American Life in Poetry: Column 434

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have been new parents will recognize the way in which everything seems to relate to a baby, who has by her arrival suddenly made the world surround her. D. Nurkse lives in Brooklyn.

First Night

We brought that newborn home from Maimonides
and showed her nine blue glittering streets.
Would she like the semis with hoods of snow?
The precinct? Bohack’s? A lit diner?
Her eyes were huge and her gaze tilted
like milk in a pan, toward shadow.
Would she like the tenement, three dim flights,
her crib that smelled of Lemon Pledge?
We slept beside her in our long coats,
rigid with fatigue in the unmade bed.
Her breath woke us with its slight catch.
Would she approve of gray winter dawn?
We showed her daylight in our cupped hands.
Then the high clocks began booming
in this city and the next, we counted for her,
but just the strokes, not the laggards
or the tinny echoes, and we taught her
how to wait, how to watch, how to be held,
in that icy room, until our own alarm chimed.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by D. Nurkse from his most recent book of poems, A Night in Brooklyn, Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of D. Nurkse and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.