Nabokov’s Women: A Sonnet Cycle

I. Lydia

You rose, departing in the dying light
to traces of my manufactured woe.
I watched until your car dissolved, aglow,
evaporating into stagnant night
and into mountains winding to great heights.
Because you left me, how was I to know
the proper way to wait for you below?
Now steeped in gloom, I longed for something bright.

And, when you faltered your three-day return,
I found new men to wrap my legs around,
who moaned into my ear without concern,
their naked secrets begging to be found.
The neighbors, they all said I’d never learn;
they scoffed, but I was only pleasure bound.

II. Lolita

They scoffed, but I was only pleasure bound
back in the woods with Charlie on his knees,
just childish fun with dried buds as my crown
and sidewalk chalk still splotchy in the breeze.
The trees flushed golden with the setting sun
as I tugged up my shorts and bounded out
toward the lake, determined to outrun
the hazy boy I could’ve done without.
Around my bunk, cheap posters papered walls
by thumbtacks strewn about like plastic stars,
and in the night I dreamt of love and falls,
not thinking of resulting furtive scars.

And when the camp phone rang and Ms. Holmes said,
“It’s him,” I thought, I’d much rather be dead.

III. Hazel

It’s him, I thought. I’d much rather be dead
than waiting on this corner for some boy
my parents didn’t want me to destroy.
But there he was, and I could feel the red
blood rushing in my ears as, flushed, he said
that he just couldn’t stay but had enjoyed
our meeting, hoped I wouldn’t be too coy,
and could I meet another time instead?

I nodded, sure. What else could I have done?
He turned, disintegrating from my sight,
and then I boarded a bus, fleeing the sun.
My seat was stiff, and people packed in tight;
the swamp emerged behind the glass and spun.
I rose, departing in the dying light.