We grew old in spurts. All our responsesrage, shame
were etched on our foreheads with a steel-nib Bic.
Yet we could not feel them. Barely remember their names.
Between the plenary and keynote we aged a dozen years.
During the breakout sessions we gained back a few breaths,
a moment of regained clarity when we spoke of Kara melting
and allowed ourselves to choke with passion. Passion
we could not feel. That hall swam with soft glints
reflected off watch crystals, iPhones, chandeliers,
racing screens that cannot move. Always the power point
advanced from whale to dolphin to pollack to krill.
The image clicked forward like days, frame to frame,
though we longed to know what happens in between.
The voice followed sinuously. It cannot stop.
How we missed the blue chalkdust of our apprenticeship,
our yellow dog-eared legal pads crawling with statistics
inscribed by hand, poison in Jacmel, Bhopal, Battambang.
The numbers themselves had grown bland, oddly distanced
from the Marlite on which they were projected.
Yet we were children a second ago, eager to learn
to inscribe the great zero, our mouths open,
teaching ourselves to spell, tell time, and tie our shoes,
sailor knot, scout knot, as if your love could stop us
drawing those knots tighter and tighter in the mind.
D. Nurkse, a finalist for the 2011 Forward Prize in Britain, will publish his next book, A Night in Brooklyn, with Knopf in the summer of 2012.