Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002419, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:26:57 -0700

*Dark Ice* II, III (fwd)
(Hail fallen. Damper.) I retraced my steps
Along uncertain melt and shifting gloss
To somewhere near that spot: an empty barn
(I think I glimpsed a black sleigh through the door,
Cobwebbed and rotting, piled with newspapers);
A house with broken windows--snow inside,
And buckling front porch; the facing page
A homely pond's translation of the scene.
50 Icicles pattered Morse, then quieted;
Fractures abounded; crystal refastenings
Veined sturdy puddles under seamless sky
The silvered inside of a vacuum jar.
Following a sentence through the woods
I found the lake (stop; foot-test: one step out),
Tried its crackling solidity,
Then walked the distance of its false expanse
Onto (cold, crackless air) the other bank:
Fir epaulets; rafts of sandy spar;
60 Abandoned border-crossings. Past strange trees
A tangled log was partly visible,
Transliterated into alphabets
Splitting and sapless, partly burnt, part curled
Like old dry vines. *Whew.* I tromped across
Black sticks with weedy diacriticals,
Vowel-slips of ooze and consonants of ice,
Carefully sounding out each patch of thaw
Against a heavy, insulated sole,
And stopped among birches--seeing just ahead
70 Cyrillic of a slumped barbed-wire fence:
My blunt feet felt another continent.
Bare vines; indecipherable cold.
Just past those empty forms were, glimmering,
A plaza and planted trees: beyond the shades
Of iron poles and humps of sooty snow,
A crowd of citizens confronting tanks.

Let's stop and eat an apple here--fair peel,
Yellow Delicious is my favorite--
Feels ripe. I brought a flask of coffee, too.
80 Let's eat an apple and be fortunate.
A Frenchman hears, on record, real Piaf;
Another, weary, stoops to tie his shoes;
Elsewhere a voice interprets, in the bath,
"The complex genitalia of the blues;"
Her husband's out-coat, mittens, shirt--My love!--
The underwear comes off, boots take too long,
--And outside in the cold, key touches lock.
A child picks up a phone and hears "No. Not..."
Someone is vacuuming the second tier.
90 An adolescent girl says "Thanks a lot."
I crunch: my breath-steam makes you disappear.
Who isn't tangent to some other's plot?
Wet boots print blanks across the ghostly snow.