The North Side

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.
by D. Nurkse

Two important announcements! First, to all Brookes staff and students: do you have a favourite poem? The Poetry Centre invites you to share your love of poetry with the community in our exciting new project for National Poetry Day. If chosen to participate, you will be filmed reading your favourite poem and sharing why it is memorable to you. Filming will take place in September 2014 and videos will be posted to the Poetry Centre website via the Oxford Brookes YouTube channel for National Poetry Day on 2 October. If you wish to participate, all you need to do is send an e-mail to including your name, your role at Brookes (student or member of staff), the title and author of your favourite poem, and a brief description of the poem’s significance to you, by Friday 16 May, 2014. No original poems, please!

Secondly, there are a number of poetry and creative writing events coming up at this year’s OutBurst Festival (6-10 May). OutBurst showcases cutting-edge research and expertise from across the university in a variety of stimulating and fun events for students, staff, and the local community, including installations, lectures, workshops, exhibitions, and discussions for all ages. Find out more from the website, via Facebook, or on Twitter, and book your tickets now!

‘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.