The Fall

The Fall

by D. Nurkse


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In this elegant collection, D. Nurkse elegizes a lost father, a foreshortened childhood, and a young marriage. From the drenched lawns of suburbia to the streets of Brooklyn, he delivers up the small but crucial epiphanies that propel an American coming-of-age and chronicles the development of a tender yet exacting consciousness. As the diversions of childhood prefigure the heartbreak of adulthood, Nurkse captures the exquisite sadness of each small “fall” that carries us further from our early innocence. In the book’s final section, the poet turns to face mortality with a series of stirring poems about illness in midlife. Throughout, Nurkse celebrates the sheer strangeness of our perceptions in a language that is both astute and surpassingly lyrical.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375709760
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/06/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

D. Nurkse is the author of seven books of poetry. He has received the Whiting Writers’ Award, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, two grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Tanne Foundation award, and the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry. He has also written widely on human rights.

Read an Excerpt

Red-And-Silver Schwinn

I would never learn.
She would never love me.

When I wriggled on that cruel seat a blind force—perhaps hope—
smashed me into the sprinkler system.

Even when I wheeled it,
the bike jack-knifed.

It seemed the fall was planned within me.

Polite with rage
I refused trainer wheels.

I carried the frame tenderly over newly sodded lawns.

Once it was my burden there was nowhere we could not go.


I trained a magnifying glass on the ant with the crumb and he stepped away from the pool of light.
I held the beam wherever he was going.
At once he shriveled to a tiny black line whose ends rose slowly to meet each other.
I aimed at my hand and sensed that fire infinitely distant, close,
then inside me:
when I dropped the lens
I felt no comfort and called my father's name.


A bell tolled six times on an island in the fog and my father turned toward it.

Angelus or a signal?
Where the reefs must be,
a buoy chimed at random.

How to row toward a voice once it has fallen silent?
He listened tight-lipped:

bitterns, gagging laughter,
slap and hiss of Castine,
creaking oars, my crying.

A white hand cupped us so we faced each other entirely inside the mind.

Then he began stroking powerfully,
a vein swelled on his forehead,
his blue knuckles rose like pistons,

even I could sense us circle under the spell of his right arm,
and he lost himself counting

in his exile's language—
twenty, a thousand, as if our home lay beyond those enormous numbers.

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