I took a job at the Arnold Grill, topping off drafts with a paddle for the St Johnsbury truckers.
Tuesday nights my father came in to buy a shot of muscatel and nurse it in a far booth beside a small jukebox which he plied with quarters.
He was dead so the smoke and obscenities did not bother him.
At three a.m. I began tallying my tips – a fortune in Canadian pennies.
Once, I confronted him: Why do you keep coming? Can’t you rest? And why Tuesday?
He was hurt. He averted his fine eyes and joined a conversation about Billy Martin – had he ruined Vida Blue? A waitress laughed – apparently my father knew nothing of the forkball – and next Tuesday he did not come.
No one missed him. The pool players cleaned the table, rack after rack, adjusting the score with beads on a string in midair,
the dart players paused, with pursed lips, pushing the feathers through air as if they had just found an opening,
but my father had not returned, not even as a ghost, not even as a tremor in a bettor’s hand.
I locked the iron door at first light, lowered the steel shutters, clicked the seven padlocks, and instead of my father, to whom I’d spoken all my life with bitterness, with sarcasm,
I spoke to that uncertain moment between false dawn and dawn when the traffic roars north, just streaks of trapped light, lamps go out in the charity ward, and the tenements light up, the highest floors first:
Why can’t you rest, I said.
‘The North Side’ is copyright © D. Nurkse, 2012, and is reprinted from A Night in Brooklyn (CB editions, 2013) by permission of CB editions.
Notes from CB editions:
D. Nurkse lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is a former poet laureate of that borough. His parents fled Nazi Europe during World War Two. His Voices over Water, published by CBe in 2011, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. He has also written on human rights issues and worked with Amnesty International. You can read further selections from A Night in Brooklyn on the CB editions website.
CB editions, founded in 2007, publishes poetry alongside short fiction and other writing, including work in translation. Its poetry titles have won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize three times (in 2009, 2011 and 2013), and have been shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Forward First Collection Prize. In 2011 CBe inaugurated Free Verse, a one-day book fair for poetry publishers to show their work and sell direct to the public; the event was repeated in 2012 and 2013, with over 50 publishers taking part, and has become an annual event. The next fair will take place on 6 September at Conway Hall in London. Find out more about the publisher from the website, where you can also sign up to the CB editions mailing list, or 'like' the publisher on Facebook to keep up-to-date with its activities. Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.