LITUANUS
LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
 
Volume 34, No. 3 - Fall 1989
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright 1989 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Lituanus

TOMAS VENCLOVA

... a low dishonest decade . . .
W.H. Auden

* * *

Summer inundates the city.
Windows reflect only dust.
Into the smoky chalice
Drips warmed wine.
The air is spiced
By the fading gold of cupolas in the sun,
Silt like Cyrillic letters
Darkens the narrow canal.

What do you seek here, poet? 
An old balcony, the text 
Erased from the falling plaster, 
A world turned to dust. 
The Gordian knot is untied, 
Chalk, pavement and timber, 
Mud in the gateway, staircase 
Garbage, doors ajar.

Where once gesture,
Life and sound were one,
Roaring crowds now employ
An altered language.
June flutters white,
And the blind calcifying brain
Cannot comprehend
All the time lost.

The age colors accents, 
Syntax and architecture, 
Sun droplets on the columns, 
The bronze smile in the niche. 
Perhaps only poverty and hunger 
Still resist the age,
Perhaps only fear and a shadow 
Are all that is left of our youth.

Adjust to swimming in fear 
As a fish in the ocean. 
Fear is long-lived here, 
Far more durable than bodies. 
Peaceful circular squares 
Savor the midday smoke. 
Chalk, pavement and gypsum, 
Characters on falling plaster.

Only a few copper coins
Remain of life the change,
Left over from time, counted out
By the local bank of the absurd.
Melody and gesture stop dead.
The avenues turn their backs to the sidestreets.
Strange that we met
Earlier than we expected

Not in the Valley of Jehosephat, 
Not in the woods by Lethe's banks, 
Not even in the airless universe, 
Where Kelvin and Becquerel 
Rule as gods.
Warmed wine still drips. 
Clouds of insomnia float 
Over the hot white June.

The crowd and its sound float on,
But the weight of our craft stays the same
To concentrate fear in a word,
To transform time into meaning.
Only the dust quavers, only the voice.
It is not for the voice to know
How much truth can fit
In its radiance and solitude.

Translated by Violeta Kelertas and Gregory M. Grazevich