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Neringa Abrutytė was born in 1972 in Nida. In 1998 she graduated from Lithuanian Language and Literature Department at Vilnius University. She has been living in Denmark since 2000. She has published several collections of poems: Paradise Autumn (1995), Con Fession (1997), Neringos M. (2003). The poetry collection Holiday (2017) was published as e-book. Abrutytė translated Jacques Prévert poems (collection Bouquet, 1999), Jean Baudrillard's study La Société de consommation : Ses mythes, ses structures. She is the owner of Utopia Sankt Peders cafe in Copenhagen.

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Graphic Novels

Photo from personal archives

 

By Neringa Abrutytė

 

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
Kierkegaard

 

 

xxx

I look out of the café window, just sitting, not thinking about whether anybody will come in. Different people come into the café every day; nobody has breakfast, lunch, or dinner here regularly. The café  gets flooded with visitors, a state which later subsides, leaving it quiet for a very long time – I’ll never know and perhaps never be able to tell what awaits in the café today.
The weather helps a little. Rain and drizzle especially. That’s a really favorable weather forecast for the café. And me – what depends on me?
I might schedule a lecture or some readings in the evening, and if the writer is a popular one, almost all of the tables are booked for the meeting with them.
What else depends on me?
Poets come to me sometimes.
But the café is just really there for itself.
Just like thoughts are.

a poet (inside) is sitting (in a café)
having ordered coffee and a sandwich with egg salad
I sit (outside) in a café as well writing as well a poem I think inspired by the person writing
myself convinced (I read) really cool verses I’m calling the waiter “bring me a pen and an
empty sheet of paper”
I mean I don’t wish to disturb the inner connection with the poet who’s maybe eating or drinking his second cup of coffee I fear this enchanting mystique will vanish if I hear him but he is not one to babble for long about art poetry everything
he merely is and smiles from ear to ear he merely is and smiles from ear to ear
hears something which I do not hear for the radio music in the café turns off breathing now
- sitting (in a café) and I (outside)
am waiting (it’s kind of awkward to be writing a poem about a customer………the bells are ringing I must finish but the poet hasn’t left yet………………….

Welcome to
Café Utopia. Or: the Utopia on St. Peter’s Alley in Copenhagen. To the place that’s still there if you need peace. It’s open most times, but it’s better to call. The café’s phone number
is also my private number, found with the café on Google maps.

Or: it is Saint Peter’s Café (Sankt Peders cafe), of which there are several on Google maps. One is (was) owned by an Armenian man, another by a Lithuanian (he sold his, too, having found no reason to rattle coins from one of his pants pockets into the other), and the third – the present one – I got from that same Lithuanian, who still trudges toward the café’s entrance through the branches and leaves of a hundred-year-old (maybe even more than a hundred years) chestnut tree – inside where a Catholic cross hangs on a wall between lamps resembling bells, an old wall clock hangs without a minute hand yet which very accurately strikes the hours. Ding dong.

The café usually has one employee. They will make your coffee, sandwich, cold soup, juice, etc. Even take-out for those who aren’t looking for a place to sit down or even for those who wish to sit down outside with some coffee and smoke in front of the elderly chestnut. I’ve no idea why they come here, no matter – I just carefully bring their cappuccino, long and healthy like momma’s unsuccessfully lit cigarette from the Cosmos pack made in USSR. I never really learned to smoke, perhaps because of the wind that would blow out the lighter’s flame even on the lee near the sea. There was another lee, the café Lee of my childhood, from which Rocket would be unmoored – actually a steamer, which sailed to Kaunas from the port of Nida. We would sit and gaze at the ships and yachts setting sail… Sometimes as we awaited “the rocket,” as we greeted somebody else, or set sail ourselves.

As the Great Dune and my childhood slipped away, from the time whence we would carry sand back to the house, and later as we ran off to university, and even later, as the system changed, everybody began running off, to each their own direction all across the world, including other Lithuanian residents. Not all of them. But they were growing in number.

