The Hidden Fighters

We retraced our steps though the signs were bad.
At twilight a huge man stood in the road with an axe
and when he saw us he whimpered in terror and plunged into the undergrowth
though we were just two peasants, a child, and a deaf horse.
At night we found our moonlit road
obstructed by wheels: wheels of carts, phaetons,
coaches, surreys, toy horses, all frozen.
So we drifted along by the logging paths
that were sometimes just accident, angles of snow and windbreak.
Sunrise was black because we were so deep,
the rustle of the owls stopped,
we came upon a child’s swing dangling from a branch
and then another and another, a forest of swings.
We found a glass case covered with branches:
it contained an encyclopedia. Then we looked up
and saw the carcasses of butchered deer
lashed to the treetops and painted chalk white
like enormous clumps of snow and we knew
we were in the camp of the partisans
and the silence around us was not ours,
nor was it the silence of fear.

by D. Nurkse

Welcome to the first in a new series of Weekly Poems for the new academic year. It’s a pleasure to begin the series with a publisher new to the Weekly Poem, CB editions. Don’t forget that the Poetry Centre can be ‘liked’ on Facebook and followed on Twitter (@brookespoetry).

‘The Hidden Fighters’ is copyright © D. Nurkse, 1996, 2011. It is reprinted from Voices over Water by permission of CB editions.

D. Nurkse lives in Brooklyn, New York; he has published ten books of poetry and has also written on human rights issues. His parents fled Nazi Europe during World War Two. Voices over Water was shortlisted for the 2011 Forward Prize. The book records the emigration of a woman and her husband from Estonia to Canada in the early 20th century; in the fine detail of their experience it evokes the larger forces to which their lives are subject: war, the unyielding land, famine, silence, and the irreducible strangeness of the bond between them. You can read more about D. Nurkse on the CB editions website, where you can read reviews of his work and some further excerpts from his book.

CB editions publishes no more than six books a year, mainly poetry and short fiction and including work in translation. Since 2008 its poetry titles have twice won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and have twice been shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Forward First Collection Prize. In 2011 CBe put on 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 September 2012 with over 50 publishers taking part. 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.