Dennis Nurkse

Approaching Canaan


A woman opposite me
began to tic violently
as she solved her crossword
much too fast--immediately
I felt a shot of pain
right below my groin.

Could we be saved?
Our train was emerging
in the zone of hospitals,
floodlights filling with snow,
names of surgeons inscribed
in the interstices of a dazzling grid.

St. Jude, St. Barnabbas,
the cryology vaults
where bodies at the point of death
are stuffed with dry ice,
the reflexology lab
where the mind is scrutinized
for the effect of a whisper,
a tremor, a sidelong glance...  

Was I meant to lose my margin,
my dog-by-the-fire,
powerful secret prayer
and line of no resistance?

I'd slipped in my payments,
stumbled in the undertow
of a furious ebbing marriage.

My child lay in my wallet
beside my laminated smile
but my name entered in the database
would trigger a bolt of night sky.

So we strangers left together
--no more passengers!--
looking back longingly
for a scrap of newsprint
or a spindled timetable.

Already a distant mechanical voice
cried Maimonides... Mary Magdalene...

there where the steelshod doors
close of their own accord.