D. Nurkse

Letter From The Capital
November 29, 2015 Nurkse D.

Letter From The Capital

Je vous écris d’un pays lointain


She writes: now we have wars between historical eras. We fight in time as well as space. 1914 vs. 1939 is a devastating clash. 2003 vs. 1096 is the test.

Our task is to subdue the future. Tribes in caves a millennium from now subsist on acorns and rainwater. We are releasing a wind to flatten their oaks.

The beauty of the climate wars, she writes: that red cloud on the horizon could have been conjured by the Cathars, the Estonians, a dissident faction of Jehovah’s Witness, a neighbor who objects to the wind chimes on your patio.

Remember when we knew how to suffer? By counting to ten, then counting to ten? How we knew to blame each other-–reasoning backwards from pain to motive? The lover’s flushed face, flirting with a stranger in the mirror?

Now suffering could be an accident. The cloud could be real.


We are watched all the time. It’s soothing. Like the love of a known God. Palliative to the loneliness of these empty streets. No different from the way the mind stares at you, hunting that fleeting humiliating urge, to burnish and insert in a dream.

Retina scan, tongue swatch, intimate as the mother’s bond with her newborn. It’s not our opinions that are copied and sealed in the vault.


The President appears on the screen. But it isn’t the President at all–-it’s his radiant counterpart, that a teenager created from an algorithm.

He stares at us-–all night he stares-–eyes bright with tears, barely flickering. He will grant our deep wish:
a moment’s respite from the mind.


D. Nurkse is the author of twelve books of poetry, most recently A COUNTRY OF STRANGERS (Knopf, April 2022), a “new and selected.” He’s received the Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Whiting foundations. He has taught poetry at Rikers Island and served a term on the board of Amnesty International-USA. He currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and collaborates on performance art with Zephyr, a visionary dog.