LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 46, No.1 - Spring 2000
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Copyright © 2000 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
The Lot of the Lyrical Poet
The lark's last spring was
laborious. A sprouted stone, a feather ball
with a beating heart. He chirped with words
form the Bible, he caught the classics from the wind,
measured the horizon with poles. Where
the promised land is—he knew by heart.
He said: God, turn me over from hand
to hand, throw me above your slaughterhouse bucket
and then away.
The lark coughed, and that cough was
the prettiest thing he'd sung. The blood of the lark
fit to paint Easter eggs. The lark had used himself up, even though
his wife said to him: stay close to the ground, don't
flap against the wind, don't get caught under
the earth laborer's scythe.
A cold wind riddled the lark's song
bellows. The sky of death was green,
clear, immortal. It studded the lark's
eye with glass, strewn with earth.
Ode to the Wastepaper Basket
I write and toss it in the wastepaper basket.
The wads of paper remind me of snow flakes when
I was a kid. There is no greater miracle than the first snow.
Even if it is a used poem. Prom snow flakes
you can make a snowman, you can ride a sled
across the field of history. Snow to the past,
my poems. Even though there were more useless works.
How bored the women are. They weave
and weep tears, they look after the little
kids and listen closely—who is scuffling behind
Soap operas they bring young years: sex and money,
riding horses and splashing, naked,
in waterfalls. Meanwhile the Mail-Lady is standing
behind their back.
How they admire the health spas, they try
to whisper something with their raw lips: is it hosanna
or hallelujah. They've long forgotten
all languages and—how to elegantly express themselves.
They dial and dial the numbers on the telephone, but the
lady next door doesn't answer, and it's a pain to have
to go to your coffin all alone. Then they take flowers,
reminiscences, underpants of their childhood
sigh deeply and lie down on a
little ship on an elevation. The ship carries
them through the blossoming meadows, after soap operas,
death gives the most thrills.
My word hurt me for quite some time
like the hook does a fish, finally
spewing my soul with blood I sat,
pale and calmed down.
Its sharp pain has burned me.
These essences gashed my guts.
What a strange, tossed-to-the-wind feeling,
how the full moon streams down my scales.
"I am convinced that people's favorite
occupation is to bury a living soul. Scattered
with earth it still sings, but the people
sing louder: widows sob, a priest
sings, children whine. Oh, it is so fine
to bury a living soul, mankind has learned that
from the Crucified years. People's favorite pursuit is
to plagiarize a thought and, turned into straw,
to feed to the asses. The cleaving of a poet's breast
is the most cherished profession.
Looking at his teeth and making a nutcracker out
of him, that is the most respectable craft!
Oh, isn't it fine to commit a soul
to the earth, to watch how it chokes, to hear
how the voice fades under the layers and layers of earth. Long ago
Kings made it into the most beloved afternoon attractions. "
A narrow town and a great uncle, sitting
at a cafe table. A glow behind his back
like an umbrella, a girl rubbing against him like
a broken flower. Uncle orders a port, he writes
in the spilled tea with his finger a sonnet "For you. "
His dream rears from the roaded earth like a horse,
takes a few steps, wobbles. There is no well
nearby. He urges on the horse with a shout, still
fondling the young lady.
The great uncle was the worst curser in town
and the biggest dreamer.
Grammar books glowing with fire
and old gramophone records, spreading coal odor,
inkpots of the night that make awful stains, pencils
with chewed-off ends.
Will you find at the very least a newspaper without holes,
at the very least a garden not colored with soot
or in the park that beloved statue,
as it has remained without silent and shy love.
We learned to dip our fingers into an inkpot,
raw from slingshots and pennies,
to light a kerosene lamp in a shed
during air raids of time—the hail hit everyone.
But it is time for the book to go out,
for the pen to turn silent before it spills blood.
Shredded clouds roam through the soul
and calligraphy writes a stutterer in the nights.
The Lives of Saints
Sundown kicked the hell out of the horses. Evening
walloped them with a leather whip, rain lashed
them like a cavalryman, snow stuck
to their eyes—like a wagon driver with blinders,
that tosses over smuggled goods. As the sun reflected
off their shuddering flanks and the horses
munched their feed—peace descended. Then, again,
scourge, rain and snow. Hip-booted kicks,
the master's swearing. I'm no Tolstoy and
I don't want to blow too much into a horse, but
in my eyes, a mystery took place.
A horse is beaten to death by a drunken coachman
while the horse's flank is more beautiful than a bearded man's life,
the horse's soul, that is speeding to heaven, arouses
an inhuman envy in the tyrant, who
with one swift kick has done with the whole, sordid business.
The horse that was stuck in the gateway, did not
want to get up. He knew he'd had it. The look in his eyes,
that had surveyed an entire horse's life, slowly went out.
Slowly went out his glow, pogroms, buckets of water,
the flanks of the young mare, polished
by the sunset. Why are people so cruel,
thought the horse: grass is green, the sky
high, people are beasts. The coachman bashed him
in the groin, the horse neighed. It bore
the secret Jewish name Feigele, meaning
Birdie (a totally inappropriate name for a horse).
But that's what the widow called it, when she plowed
her remote plot of ground after the Second war. Boots kicked
the horse, it was used to it. But his old
bones hurt. The coachman was driven crazy by how slow
the horse had become, the coachman was a party man; he
urgently had to get to the beerhall. But the horse lay
sprawled diagonally across the gateway: what difference does it make
where you die. His puddle of urine beautifully reflected the sky,
that was the horse's Promised Land.
Translated from the Lithuanian by Scott Rollins
Prom the books of poems:
Just a Few Sunsets, (Vilnius, Vaga Publishers, 1993);
Evening in Childhood, (Vilnius, Vaga Publishers, 1989).