Tuesday, April 22, 2014

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry: Happy Birthday, Nabokov edition

Today is Vladimir Nabokov's birthday and it's also National Poetry Month, so I'm celebrating both by posting a poem of my own (!) that was recently published in Measure.

Nabokov and his wife Vera shared a love of lepidoptery (collecting butterflies) - and he drew butterflies alongside his inscriptions in first editions gifted to her. 

Their relationship is legendary -- in a recent article in the Atlantic entitled "The Legend of Vera Nabokov," Koa Beck considers how Vera's support and devotion to her husband's career impacted his success. They are the original power couple; think Claire and Francis Underwood, replacing politics with literature and minus the murder and creepy threesomes.

Vladimir died in 1977; Vera, not until 1991. I wrote this poem in grad school as I tried to imagine what she did with all the butterflies after his death. 

Vera vs. the Butterflies
The eastern side of every minute of mine is already colored by the light of our impending meeting.
All the rest is dark, boring, you-less. – Vladimir Nabokov to his wife Vera, 1937

She had already lost him
and now his winged darlings
were hers to keep or kill.

She shared his fascination
with fragility and flight,
but walking in the woods

alone, armed with the net
he had given her, noting
each abandoned chrysalis,

unusual flecks of blue
on a Parnassius apollo,
she knew they had to go.

A book suggested pinching
thorax between thumb
and middle finger to snap

the exoskeleton for a quick
death, but she couldn’t bear
their blood on her hands.

Suffocation in a kill jar –
too inhumane. She decided
finally to freeze them, let the air

do her dirty work. Watching
their wings pulse to stillness,
she imagined his delight

at the sudden flutter
of company, diaphanous
prologue to their reunion.

V & V

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