The Novel as Manuscript
—an ars poetica I remember the death, in Russia, of postage stamps like immense museum masterpieces patchwork wrapped in linen, tea stained, with hemp for strapping... these colored stamps designed for foreign places were even printed during famine— so when they vanished, so did the whole Soviet system: the Berlin Wall, tanks from Afghanistan and Ceausescu's bride before a firing squad. It had begun with the character of Yuri Zhivago in a frozen wilderness, the summer house of his dead in-laws, his pregnant mistress asleep before the fireplace with flames dancing around a broken chair, piano keys and the gardener's long black underwear. Lara lying there. A vulgar fat businessman coming by sleigh to collect her for the dangers of a near arctic escape... But for Yuri, not that long ago, he was with celebrity, a young doctor publishing a thin volume of poems in France, he was writing now at a cold desk poems against all experience and for love of a woman buried in moth-eaten furs on the floor— while he wrote wolves out along the green treeline howled at him. The author of this novel, Boris Pasternak arranged it all. Stalin would have liked to have killed him. But superstition kept him from it. So, the daughter of Pasternak's mistress eventually is walking with a candle through a prison basement— she is stepping over acres of twisted corpses hoping to locate her vanished mother... she thinks this reminds her of edging slowly over the crust on a very deep snow, just a child who believes she is about to be swallowed by the purity of it all, like this write your new poems.
Copyright © 2011 by Norman Dubie. Used with permission of the author.