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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

Photo by Dainius Dirgėla, "Man and Nature - Lithuanian Mountains"

By Kerry Shawn Keys

 

Why was I on a suspect bridge reading a poem in a bitter cold in a town in the middle of a black market crisis after its stolen car business was put at a standstill when the borders were tightened and everyone who wanted a resurrected BMW already had one. Once the potholed, crossroad conduit from Germany to Russia, car security sirens used to go off every other second, and smashed windshield glass slit the skin of every tipsy ant or bum careless enough to be penséeing the universe and not the pavement. Pavement too good a word for the lumpy, bone-busting sidewalk. That was a dozen years ago. Now other kinds of sirens read poems, their industrious, spelling bee voices ricocheting off of my forehead worse than any splintered windshield slitting a bug’s balls. Sometimes I feel my forehead is a windshield with waggish poete maudit wiper-bangs swishing like miserable, rubbery pricks across a third eye. Who was that frozen fishstick just sermonizing a poem from the bridge to an audience of snowy zebras and jailbird icicles and concrete dressed up in down and ice, all looking the other way as if someone were committing a reprehensible sin, or just staring into the blanket of falling snow, or jabbering with their friends about getting drunk and angel feathers and Skype porno, or how to karate-fistfuck the asshole of a groping, toxed out, belligerent male poet? The fucking snow was coming down harder and harder and I was smug happy to know my poem by heart, and to be wearing some green work gloves that had a little padding to keep my previously frost-bitten fingers from firing up in the agony that was induced now and then when a bottleneck of cold penetrated my bones like a starving worm into a corpse. I had been a corpse for a long time, ever since my fourth wife ran away to Greenland with an Inuit new-age pagan. Fuck Greenland and fuck women. I looked through the glassy frozen mist pumped from a hundred gabbing lungs, and shouted and stuttered over and over this knife this knife at last nearly braindead and forgetting the performance poem I swore I knew by heart. By now they must be drinking ethanol and feasting on whale liver in an igloo or their skeletons clinging together with seaweed and seagull shit at the bottom of a fish farm. Like Jack the Joker I could see that jealous knife carving out the scapegoat lung of an inattentive bystander and pitching it into a supermarket for old Walt and Federico and Jurgis to finger before the threesome disappeared into a cloud of green gas and decomposing chain-smokers over Gotham City. The snow whipped itself into sleet, the air less cold but the dampness welling up and up to my nuts, and my feet losing consciousness of any earthly foothold. I felt like a decapitated statue spinning on soapstone. Wolves and polar bears and white weasels and the KGB were circling, ready to tear me apart. I could hear the walls whooping Troy and Jericho and Vilnius Poker. From every corner of the town, dilapidated bricks were amputating themselves from their buildings and marching toward the bridge. Wolves and sperm whales and wailing walls, what difference in the glittering icehouse of the hopeless desire to be heard by anyone, to be licked by another tongue as hard and brittle as my cracked fingers, as eager as the ice-tongs that I imagined as the prosthesis helping to hold up the imaginary book of my words as if their speech would shield me from the lure of a swan maiden disguised as one of the Snow White ermines guarding the bridge. “As as as as”, was that what life had become after I was abandoned by my mother’s breasts almost immediately after birth. As as as, a series of similes…. as summer as weather as death as the shade of another Robert Service advancing to cut off my derelict cock. That’s what IT did. My cock. Right there. No blood, it was colder than a witch’s tit. And besides, I had become anemic with depression. I had been exposing myself as I was reciting so it wasn’t difficult to get at. My cock was the only part of me immune to the cold since it was colder than the cold. I knew where the shade would take it – to one of those garages where they used to “redo” the cars, painting the body a different color of lipstick, exchanging pistons and screws, bearings and hubcaps. I quit reciting, the pain was intense despite the numbing cold. I hopped and hobbled and ran and crawled and pushed and shoved my way toward the fuckin’ thief, but IT was much faster. Maybe it was another Inuit with snowshoes, or some rival Hermes now with a real live herm in hand and winged feet. A few of the so-called poets in my way got elbowed off the bridge onto the frozen river, half-dead for sure I managed to smirk as I lurched on and on, forgetting my life, the