Saturday, April 19, 2014

Poem of the Day: Philip Nikolayev's "A Midsummer Night's Stroll"

I.

I am a man.  I’ve lived alone.  I’ve been  in  love.  I’ve  played  with 
fire, cursed the telephone, and basked in verse, in verve, and also 
Humid,     terrestrial,     mixed,     nongenderspecific,   have   occasionally 
day’s  tumult  ushers  in   an   evening   with  a  lone    moved  a  woman’s
shut   icecream   stand,   false  promises  of  cone  heart,  although  I also, 
and  scoop  near  Central  Park.   Juneific  famously,  had  such  an awk-
are   the   silhouettes  of   people  dreaming  by,  ward   start.  Amazed  at 
lips,   lit   cigarette   tips,   thoughts  and  tulips  streaming  by  how  much 
along   dimly   hospitable   park   lamps  toward  eleven  symmetry  a  life 
with  an  occasional   rev   of   internal   combustion  can  still  support,  I 
wafted   across   from   nearabouts.   stare  in  rapt  near-idiocy,  like  a 
“What’s   this   you  are  talking  about,  Sarah?”   foreign   passport, and 
you   hear  a  voice,  and   the  reply,  “I’m  sorry.   April’s   Persian  lilacs 
but  what  was  I  supposed  to  do?”  Two   bats  all  bloom  straight  into 
dash   through   a  silver  stretch  of  atmosphere.   my  face,  and  various 
What   she   was  supposed  to  do   we  never  hear,   other   blossom, too, 
depending on each case, while  you  are  softly  tangible, while  you 
are sweetly mine. We’re existentially  wise,  we’re  mortally divine.


II.

All whispers  know  where  whispers  go  and  lusters  where  with 
lusters flow, and when your palm is in my palm, just as my poem
There  is   a  sparkling   tone  to  how  you   speak,  is  in  your  poem,  look
a   quickness   to   your   whisper,   an   implied   at   this   stellar,  cellular,
correctness   in   your   ironies.   We   stride   organic   life   of   mine,   the
along   emphatic   benches   in   the   weak   general  and  particular,  the
light   bristling   eloquent   dark.  Pine,   elm  and  oak   gross  (as  well   as
fall  silent  now  to  hear  you  tell  a  joke— fine)  intentions  I  epitomize.
something  about  a  man  and  a   mandrake;   Look,  seeing  through  its
I think  it  cute  and  laugh  like  Captain  Drake.  thin disguise the bleary
We  then  explore  the  vagaries  of  light   sky  whose   weepy  eyes  have
found  underfoot  by  lamps,  and  kiss.  “Beatrix,   rained   us  a  surprise.
will    you   still   need   me  when   I’m   thirty-six?"    A    lightning    bolt’s
You   favorably   mumble  that  you  might,    protruding  hand  snatched
and  throw  a  willing  arm  around  my  nape.  past us,  far and brief and
I reassure you that there’s no escape.  as  I  hold  you  in  my  arms,  you
fill me with belief. Don’t wonder if and how, much  stranger  than 
right now, the  hyacinth of  sorrow may blossom  forth tomorrow.



III.


The  stars  in  liquid  decadence  reclaim  their  lost  positions, all 
knotty dispositions dissolved in limpid dance. They offer us their 
Another   couple   floats  up  through  thickened  ink   stardom.   Oh,   we 
into  the  field  of  vision,  to  redissolve   could  sympathize  with  them, 
leaving  a  thin  trail  of   perfume  and  love   but   instead,  we   set  eyes 
and   visual   recollection  in   the  pink.   with   them  upon  that  higher 
Cicadas   cataract  from  tree  to  tree.  tsardom,  that  real  of  love  and 
A mock  nightingale  trills,  then  two,  then  three.  reason.  Our  lengthy 
We  cut   short  across  grass  and  leaves  (then  four),  cigarettes  crackle 
encountering   no  one  on  our  slight  detour  with   dry  regrets  during 
where,   negligibly   burdened   with  a   sixpack,  the  rainy   season,  but 
a  master  and  his  bulldog  rustle  on,  we  ignore  their  humors, their 
a   small   red   light   fixed   to   her   furry   back.  melancholy  murmurs, 
We  are  too  busy  with  our  love  to  see  them.   decline   ascetic  rigors, 
Tomorrow   we’ll   be   going   back   to  Boston.   welcome  straight  facts, 
Three   cheers   for   Central   Park  at   height   of   season.   clear    figures, 
where   laws  concerning  numbers  come  plumed  with  midnight 
sounds, and spirits  stir  from  slumbers  like  angels out of clouds.


“A Midsummer Night’s Stroll” by Philip Nikolayev is about a young couple, who are in love, walking through Central Park in New York at night in the summer. The narrative is first person from the point of view of Beatrix’s lover. The narrator is sharing his observations as he encounters strangers and converses with his lover.

The poem is organized by its structure. It’s separated into three parts, each containing two parallel verses separated by bold and italics. Aside from the structure, the story being told is a connection of reflections of “them” (the narrator and Beatrix) and “others.” The clear language is paired with vivid imagery, rhyme and irony.

Nikolayev’s voice is what makes this poem so memorable. The commentary he makes through this poem is achieved with a tone that’s modern and playful. His words give voice to the narrator as a man and as an attentive observer. The combination of dialogue and description add depth and enough specificity for the reader to find their place in his “argument.”

The first time I read “A Midsummer Night’s Stroll” I expected to hear Shakespeare in the poem because of the similarity in the title with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But the writing style was refreshing and original, and I found myself reading slowly, instantly drawn to the language. For instance, the four consecutive words, “humid, terrestrial, mixed, nongenderspecific” had me intent on decoding the poem.

The form of “A Midsummer Night’s Stroll” depicts the many layers of activity during a stroll in Central Park. Each section talks about a new scene and a different line of thinking. The non-bold, non-italicized part of the second stanza stood out to me. It’s the most intimate part of the poem and it’s positioned in the middle of playful, “gross” rhymes. The line, “encountering no one on our slight detour / where, negligibility burdened with a sixpack, / a master and his bulldog rustle on, / a small red light fixed to her furry back” on the other hand, is an example of comedy in the poem. Nikolayev combines several genres to create a representation of modern thought.

                                                                                                                — Jenny Curt

Jenny is a freshman majoring in English and minoring in women’s studies. She loves frosting and hates peanut butter.


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