LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 33, No.3 - Fall 1987
Editor of this issue: Vilius L. Dundzila
Copyright © 1987 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
ABOUT ACCENTS AND OTHER POEMS
As you change countries, residences, languages,
an accent remains which accentuates
your permanent condition.
As you adopt, adapt, adjust over the years,
your origins still show through
as on a well-scrubbed palimpsest.
As you try to bridge, combine, unite,
the very earth moves under your feet:
You write your farewells on continental drift.
SECOND OKLAHOMA ELEGY
Now that is an unusual point of view.
What do you do for a living? I edit
a literary journal, global in scope.
In New York or San Francisco, I assume?
No, in Norman, Oklahoma. But surely
your accent is not Oklahoman! What is it?
Estonian. Really, Estonian? Well,
my father was; my mother was Latvian,
with German the language of home.
But where is Estonia? On the shores
of the Baltic, up there
in the northeastern corner of Europe,
right below Finland. Oh Finland I know!
Estonian, you see, is closely related
to Finnish, as close as Danish and Swedish.
That's strange. I thought the Russians
were there and Russian spoken everywhere.
Not everywhere, though many of us
do know some Russian we'd rather forget.
But why? Isn't it the language of marvellous
classics the world has come to adore?
Chekhov, you know, Pasternak and Tolstoy.
But also the language of Lenin and Stalin,
let's not forget. So it's things
international you do in Oklahoma.
Don't you ever want to go back to Estonia?
I do. Instead I have spent many a summer
in Finland which is almost like home,
and it's free. I see. You sound
more like a poet than critic to me.
How perceptive of you. I am a poet too.
Not in Estonian? Yes, in Estonian, spoken
by just over a million. And you write
Estonian poems in Oklahoma? During the winter
I do; in summer it may be in Finland.
I simply don't get it! And neither do I.
FROM "THE VERANDA BOOK" (1981)
This painter floats landscapes in the sky
like kites, without gravity,
lets them hover upside down
above ground, above the scar torn
by a huge explosion right through
the earth's crust to its core.
Victory of silence. Without mankind.
Who will put the earth together again
like a universal puzzle?
Who will bring back man?
A landscape hovers above earth
like a verdant cloud.
And an immaculate dawn.
Northfield's snowabundant winters
stored in memory forever,
long white wool socks
warm the slender legs of spruces.
Yellowhammer taps the window,
begs for golden grains of summer
but in vain: the sea of time
is frozen fast, of all the seasons
only one is with us.
Those recurring chords
resonance of bells
that continuous swell
sacred rivers of sound
this surging return
upon angelic scales
gentleness of bells
These are hardly diaries
of transparent verse
Turning the pages you return
home to the warm farm lawn
to sleep among the camomile
till sweet oblivion
NOTE: "About Accents," "Second Oklahoma Elegy" were written directly in English; the four poems from "The Veranda Book" were translated from Estonian by the author and Astrid Ivask.