Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002426, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:33:43 -0700

*Dark Ice* X (fwd)
This will be tricky. Please don't hold your breath.
The vertical carousel was trucked away
A week ago, and all that's left of it
Is litter and written mud; uncertain ice;
A varnished stump with icy lacquerings.
The lake is mottled white; plump bubbles show
In places; here a chunk has fallen through,
There water glints around a floating log;
New lacy failures face the crusty edge.
690 A slipshod thaw goes on despite the dusk,
Pocketed hands, gray snow, that coated stump;
A glossolalia of icy light
Speaking in slippery tongues of longdead leaf
Reports on change in standard metaphor:
An icicle gives up its blunted point
Drop after drop. Drop. Drop. The doubled path
(A shortcut to the berm, or looked like one)
Led me behind a house (fir-scent. New melt,
Bright unexpected water flaring suns
700 Along the runners of a sliding door)
Wherein (its tenant, standing, leaned and scraped
An index card, eraser-worn and smeared)
A duel is being fought, a letter sent,
A secret kept, a lover turned away
[A king, alone, looks through binoculars],
And, "bored with the city's bright variety,"
*Eyebrow raised* or *tines aslant in snow,*
A rake is leaning near the rented porch.
The fir trees hang with tight-scaled, supple, green
710 New cones. The patio is wet with ice.
A squirrel plays along a branch's glaze.
The woods are grainy, with a thousand grays.
As shadows flood the glass, reflections loom
And flow the wilderness into the room,
Planting the line of trees upon a bed,
Letting a rocking chair slip like a sled
On outside ice-- --Last flagstone makes me trip.
Thinned ice, transparented, widens the path;
An unlocked molecule unlocks the next,
720 Until each puddle mirrors twigs and sky
And feared reprisals leak, evaporate;
Brown tattering slips loose from ice: ripe leaf.
Fear-pile. Leaves rot in air; I smell their teeth.
My wristwatchLCD tells me the time.
A catbird skims along, reflected in
Wet glistening wrinkles of a thinning pane--
And step breaks puddle; night takes lawn; wing
Vanishes beyond a clustered knob:
A life has ended but its shade goes on,
730 A dry leaf skittering quickly over ice
Where suddenly there is no Soviet.
Uneven ground supports these peaceful boots.
Following a trail of syllables,
Trying to find a shortcut, I got lost
In what I thought was just a strip of woods.
A highland road led deeper, through the dark,
Into a hollow with a crackling brook.
Ice loosened more. Prickly nouns declined
An anagrammar of memoriam
740 As, midbrook, I availed myself of vines
To balance on the coated, tilting rocks
And saw beyond a  VIVID BALKAN MOOR.
What now? I crossed; climbed up: found barn and pond
(Having described a circle through the woods),
And stood at the winter's softened edge: twigs formed
AVOID RIM. B. N. OVAL. Sure enough,
If you ignored a deckle edge of ice
And took, on faith, a long, slow step out,
Its face was sturdy and its center hard,
750 A marble tablet still uncut by skates,
Bladed by wind and melt. Shades, sharpening,
Began to scrape its slipping white wet stone.
As leaky sun left everything alone
I stood and waited for reflected glow
To highlight runesticks latent in the limbs:
I almost saw  MAD VIM. RIVAL BOOK!
Materialize and fade. I looked again,
But all I saw were dulling sunsets throb
On each wet patch. Sky thawing, growing cold.
760 Horizon canceled by the trunks of trees.
Slash of a slender elm, half-fallen, caught
In the arms of an ampersand. Suns shivered in
Little cedillas on the wet façade
And turned. A brilliant page was turned and there
The dimming landscape, untranslated, grew
Garbled constructions, deep infinitives
In which I searched for cognates but was lost
In chilly flickerings. Red sky. I looked
For crystal inscriptions, immanent displays,
770 But nothing--save a distant puddle's shape:
Its little tilde glimmered and dissolved
Into a dull, thin--indiscernible.
No English sound resembles what I heard,
A soft slow *pull* across the ice, and then
Nothing. Unvoiced consonants. I paced
The wet, wind-scripted recto of the ice--
Some gothic grasses struggling in clumps,
And, near the edge, what must have been an oar.
A distant riffling shiver passed across:
780 Lowercase trees italicized by wind.
A surging shadow overshadowed me.