- Victory, and: Lord of Childhood
The election is over, but we trudge back to the phone bank with our clipboards and scripts. We can still dial the swing states. North Carolina, Florida, Nevada: Can we count on you? Have a blesséd evening!
As in the last days, no one will answer.
Huge room abandoned by an army. Folded banners. Butts float in styrofoam cups. We had a 93 percent chance.
This late, traffic dwindles, you hear the sirens of the city so clearly: Maimonides, Saint Luke, Methodist. The pulse in the mind. A child in the opposing tenement howls with laughter, then sobs.
Once we had arguments prepared on entitlement reform, Syria, carried income tax. But the few voices we reached were exhausted. Husband in a truss, son in solitary. Friend, foe. Static from the cosmos on an empty line.
Almost midnight. We dial high school sweethearts, imaginary lovers, dead parents. Jack, Bobby, Malcolm, Martin, Fred Hampton, Mark Clark.
Soft fury of night snow behind high blinds.
Ohio! Are you with us? [End Page 127]
Lord of Childhood
We are all enchanted. But we have to pay for it.
You know that part of town where the miners once lived? Sooty frame houses, porches whose floorboards spring up? Rusty screen doors that close with a thrum, then a series of clicks, then a squeak?
There you find the padlocked sweatshops. The names of things they once made have been worn blank by the north wind. Imagine you can read: doorknob. Comb. Shoehorn. Or your fingertips can trace the groove the letters etched.
The factory that produced thimbles is bricked in. The threadworks has no roof.
All the streets are named for trees: Pine, Cedar, Elm, Maple. There are only sagging chainlink fences. At the corner of Birch and Willow a Corvette is double-parked. A boy squats by the trunk. He has the dust. You buy it with something from your parents’ house. The ormolu lamp. The clock with a pendulum. The portrait with its massive gilt frame. How I wanted to keep the face. Just take the gold leaf and smelt it. But no. The face comes too.
Now I am enchanted, like a raven in a story, a deer, a tiger, a toad. Eras pass like a hand sweeping over a clock dial: tweets, updates, cities lost, besieged, bombarded.
Some nights I see the Lord, stacking bills in his golden window. Should I ring the bell and beg: give me back my father’s face? [End Page 131]
D. Nurkse is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently The Fall (Knopf, 2002) and Burnt Island (Knopf, 2005). He has received the Whiting Award, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, two grants from the New York State Foundation for the Arts, and other awards. He has also written widely on human rights.