nurkse has published nine books of poetry, most recently The Border Kingdom, from Knopf, who will publish Nurkse’s new book of poems next summer. Nurkse is also the author of The Fall, Burnt Island, and Shadow Wars. He received a 2009 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is currently a finalist for the Forward Prize in Great Britain. Formerly the Poet Laureate of Brooklyn, New York, Nurkse has received the Whiting Writers’ Award and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. He has taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Rikers Island Correctional Facility.


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“The Present” © D. Nurkse. Reprinted with permission by the author. This poem first appeared in The Kenyon Review.

By | 2016-11-11T21:55:52+00:00 07.28.11|The Sunday Poem, Words|Comments Off on The Sunday Poem: D. Nurkse

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.