The Playground at Night
The older kids are whizzing down the slide, No Hands on the brutal twists. When they touch bottom, they wriggle around like fish and clamber straight back up the chute. I want my father to tell them No. But he keeps his own council. He just watches, as if they were the Giants on a faraway screen.
Now the older kids are pumping like maniacs up the swings-they want to whoosh the entire arc, like the second hand sweeping across the clock face-but they tilt backwards at the peak and drop. They could kill themselves. But that’s the least of their concerns.
Now they are burying a little child in the sandbox. And my father is gazing, sorrowfully, in his Karelian coat, his hands behind his back, as if to memorize the last shovelful, the disappearing face, the earth trembling and smoothing out.
It is dark now. The older kids are tying a dog to a cat. My father keeps staring at a golden window with deep longing. Is this how he watches me?
The older kids have caught a grasshopper and trapped it in a matchbox. They are crushing it bit by bit, disappointed they can’t do it twice. My father just stares into the shadows. Once or twice he may have sighed.
His eyes, when I could still see them, shone like flames.
D. Nurske reads “The Playground at Night”
D. Nurkse is the author of eleven poetry collections, most recently Love in the Last Days: After Tristan and Iseult (Knopf, 2017). He is the recipient of a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize (UK).