By Dennis Nurkse
I asked my father,
“would you rather die
of cancer or a heart attack?
Would you rather be executed
or put in jail for life?
Which would you rather be—
a spy or a sentinel?”
And he tried to answer
honestly, combing his thinning hair
with his fingers, thinking of something else.
At last he fell silent. I ran out
to savor the dregs of dusk
playing with my friends
in the road that led to the highway.
The ball flew up toward day
and landed in night.
We chanted. Every other minute
a truck, summoned by our warnings,
brushed past in a gust of light,
the driver’s curses muffled
by distance: the oncoming wheels
were the point of the game,
like the scores in chalk
or the blood from scuffed knees
that we smeared across our faces:
so when my mother called,
her voice was quaint and stymied
and I took all the time in the world
trotting home past tarped barbecue pits,
past names of lovers filling with sap,
past tentative wind from sprinklers:
then I was stunned to see my golden window
where all faces, hanging plants, dangling pots
were framed by night and dwarfed
by a ravenous inward-turning light.