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First Grade Homework

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The child’s assignment:
“What is a city?”
All dusk she sucks her pencil
while cars swish by
like ghosts, neighbors’ radios
forecast rain, high clouds,
diminishing winds: at last
she writes: “The city is everyone.”
       Now it’s time
for math, borrowing and exchanging,
the long discipleship
to zero, the stranger,
the force that makes us
what we study: father and child,
writing in separate books,
infinite and alone.

D. Nurkse, “First Grade Homework” 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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This poem originally appeared in the August 1990 issue of Poetry magazine

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First Grade Homework

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