Once – while at university – I was writing this poem about a beginning: it began with “A beginning can be like this …” and was published almost twenty years ago in your (Vilnius R.) journal (see below). Some dandruffy studentlike domestic realities, a cheap coat, a crow sitting on a church’s cross, and my tossing about from the university’s library to the café and back again from the café. I just used to jump into the poem, and anything I did I wished to exhaust for the sake of the poem alone – as if jumping from the church’s cross, while the crow merely flaps its wings and snatches away the mood … for suicide.

xxx

Today a person came to Utopia and asked if I had the newspaper The Vagrant. “I don’t,” I say, “but sometimes I buy it from the vagrants.” “D’ya need one?” He asks. “Uh, bring one,” I respond, “I’ll buy it.” He asked whether we have any soup. “Not today,” I said. That man came here to tell me to edit my menu, as just then I was working on a new website for the café. For this I paid him, buying the newspaper. (I jest).

Sometimes I realize that actions, occurences (experience) make an idea clearer, but when you lack time for sleep, when you’re dizzy from overwork and moving in all directions, you lose touch with yourself – you don’t enjoy, you don’t experience – you just work like a robot and nothing ever surprises you. Actions: putting the money into the cash register before or after (the order), carrying, pouring, slicing, smiling, and rolling, wrapping sandwiches in paper. Etc.
But these things don’t go to waste either.

Like lines written in school – twenty each day. You must write and write until you turn into … By mistake and stubbornness, anyone you’re able to … By accident.
I am now a coffeewoman, and my café is unknown. That is why I must act. Not acting threatens bankruptcy. Perhaps Andersen will be of help? I know how his favorite sandwich is made. I like it too: rye bread, butter, liver pâté, aspic, horseradish, tomatoes, parsley.
I know how to bake shell-shaped Proust pastries.
But they’re small, and they wouldn’t pay off … Because then people would only buy them at a cheap price. Or maybe not.
Pushkin’s dessert – a cowberry in icing sugar.
And there’s Either/Or. Søren K.

Tea or coffee.
With sugar or without sugar
Without milk with.

xxx

i sit in the café (outside) bent over a sheet of paper scrawling a poem
a boy suddenly waving a banknote in front of my eyes asking whether it’s mine
 for a moment I doubted whether it’s  mine
maybethewindsorthegodshaveblownitfromabarnearthisbeerbarowindsthankyouboy
 now I thank you too
 it’s mine I say having decided since it’s already blown here against my legs
 an appreciation of my efforts quite a while since I’ve received any royalty from some poem
wow oh

xxx

the man, having sold me The Vagrant and seen a hanging portrait of Kafka, asked whether I have read The Trial. “I have,” I said to “the vagrant.” And I thought – what could I tell him of the trial now? What of it, the fact that he read it, and I have. I know this to be a mere exchange of words.

He left with no soup, having sold a newspaper to a coffeewoman, and having recognized Kafka. And for me he left but a promise. I’ll come.
Life must be lived forward.

xxx

The Beginning

the beginning can be like this: your shoes new
for two hundred litas, your coat without a lining,
your face peeling, your head full of dandruff, and
your love old, boring, you stop alongside such a beginning,
move a little: from home to the library, from there to the café:
I yearn for someone to shake me up, forcefully make me move,
the beginning can also be there – you’d want it there, where there are
unknown places, unfamiliar people and even language –
the beginning can be speech: you learn to speak, words –
for now only a melody, the beginning can even be different:
you go somewhere, not knowing where, who you’ll meet, what you’ll do –
a tower appears, flies – a crow on the roof, you hold on
with your last strength – you want to jump and struggle to save yourself –
the beginning is bad: it could be better – sometimes
the beginning: nonsense and daydreams,
the beginning, which you cannot have

 

 

 Translated by Markas Aurelijus Piesinas

 

 

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