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Kerry Shawn Keys minibio

“I don’t know who I am, but I have many names and live in Vilnius,” says Kerry Shawn Keys, an American living in Lithuania of nineteen years now. He is a human orchestra: translator, poet, prose writer, author of children’s books, dramatist. Kerry has already become part of the Vilnius landscape and culture. The poet Sigitas Geda said about him, “by his presence and participation in the everyday life of Lithuanian poetry, he has made us stronger as well.” Kerry, though, calls himself an “outsider”, and outsiders are generally better at seeing certain things than locals or those ensconced in everyday life, in the “system”. A view from the side is always interesting, and with that in mind, the Vilnius Review has decided to begin publishing Kerry’s short, witty essays about Lithuania and Lithuanians. So, here, each month you will find "A Palmer's Chronicle".

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reflections on belonging

Graphic Novels

Illustration by Dainius Dirgėla

By Kerry Shawn Keys

 

The Black Hole

For years and years, he had wanted to see a black hole, to feel one if that were possible, to be acquainted, to risk all gravity – a mainstream, adolescent fantasy. He wasn’t sure if any of this was in the cards, but still, longing mixed with his expectation, and became the identical twins of his imagination. One day as he was approaching the bathroom with a copy of Dante’s Inferno in hand ( a penchant for reading while sitting on the throne), he had a vision. And visions should not be taken lightly…they always indicate something of importance, they are like blue blazes emanating from the tree of life’s world-soul. And yet. What an image. Convoluted and cruel, greedy as the eye-socket of a golem in Vilnius. He wasn’t sure if it was the devil’s asshole dilating and contracting, or if it was the deep, dark, funneled, other end of the toilet going down into the sewers where decades ago a few Jews escaped the ghetto into tributaries and into the forest. But the vision floated around him like a rotten, sugar-plum, swirling nimbus, a discus of death, a predatory, heartless Frisbee. He tried to grab hold of it, knowing he could never again touch the God of Serenity unless he could throw it out of his home, out of the city, out of history, out of the universe. Out of the matrix of time. But he couldn’t catch it. Round and round the room it spun in a Red Sea of blood, but dead-center was the black gloomy stillness of the eye of a hurricane. In desperation, he lurched opened the windows, and then like a crazed, claustrophobic bee, it zigzagged out over the bricks and smoking chimneys, a devilish dybbuk on the loose. How many years had it lived there, suffered without solace? And when again, would it get homesick, come back like a golden wedding ring looking for any happy, hapless, Hyacinth.

 

 

A Palmers Chronicle Cages Silence In Nida 01Illustration by Dainius Dirgėla

A Day In The Life Of Cage’s Silence In Nida

She was listening to Cage’s silence. For that purpose she bought a straitjacket and a bird – not just any bird – but a starling. Her intention at first was to have someone latch the strait jacket around her but then she decided to put it on the starling. After all, it would be ridiculous for her to listen to silence while wearing a strait jacket. And the starling looked quite magnificent even though she could not really see the starling after securing the jacket – there had been so much duck cloth left over that she had draped it over the poor thing. Soon, she began to wonder if the bird could hear Cage’s silence or if it was oblivious, being so immersed in the silence under the shroud-like coverlet, or maybe it was just lost in its own silence. Or enjoying it. It hadn’t squawked or chirped or uttered a word.

She got bored after a while and turned on the radio, still listening to Cage’s silence, of course, and only hearing the radio. She heard on the news in some sort of pidgin English that there had been a meltdown at a Japanese nuclear reactor, and that the radiation was spreading into the food chain, and even into the gaps in the chain of being, especially between plants and animals, and minerals and man, and webbed feet and shoes. There was a moment of silence, and then she could hear the hissing of water. Then she thought, Cage was good with bamboo but what would he do with these rods. They certainly weren’t wind chimes or the music of spirits.

Just then a church bell at the newly consecrated Virgin Mary Church rang out from up on the hill outside her window. She both heard it and listened to it. She wondered if she was engaging in mindfulness, listening and hearing at the same time, or if mindfulness was more attuned to silence. Perhaps, she could come up with a koan to express all of this like, for example, what is the silence of two dead birds flapping their wings, or some such nugget of wisdom. But by this time everything was all befuddled, and she was no longer sure if a koan might be a Jewish cantor or a pine cone falling in a forest of pigeons on a misty hill with no one to hear it. She closed her eyes and saw a stampede of pissed off ants rushing out of their gallery to pallbear the cone away. At that moment, the starling broke loose from its straitjacket and flew out the window in the direction of the bell tower on the hill. A few seconds later – BONG. Oh, she thought, it must have banged its head on the bell and died before there was any chance of conversion. She was in despair. She wondered if she took the bird back to the pet store and told them it was a defect and a Romuva pagan, if they would give her her money back, in Litas. She didn’t have the energy just then, so she got up from her chair and turned off the radio and the silence, and as a reminder of the first thing she should do the next morning, she hung the straitjacket on the doorknob before going to bed and falling into the deepest of sleeps.

 

 

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