Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002425, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:33:11 -0700

*Dark Ice* IX (fwd)
Chair-scrape. Made another glass of tea,
Sat stirring, staring down: an open book
In which a painting (path into a wood
Of shadows and delights) hangs on a wall
(*Pale Souls, Dead Fire*: Vladolai Nabogol).
Gently its dream begins: an open page
Of snow black footprints cut across, and melt--
Gray slush, black boots--a reader makes her way,
Walks on into the imprint of a path,
630 Contains the haunted, hollow wood it threads;
Her name is Hilda Lorris, and she limps
Almost imperceptibly; her face
(Angular, abrupt, intelligent)
Is red and stinging from an argument
About a couple of kopecks worth of cheese--
And stale cheese at that, the kind that comes
Wrapped in a torn-off scrap of paper bag
With price scrawled on it by an indolent
Fellow behind the counter, preoccupied
640 With the devil knows what, a horse he'd like to buy
Of a rich chestnut color and then outfit
With all the finest harness (and why not
With silver fittings, while he's at it, yes,
And two more make a *troïka*), that turns out
To be some shriveled rind-piece put aside
To feed the dog, but wrapped up by mistake--
She'd stomped away, straight into the woods
(A sloping forest, bristling in the wind),
Leaving (she thinks) her muffler behind
650 (It's in her sleeve--its gray woolen fringe
Wadded up against her underarm,
Making the old coat list uncomfortably
To one side). She sniffs, walks on, head down,
Past green fircones jacketed with ice,
Where crossing boughs brush shadows from the snow,
Not going back. The wood is wide and lit;
Soft distances abound, with silent squirrels.
Will it drizzle? Sprinkles perforate the snow?
660 Snow slumps on quartz and trembling needles; wind
Blows down unprinted slopes, up slipping drifts,
Toward houses the path implies, through world
the woods
Return and sound; within deep, resinous,
Dim, fragrant glades, a few fir-cones fall--
She stops and stoops. With reddened, ungloved hands
Adjusts a snowcrammed buckle, murmurs, stands
And, plunging fists in pockets, walks again
Without a limp. *Am I to live on scraps?*
Spring rain will freeze, ice grip everything!
Boot follows boot. The wood begins to melt.
670 Gray patches slip into the path, rough squares,
A postbox in the middle of the trees,
A smell of pancakes and potato peels,
The switching sound her feet make with each swipe
Of cleared sidewalk, glistening Berlin,
Black, glissive wheels and slap of thin-soled steps,
As knot-holes become eyes, snow rising steam,
Steam breathing mouths, a moving city crowd
Intent on business, clanging bells, a tram
Gliding downhill into a lurching turn--
680 Nothing but paper in a reader's hand.