While the rest of the world may be fawning over the gentrification that has swiftly crept over most parts of Northern Brooklyn, Brooklyn’s former Poet Laureate himself, D. Nurske, writes about the other parts of the borough.
His collection of poetry titled “A Night in Brooklyn” was released just a few days ago. It is a work calling out to the rich past of some of Brooklyn’s oldest neighborhoods, including Canarsie and Bensonhurst.
In one poem he writes, “At the border of Bensonhurst, a nun dragged a balky collie on a retractable leash.”
In another, he talks about the deaf white alley cat that mysteriously survived the winter on a stoop in Bensonhurst, the narrow bed where young love took place.
His regard for the almost subtle details of life is obvious in his work. The poems explore the bigger questions of birth, death and love through slow, unraveling meditations that focus on the tiny moments that make up the grand.
Nurkse is the author of nine previous books of poetry. His recent prizes include a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A former poet laureate of Brooklyn, he has also written widely on human rights.
Here’s a copy of One on Nurkse’s poems in full. This is called “A Night in Brooklyn.”
We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city —
water towers, cisterns,
hot asphalt roofs, parks,
septic tanks, arterial roads,
Canarsie, the intricate channels,
the seacoast, underwater mountains,
bluffs, islands, the next continent,
using only the palms of our hands
and the tips of our tongues, next
we made darkness itself, by then
it was time for daybreak
and we closed our eyes
until the sun rose
and we had to take it all to pieces
for there could be only one Brooklyn.