Today's poem is by D. Nurkse

Half-Finished Houses

No-Name stuck a thumb in my eyes.
He knelt on top of me, grabbed my hand
and hit me with it, saying
why hurt yourself, little friend?

Those blows were light —
perhaps to show me my weakness,
but I was grateful.

A circle of children watched
biting their lips, smiling dubiously.

One shouted, but so faintly
the word was framed on his lips.
He cupped his hands around his mouth.

No sound except the bees
and somewhere a factory siren.

Fathers would be switching off
their tall gray machines.

One child whispered it's raining!
It's almost raining!

Then I realized a new silence
was letting some words pass, not others —

silence like a searchlight
picking up each breath
and we were all breathless.

At dusk Claire gave me a marble.

At twilight Gene gave me a faceless coin

with a milled rim that made a strange friction
against my cheek.

Carmen G. invited me to her house in Cloverdale
where there was a shadow pool —
cork ropes and a small sky
green with upward-reflections
of whirling maple keys.

But I said No.

They were becoming gods, those watchers.

A third grader was drinking from the fountain,
hunched, and I whacked his back —
what's doing, buddy! — the jet spurted
like a red fire and I ran.

I found myself in the apartment complex
near Coburn, buildings under contract.

Through taped windows I saw ladders,
instructions scrawled directly on walls,
directions for the colors they would be —
beige, eggshell — or marks for a swatch.

A mantel wrapped like a gift in crinkly paper.

I came home very late.

My mother was darning socks.
That gray thread, color of moonlight,
almost matched each fabric.

Supper was cold. She served in silence.
She had no reproof. Later

she combed her hair very slowly
in the oval mirror. Later

she wound the clock
so when she tucked me in
her hands smelled of brass.

That night I prayed to you.
I pressed my knees on the toilet floor
deliberately hard, to hurt you.

I foresaw we'd be circling each other
forever — at least until high school
or my mother moved back to Oulu.

You had a feather in one hand, in the other
a smashed robin's-egg.

When I woke it was raining.

A few lights wavered on the road,
so early! A few tinny voices
from parked cars praised you, ยท
calling you FATHER, mighty and blessed,
though you were just dead.

Copyright © 2016 D. Nurkse All rights reserved
from The Manhattan Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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