fuckin’ cold, boom boom, boom boom. Even if they wouldn’t drown on the ice below, they might be condemned to a purgatorial coma of visions of Cody Pomeray on Death Row or sugar-plum condoms bulging with a prune cocktail of edible ink. Or bras padded with krypton. At least no one pretending to endure more poems, and the readings would be cut shorter. Where was the shade taking my cock. I hopped and got down on all-fours. I tumbled and rolled and screamed that I would cut out its lungs if it didn’t return my cock. I imagined the service center coating it with some weather-resistant plastic, painting it grassy green, selling it to the city of Vilnius as a piece of deconstructed pop art to be erected on a bridge along with the ghosts of more somber guardian statues of social realism. My anguished threats seemed to have worked. Suddenly, I collided with the turncoat bastard. I held my captive up in the air like it was a trophy from Olympus, but the wind was blowing so hard that I fumbled the fucker as it squirmed and kicked me in the face. Fuckin’ cock I yelled trying to force it back on. But everything was iced over, nothing would work. I tried screwing it on but wasn’t sure which way to turn it. I pleaded with it to help me. Shiva o’ my darling Shiva! I bit it, breaking off a tooth because it was hard as a railway spike from the cold or rigor mortis or just horny from the friction of our struggle. A crowd of aggressive voyeurs started to converge. They weren’t poets. Or they were poets disguised as skinheads and Scottish football fanatics and freaks. One guy, with tiny blue warpaint tattoos all over his cheekbones, pulled out a knife. Jesus Christ I screamed and threw him the thing as a sop so he wouldn’t go for my balls. This distracted the whole bunch for a brief second while I scrambled away and hid behind a parked car. Immediately the alarm went off but no one noticed. I saw him cut off the foreskin and then walk away leaving the hard-on in the snow. My prepuss, my prepuss I mumbled to myself. I’m a Christian. A Christian. Then to my astonishment, my cock righted itself and started sliding and spinning in the direction of the tattooed Pict, gesticulating and bowing as cocks do, obviously suffering, obviously on a pilgrimage to be consecrated as a votive behind a wicket gate in someone’s garage. Fuckin’ traitor. Exhausted, I could only crawl back toward the bridge. It was empty. Alone. A shrouded ribbon going nowhere. No one around. It was nearly dark. Everything cloaked and crusted in mystery. Morbid, frozen mush. I crawled under the bridge out onto the ice where the poets I had inadvertently pushed off were spattered about, strewn like bundled up bunches of frayed knitwear from a Salvation Army store. First one and then another I dragged around me, tugging at their hair and boots, making a medicine wheel of sorts. I had to piss like crazy but didn’t know how, so I cursed my ex with everlasting scurvy and condemned her to the sixth circle for her heresy. The fuckin’ Inuit as sushi for a shark. Then I started to recite a heroic ballad to my captive audience. To the ancient carp under the ice. To the dead in their eternal dirt dungeons. To my missing cock – once glorious bedfellow. The ideal audience. They listened. I knew they were listening since they were so quiet. I told them everything there is to know. I spoke of the devil, of diabetes, of Dante’s love, of Melville, the yellow pears of Holderlin, of Wiki-leaks, of Homer and Hector and Bill Shields, the killing fields, and Mann and Geda’s knife and Abelard, of the Last of the Mohicans, of the monster Molotov, of the joys of Spring, and Winter cares, of Adam’s curse, of Celine and the oily pits of Ponary. Then my body began to shiver in fear, and resonate with some lamenting hum as if a monstrous, sci-fi vibrator was next to me, accompanying me. I turned ever so slightly to look over my shoulder and saw one of the mysterious sirens who had been on the bridge, the most beautiful of all. I recognized her eyes, though now she was as nude as Kirchner’s Marzella. Surely a Lorelei, or forlorn Jurate posted inland for new blood, fresh salt, new recruits. That left me out in the cold, unless an albino’s organs were the holy grail. I had become hueless, an invisible man. Ignorant. Cowardly. My instrument gone. A voice said honey you’re tired you’re tired over and over you’re tired. I began to lose consciousness in the beehive of that drone, and there was an underwater tunnel opening and buzzing between my eardrums and it was filling with siphoned off semen, chrysolite, wax, a parade of Greenland hares and frothy snow, and then I found myself here, dressed in snow like a bride, on the outskirts of the new, global Republic watching the whole episode on footage I’m supposed to edit for a TV special about a typical day in the life of a nearly-extinct poet.

 

 

 

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