LITUANUS
LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
 
Volume 34, No. 1 - Spring 1988
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright 1988 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Lituanus

DEATH OF A SEA GULL

ASTRIDA B. STAHNKE

They shot the sea gull.
A firing squad of experts.
Shot down one forlorn sea gull.
She had been injured long ago
When one of them had wounded her.
The scar was at the crossing of the heart and wing,
But, for a while, he pitied, loved, and nurtured her.

Soon she could fly again 
More on wings of her imagination, 
Not high into the clouds she flew 
But limped along the shore. 
It was when the sun was bright 
And when she reached for a far-off 
Rugged cliff across the deep abyss 
The bullets hit.

She shattered like a piece of glass
And fell like hail
Into the cold wet deep

Alone.

A MODERN FAIRY TALE

I heard a story about a Latvian girl
Whose mother had died and left her alone,
All all alone in an awful world.
The only possession that was her own
Was a hand-carved hopechest
Filled with keepsakes of old.

Her father soon married his German bride,
Who bore him children,
Two girls and a boy,
With dark curly hair and hazel-brown eyes.
They pulled her gold braids
And pinched her pale cheeks;
They laughed at her speech
And the songs that she sang
Alone in her room when the sun set red.
Her stepmother locked her treasured chest
And hid the key for many long years.

After the war, safe in the West,
The displaced child became a thoughtful strong maiden.
Her father was killed on the battlefield,
And she was alone in her world of dreams.

Again and again she stared at the chest,
Her secret treasure that seemed to call:
"Unlock the lid! I hold your soul!
Your trampled country lies folded inside,
And the stars of your childhood are buried in me!"

Each day with increasing intensity
The voices called louder and louder still, 
Until they thundered within her breast 
Day and night with their pounding request.

Then with an ax she smashed the lid 
While her stepmother watched her 
Frightened and still.
She took out the amber, the silver and wool. 
She threw off her faded dirndl dress 
And slowly put on a white linen shirt, 
Her mother's handwork with ancient designs, 
Mysterious signs of the Latvian gods.

She put on a long, red flowing skirt 
And pinned with a brooch the vest of gray. 
Upon her head she placed a crown, 
Around her shoulders she put a white shawl 
And on her finger, the ring of the sun.

Then she turned to her stepmother,
Curtsied and bowed and walked out of the house,
The cramped, cluttered house.
She walked toward the sea,
The Baltic Sea,
To meet her lover on cold amber waves.