In three sections, The Fall opens with a prologue poem about an escape from a serious illness, the central theme of section III. Part I concentrates on the self-absorption of childhood and its central tragedy, the death of a father. Straight-forward and accessible, the poems appear autobiographical. In a childhood accident learning how to ride a bike, the boy feels he will “never learn” how to do it and that he’s destined to crash: “It seemed the fall/ was planned within me.” The poems are deceptively simple, their insights basic to human experience. The young boy becomes skilled at the central act of the volume: “I fell and loved falling.” Falling involves pain and, unfortunately, he becomes skilled at that as well: “I practiced suffering.” The curse of these poems is self-pity; the triumph, a struggle to overcome it.
Section II focuses upon mature, man/woman love: marriage, happiness, but ultimately the loss of love, divorce and custody battles over children. Nurkse’s language is crisp. There are few flourishes, just an honest appraisal of what it means to reach for happiness then lose it. The section ends with a poem about searching for the grave of the dead father, as if that loss were the pattern of all losses.
Section III centers upon an extended hospital stay and the speaker’s experience with debilitating illness. He comes to feel alienated from his own body, from language, and even from those who visit him. More important is the opening of the speaker’s heart to those “whom no one visits.” Throughout this ordeal he comes to feel that somehow he’s to blame for his illness: the “dizziness in middle age, a fall.” As a metaphor, the title of this volume works to unify the poems and give them extraordinary resonance.