NABOKV-L post 0002424, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:32:32 -0700

*Dark Ice* VIII (fwd)
--Old Russian proverb. I remember.Brrr.
Hermetic thermos. Silver put away.
The wind is turning, and the spokes of trees
Give brittle shivers, raining crystal beads
In codeless patter: fallen limbs and leaves,
Old signposts stripped for firewood;
A trail of splinters, pencil-shavings, ice.
Sun burned horizon black, and then went down;
470 *So how do we get back from Retrograd?*
I climbed through crushed weeds. Last year's ichnites,
Old frozen hoofprints, softened out of shape,
Though older thaws hung on a distant shed
*--Melt-drop and shadow-drop race down to earth--*
Icicling in frakturs from the eaves.
Synaptic bristling made noble play
In blue lucidities, on rotting leaves,
Through thriving briar barriers, a wood
Trapped between tenses of a restless thaw.
480 (A gust loosens everything; icecrystals blow;
Twelve trees are standing there, all in a row.)
Where now? *Ah.* Three-beamed birch. Rough
Tenacity of shadows; voluble
Syllabic gulpings, unpronounceable
Coughs; some hard but thawing consonants,
And, clinging to my leg, an ardent burr.
The wind is turning. Now the brittle twigs
Englassed by old rains tremble, click and shift--
Woody and green, tough and supple, caught
490 And insulated in an instant glass
Already old: dark instar entering
Its end. The wind moves, turning from the trees
And stops; I stop. Our glassy path is still.
Heartbeat. *I'm lost here. Listen:* silence. Then
Resounding distance: plate-iron surfaces
Breaking up: old winter's office sacked,
Swirling with leaves and papers; back, ahead,
Far echoes go. Contracting thaw will spread
In cold floods over tensing maps
500 With plosive meltshock: what comes after that?
*Right? Left?* the paths cross, run to air,
Are lost in weeds. Better patched with ice
Than spongy with fresh carnage. (Branches click
And stiffly flex.) The dullest granite chip
Wears a bezel flickering with time
Made small: the bright ice of a winter's day,
The negative beneath its brilliancy
(Like wide lake at night, with wilder sky
Turning eternities--subjunctive verb
510 Needled with crystallings before, beyond
All life). I moved into a rude square. Check:
A prisoned twig, a poignant paperweight
Clicked softly. On worn marble, rusting iron,
Shadow and light replayed their famous match
(I came in late): *Devastating is White's*
*Breakthrough of Red's pawn structure....* Dead
Squares blurred. *Left? Right?* I made my way,
Skirting an ugly stretch of thaw, across
A bare chart raked clean of boundaries
520 But not bird droppings, black leaves, spinal twigs,
And peeling barkstrips scrolled away from trunks.
Hard buds guarded a path; I bent them back,
But warmth dropped away in sudden wind;
Quoins ratcheted. The chase of the lake locked up.
*I've gone too far: a tanktread in the mud.*
The old glacier must have come this way,
Left scattered broken shackles of hard rock
And stubborn winter: Roman roads of ice
That will not melt, in far-flung colonies
530 Enduring empire still (each puddle makes
A worn slab, a marble step). All lead
Through thaw, through grassroots cracks, decline
and spring,
To medieval comforts (as a crystal crown
Tilts on an ermine cape of shrinking snow).
*Crack*: the irrigation follows. Caught
Between tenses, trees grew thorny shades
That race and tangle; suddenly unknot:
Chained and suspended bronze swings gently down.
540 To clear a space for life, not be life." *Crack.*
"Its props removed, all cruelty is nude
Fear." A helicopter maple seed
*(Quick rustling overhead--)* spirals down
Knocked loose by*--gray blur--free fir leap--!--*
--A trembling shadow of a trembling limb.
*Red resigns.* The fairy tale is done.
Exile is over: everyone come home.
The hood hangs on a peg, the wolf curls up,
The woodcutter strokes its patchy fur,
550 And the book stamped **TERROR** in flaking
letters is closed.
The giant lumbers off dragging an oak
In which an ax is stuck. The cupboard's bare
(The cheese was quartz, the bread was painted pine);
The pieces rattle in their wooden box.
All History ends this way: more history;
Slim tremors in the glib and gorgeous weeds.
All futures blank and darken, faltering
And flaring up from liquid wrinklings
Ahead. Blind-spots burn white. So I climbed
560 Over a scarlet sweater--matted, rimed--
And someone's bedsprings, overcome with vines.
An ikon makes a handy pot-lid, and
The same malleable materials
Make blindfold or pillowcase; shackle or spoon;
An instrument of torture or a bed
(Intention counts, ash-tongued insomnia's
Inmate of a mattressed solitarium).
The wind comes down the path; in tousled firs
And pines, green tassels dance. I'm not sure where--
570 Cayuga or Ladoga?--where I am.
Am. This liquid purchase on
Verb, releasing, grips again: seized blood
Pushes being forward; space relents,
Relaxes, gathers in again, again
Clenched in the dark, its grasping cavity
Releases; speaks our wet binary: beats.
If earth's enormous turning writes our blood,
Its language isn't arbitrary: mind
Is wrinkled landscape; draining syntax flows
580 Down complex incurvations, being shaped
And shaping systems of that wrinkling as
We take uncertain, untranslatable
Steps from a shore we have forgotten, toward
A feared shore, on wet, uncertain plates;
Pass ramshackle borders; chunks of fallen wall.
The path led through polluted clearings. Flung
Manila folders flattened on the ice
With scattered staples, curling index cards,
A looted filing cabinet--heavy, old;
590 Lock busted, overturned--loops of tape,
And piles of papers (dumped out of a truck
That merely slowed)--shut with rusting clips
And old red rubber bands. Wind rifled through
RAPE FILE(fir-needles wove a færie floor
On which both Wolf and Woodcutter once walked,
Circling on a disappearing trail).
In landscape's wrinkled mind, raw language
(Blurred in running ink, in boldface lies)
Left Russian, emerged in English, leaving harsh
600 Lacunæ; magic marker blotting out
Incriminating orders (black and red)
That implicate:
A raucous murmuring
Rose in the distance like a change of mood.
Magenta gargoyles seemed to populate
A crowded, littered clearing; through bare elms,
Sweeping the ground with shadows haloed in
Cycling spectra, sliding straws aglow,
Bearing fantastic emblems through the woods,
A Ferris wheel, lit neon, slowly turned
610 --And, with a rush, a roller-coaster rose
Sinecurving on its iron scaffolding,
And dove toward gravity--only to swerve
(Downturn, shift, correction, soar, dive)
Like a free market economy.
Old popcorn seeded ground (where history
Amuses) *creak* (or fails like a) *creak*
(Business, boarded up). Halations fade;
A shadowy ellipse leans through the woods.
Circling--black--on star--salted ice--
620 The empty wheel is turning in the wind.