LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Copyright © 2010 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Volume 56, No.4 - Winter 2010
Editor of this issue: M. G. Slavėnas
Poems: Four Scenes of Kaunas; Rooting About
RIMAS UŽGIRIS has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and has been teaching
at St. John’s University. He is presently enrolled at Rutgers-Newark
University in the MFA program in creative writing. He has published
a book Desire, Meaning, and Virtue: The Socratic Account of Poetry (2009)
and is writing and translating poetry.
Four Scenes of Kaunas
Grey skies rise over a dilapidated church
that greets the dawn with rafters of hope.
Two rivers merge into one strong stream
where people flee to find some green space
past the crumbling castle wall, and dream.
Freezing rain falls – early winter in October.
Pedestrians stroll on Freedom Boulevard
beating grey slush with dull boots,
holding bent umbrellas into the wind,
below wet snow, under heavy clouds.
Lindens bloom like teenage girls
in the quickening light of May.
Students gather outside to drink
cold beer and talk at sidewalk cafes
while the working world walks by.
The road arcs gently down to the river where
frosted reeds poke through the thickening ice.
Vytautas’ red-brick church glows
like a smoldering ember. The trees
across the river stand naked and grey.
There are many fine
forms of life – hosts
of stimulating places.
But where do you go
when you can’t find
a culture of your own?
Home should be
the soil in which to
branch and root
and become what you are.
The books of philosophy
promise to make do
with some makeshift
castles in the clouds –
the withering clouds.
Art is a dream of a garden
from which, invariably
we awake; its wake
is a coin that buys
some passing comfort,
some love – another art.
Return to Sender
In Niskayuna, once, the earth was soft to me,
green. Trees loomed like cathedrals, tall as sky.
Churches were shopping malls, and the fox’s land
grew – developed – dwellings at the clogged road.
Dreaming Fennimore, the deer slayer, Uncus, I ran
along the Mohawk. The forests were open, home.
My mother’s parents, after doing time on the hard road
through factories and war, finally found a quiet home
in Centerville. In the fresh sea-breeze, under a fresco sky,
molding sand into flowers, they found peace on alien land.
There, baiting fishhooks, slashing the Sound, I ran
summers ragged, unaware of what they whispered me.
Unfilled by other joys, by love, from all this I ran
to La Jolla’s cliffs and crescent bay. Its azure sky
warmed all the same each day. Here I found a home
in the shadow of Hollywood dream factories. But for me,
the magic wore out like cheap shoes in the land
of Oz. Like a hippie after the Dead, I hit the road.
In Kaunas, rooted like an oak to where two rivers ran
to the point of a pagan spear, in a weathered land
polluted with history, I found my ancestral home.
There, vodka flowed like autumn rain from a slushy sky,
and Time closed down both ends of the cobble-stoned road
where broken churches renamed a world unknown to me.
Without another plan, I took the staid academic road.
I tried, by thinking, to discover what belonged to me.
Madison was a gridded library, a white-roomed home
in the mind that never felt permanent. Rootless, it ran
precariously along two shores, bludgeoned by a sky
that opened up without limit, flat and dull as the land.
By Brooklyn’s Lullwater, a heron fished from land
next to a black man, next to an Asian, next to me.
Prospect Park was a haven for my ship – a second home
in the maelstrom of concrete, flesh, and dreams that ran
like whiskey down an alcoholic’s throat. Every road
could lead anywhere. So I left verses for the sky.
Like a languid hypnotized snake, the unrepeated road
unwinds itself in passing, back and away from me
and on through the places that some will call home.