Laima Sruoginis

Poets as Translators - Laima Sruoginis

 

Poem:

Three Letters to Vilnius
 

Translations from the Lithuanian:

 

(1) Landscape
(2) Border Village
 

 

 

Laima Sruoginis

Three Letters to Vilnius



I.



New York, January 12, 1991
The Terror of Public Places


Dear Ruta,

Last summer, on the stairs of Chicago's Art Institute,
Arvydas (my sculptor friend from Vilnius) and I watched a madman
in rags fiercely stroke the tail of a bronze lion.
"You know," Arvydas commented, "it's scary, only in America one
could be killed in public, by an insane person, for no reason at all."

But remember the crazy woman who'd endlessly ride the trolleybus, 
complaining of the ills of communism -- the sausage lines, 
the barbed wire tears in her shoes, the identical raincoats women 
bought and wore each spring. And no one could stop her. 
She'd sway onto passengers, wrap her arms around their waists, 
flutter her pigeon-hands. Losing hold of the arm strap, she'd topple 
     over, 
raising her shrill voice yet another octave to make a point.

More than once on the Staten Island ferry I've seen this man board, 
shaking at the prospect of gliding slowly past the Statue of Liberty yet 
     again-- 
that bronze woman, that green woman, that fat woman with big feet 
     in sandals, 
seagull and pigeon shit combined on the crown of her head. 
He'd have a couple of beers and masturbate with anticipation. 
He'd hang over the railing in the freezing wind; 
all the beige-gray commuters would gaze at him in tired 
     contemplation, 
the sneakers on their own feet slowly decaying.

I won't say what happened once we passed the statue. 
Only that later he would brisk himself down the ramp, along with 
     everyone else 
towards the buses and commuter trains.

 

II.



New York, January 13, 1991,
The End of the World on Long Island Sound


Dear Ruta,

Does a pick-up truck holding three white crosses 
gliding over the slow winter sands of Long Island Sound 
mean the apocalypse has come at last? 
Does a chicken bone lying on the cracked subway stairs 
mean civilization is finally collapsing? 
I wonder -- freeze-dried from city life -- 
could the end have begun already? 
And I haven't yet this year blessed myself 
with holy water-- 
or ever owned a horse or a big dog, trained it 
to sit and heel-- 
or published several books 
each spaced a few years apart 
like well-planned children. 
Does this mean I may no longer 
swim out into the middle of the waves-- 
float, an iridescent rainbow of oil hallowing my head, 
the smell of burned tires enveloping me? 
Will the anti-Christ show up in a clean, unrumpled suit? 
Will everyone have to buy everything with credit cards now-- 
like the born-agains warn us? 
And finally, will shopping malls crumble 
into concrete slabs, loom up like mass graves 
against the acrid twilight-- 
unleashing all our angry and disappointed ancestors?

 

III.



New York, January 25, 1991
An Unmailed Letter


Dear Dainis,

You read Oskar Milosz's poetic prophesies
and that was enough
to convince you
to face all the tanks in Russia
with your bare palms pushed outward.
But for me, knowing you is like loving someone
who is already dead,
like loving someone whose name will appear
one day in my infant son's fifth grade history texts.
Yes, you were right,
I copped out on the revolution.
I missed out on the party.
Still, I wrote a poem for you
while watching news reports on television:
Gorbachev had not yet emerged
and plans to shoot everyone in the Parliament
had not yet been foiled.
Luckily you are like a cat
and walk away unscathed-- (one heart attack does not count).
But you know, sometimes, when writing a poem,
I get an orgasm, and once, thinking about you,
I found an untethered cow bellowing in the woods.

 



Sigitas Parulskis

Landscape

             (from Journey Along the Edge of the Sand)

Stop! freeze it, frame it, capture it on film,
film stinking of long conveyor belts,
skyscrapers, movie screens, abandoned mines.
For one thirsty moment
it will live longer.
Soon it will grow dark-a huge unattainable
skeleton covered with sand, rinsed with rain
will rise--
a mixture of salt- and freshwater.
Firs will kneel for a moment
and the night's demigods
bend over it.
Its heart will learn forms
and grow ripe--
concerned with the solstice
over its own dying head.
And still it will attempt
to keep watch.

(Translated from the Lithuanian by Laima Sruoginis)

 



Sigitas Parulskis

Border Village

             (from Journey Along the Edge of the Sand)

The very edge of the world;
oh how dreary this land is--
garish cows,
a herd without a shepherd,
the bay's murky tongue,
an eternally still mouth,
a dark ox in the sparse reeds;
quiet, suspicious
strong calved girls--
Europa's
or Neringa's.

And a church beyond the bend in the road,
Christ's ship. Through a wound in the Eastern wall
heavy fishing nets burst forth--
along the water,
on a crust of blackened sand,
lay rotting fish.
Give us this day
our daily bread.
Our bread is petroleum,
her crust is tougher
than a coffin.

Along a battered dock
row boats bob;
their rust travels
through our blood,
through original sin
and forgiveness,
through the blood of Northerners
with the mark of a Lithuanian soul--
Still we condemn their hearts
their colors-blue, white, red--
their dogs, their fences and their trash.
They are like flocks of suffocating birds.
Above their rooftops thick crosses
of antennas intertwine--
unable to catch the voice
of God.
But this is just a border village, on the border.
The beginning.
It scrubs your bones
while a bottomless tornado of wind
pulls you towards the very center.

(Translated from the Lithuanian by Laima Sruoginis)

 


 

 

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