By D. Nurkse D. Nurkse
We gave our dogs a button to sniff,   
or a tissue, and they bounded off   
confident in their training,   
in the power of their senses   
to recreate the body,   

but after eighteen hours in rubble   
where even steel was pulverized   
they curled on themselves   
and stared up at us   
and in their soft huge eyes   
we saw mirrored the longing for death:   

then we had to beg a stranger   
to be a victim and crouch   
behind a girder, and let the dogs   
discover him and tug him   
proudly, with suppressed yaps,   
back to Command and the rows   
of empty triage tables.   

But who will hide from us?   
Who will keep digging for us   
here in the cloud of ashes?

Source: Poetry (September 2002).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2002 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2002
 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT The Body, Social Commentaries, Disappointment & Failure, Living, Crime & Punishment, Pets, Nature, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.