Thinking of Nabokov

At twenty-one, he messed about
in a boat for a photograph. Hair
deliciously askew and color
in his cheeks that could be made out

even in that sepiatoned print,
his was the satisfying flame, the aculeus
of another young Prometheus.
A nearly sidelong glance hinted

of later shadowed days. The smack of age
and words. Lectures, first at Cornell,
on Austen Joyce Flaubert, et. al.
What happens when brilliance grows large

in hands of brilliance? We all listened
and wondered (what else could we do)
and we watched her. We had to
ask, as she pushed kisses out into

quiet words, did her kisses become
his words? Through the thickening
nights, were they arm in arm, returning
after lectures, to the American home,

with winter books stacked high
holding full for colder days? Instead,
perhaps, conversations were dead
agonies, desperate efforts to descry

the horizon of a distant sea
to which he rushed, a briefcase crowded
with short stories and the memory
of a boat he once rowed.

by Michael J. Opperman

Michael lives and works in Minneapolis.  His work has appeared in the Coe Review, New Hampshire Review, Maverick Magazine, Dislocate, ditch, The Blue Fog Journal and MARGIE Review.  He was a finalist for the Marjorie J. Wilson Prize for Best Poem Contest and winner of the Academy of America Poets James Wright Prize for Poetry.

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