D. Nurkse is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Burnt Island (Knopf, 2005). Recent work is in The Atlantic Monthly and The Times Literary Supplement. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

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Four Way Books

My Father's Closet by D. Nurkse


        1 Hat

        As soon as I put it on
        Brooklyn went dark,
        but when I took it off
        my wooden horse stared at me
        with dazzling glass eyes.


        2 Coat

        The shirred hem
        swished on the floor.
        Huge shoulders sloped
        like pines under snow.
        A panel in the lapel
        read: Kuut, Tallinn
        in thread letters.
        I hid at the center
        behind jet buttons
        too round to undo.
        That coarse-nap wool
        outlasted Estonian winter
        but now the moths
        left a trellis of holes
        so it was never dark
        when I curled up
        hugging my knees.
        My mother cried out:
        Who are you? I answered
        in my deepest voice:
        His coat.


        3 Shoes

        I shoved my hands in
        and taught them to walk:
        now stumble: now march
        against your will, left, right,
        to the Narva Front:

        now dance:
        and somewhere
        in that immense city
        where snow trembled

        in high lit windows,
        a footstep receded,
        rapid, urgent,
        indelible as a name.