I’ve never felt more torn
than this time
(again and again
with this story):
utterly disgusted at this man
who loves the nymphette I teach in 7th grade
(that I’d just let behind when I first read the book)
with all of his rotten manhood
and who, at the very same time, simultaneously so,
tells his story with such powerful command
perfect, transcendent command,
of the language I’ve loved from
the day I began speaking it.
what, what am I to say
when he, this ill, ill man,
this monstrous maniac,
opens the door,
takes off his hat,
and looks at the girl
–and at me, too, then and now–
with the most truthful eyes,
inverting his broken, sinful soul
and almost serenely so?
even when I close the book,
forcing myself to remember that Nabokov wrote
this man into being,
I find a kind of tenderness for him in my humanity
(perhaps because Quilty is by his side
and so, so much more overtly evil).
I read this story for the first time when I was far too young.
I loved it then and I love it now,
and now, now I’m putting it away for a long, long time.
It’s time to hear the children play and…
hear them play peacefully
as long as I’m around.