‘The Shock of the Old’

In an article on Nabokov I wrote long ago, I referred to what I called Nabokov’s “future perfect” perspective on time: his characters are fond of imagining themselves in the future looking backwards in time and recollecting the present moment, thus conflating past, present and future — “I like to fold my magic carpet after use,” Nabokov said — through the exercise of imagination and memory, the twin pillars of his aesthetic. In fact, for Nabokov, “Imagination is a form of memory… An image depends on the power of association, and association is supplied and prompted by memory.”

All this is a fancy way of attaching an unearned profundity to a short poem of mine, ‘The Shock of the Old’, that’s included in the Summer issue of Lighten Up Online. It’s not Nabokov, I readily admit, but it is perhaps ever so slightly Nabokovian.

The Shock of the Old

Hard, when you see an old photo,
to remember that once it was new.
That kaftan was quite the thing back then,
those loon pants and platform soles too,
though to us they resemble something
from the wardrobe of Fu Manchu.
So why expect any different
when your grandkids see an ancient you?
In those trainers, jeans and wraparound shades
you’ll look more exotic than you ever knew.

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