D. Nurkse, “Sonny Stitt at the Blue Coronet”

D. Nurkse
Jeremiah Kuhlfield

His fingers don’t seem to move
as he rips through secondary dominants
of “Boplicity,” “Simone,” “Ray’s Idea.”
The alto is a golden fishhook.

Why such blazing tempi when he’ll die
in six weeks? Perhaps in heroin
there’s a calm in which you can fit
a thousand notes into one beat.

Drums, bass, Hammond organ—
these are unnamed men, faces
you’ve met all your life
and bargained with, nodded to,
yet they have no difficulty
with the subtlest modulation.

The audience is three drunks,
one cursing an imaginary waitress,
one mumbling apologies, one sleeping.

Now try to eat your extremely salted cashews
so slowly there will always be one left.

A Night In Brooklyn is the tenth collection of poems by D. Nurkse, the borough’s former poet laureate. It includes “Summertime” (originally published in The Atlantic), “The North Side” and “There Is No Time, She Writes,” “The Bars,” and “Damariscotta” (which was originally published under the title “Newfane”). Several poems appeared in Poetry; in addition to the poem that gives the collection its name, there’s The Rain-streaked Avenues of Central Queens,” “Psalm to be Read with Closed Eyes,” “The Dead Remember Brooklyn,” and “August in the Dolomites” (originally called “Engagement in the Dolomites” and then “A Marriage in the Dolomites”).

Drunken Boat first published “Letter from Home,” and they also have an audio file of Nurkse reading it.

2 August 2012 | poetry |