“Order to Disperse,” a Poem by D. Nurkse

From the Collection A Country of Strangers

April 25, 2022  By D. Nurkse

for the students

Tonight my children are facing live ammunition.
One holds a rock, one brought a Bible, one hides a phone.
The fires of the provocateurs burn so brightly.
The police put duct tape over their badges.
The soldiers are hooded; they wear no insignia.
Last night they had rubber bullets, tonight hollow-point.
In the smoke you see the outlines of a bank, a cathedral,
absent as the profiles of Presidents on coins.
A voice advances, a voice retreats, someone aims.
Have you ever died in a dream? What happened then?
Tell me what happened! There is only one life.
How long will I hold mine like water in cupped hands?


Excerpt from A COUNTRY OF STRANGERS by D. Nurkse. Copyright © 2022 by D. Nurkse. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

D. Nurkse
D. Nurkse
D. Nurkse is the author of twelve books of poetry. His many honors include a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His poems have appeared in periodicals such as The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, and The Paris Review; he has taught poetry in prison, and, as Brooklyn poet laureate, in local schools and the public library system. He has also worked for human rights organizations. A resident of Brooklyn, he currently teaches in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College.

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