Evening Practice

By D. Nurkse D. Nurkse
I asked my father,
“would you rather die
of cancer or a heart attack?
Would you rather be executed   
or put in jail for life?
Which would you rather be—
a spy or a sentinel?”
And he tried to answer
honestly, combing his thinning hair
with his fingers, thinking of something else.   
At last he fell silent. I ran out
to savor the dregs of dusk
playing with my friends
in the road that led to the highway.   
The ball flew up toward day
and landed in night.
We chanted. Every other minute
a truck, summoned by our warnings,   
brushed past in a gust of light,   
the driver’s curses muffled
by distance: the oncoming wheels   
were the point of the game,
like the scores in chalk
or the blood from scuffed knees   
that we smeared across our faces:   
so when my mother called,
her voice was quaint and stymied   
and I took all the time in the world   
trotting home past tarped barbecue pits,   
past names of lovers filling with sap,   
past tentative wind from sprinklers:
then I was stunned to see my golden window   
where all faces, hanging plants, dangling pots   
were framed by night and dwarfed   
by a ravenous inward-turning light.

D. Nurkse, “Evening Practice” from The Rules of Paradise (New York: Four Way Books, 2001). Used by permission of Four Way Books.

Source: The Rules of Paradise (Four Way Books, 2001)

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Poet D. Nurkse

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Activities

 D.  Nurkse


D. Nurkse is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including The Rules of Paradise (2001), The Fall (2003), and The Border Kingdom (2008). His parents escaped Nazi Europe during World War II—his Estonian father worked for the League of Nations in Vienna, his mother was an artist—and moved to New York. Nurkse’s family moved back to live in Europe for a number of years, returning to the United States around the time of the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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