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Ilzė Butkutė (b. 1984) is a poet. She studied photojournalism, and worked seven years in advertising. Her first book of poetry, Karavanų lopšinės (Caravan Lullabies) won the Zigmas Gaidamavičius-Gėlė Prize in 2011 for most significant debut and it was listed among the twelve most creative books of the year. She wrote (and published in 2013) a practical guide for workers oppressed by their employers, Atleisk savo šefa (Fire Your Boss). In 2014, her second book of poetry was published, Karnavalų mėnuo (Carnival Moon). Her poems have been translated into English, French, German, Russian, Latvian, Ukrainian, Catalonian and Basque. Currently, Ilzė works in the field of creative and personal development.

a palmers chronicle right bw

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Mikalojus Povilas Vilutis, White Monument. 1978, screen printing, 39 x 31,8. From The Modern Art Center collection
 

Poems from „Caravan Lullabies“ (A Midsummer Night‘s Press, 2016)

 

Regressive Hypnosis

That girl – her classmates can’t say
her name – whatever it may be –
names are not what matter to me –

I can tell that she sees how we tear
ourselves in two, at times, from shame,
then crumble – or

she stops at unfinished phrases –
fearing false finish, unsure
of what’s best, speaking no more.

As if looking through green glasses,
the days run like water, and no one
asks for an encore.

The girl’s face – only a prelude.
Eyes like the nose of a roe,
fingers that won’t warm up.

Her parents already grieve:
we’re raising a mouse, not a woman.
This too, in time, will be forgotten.

And how she prayed: Dear Lord,
my loving Lord, save me from myself,
and I will get through everything else

like the ebb tide flows past a dyke.
Those on the way know the road
is lost, and the maps not yet revised.


 

Real Silence and an Unreal Mermaid

She came. Frightening the birds
(unwittingly). Dropped her backpack.
Shook off her tired Converse shoes
on the stream-side path. She knew

she won’t be long. Why not just sit
a while? – Try to light a cigarette
(but she forgot her lighter and will
need to ask for fire). She could scale

the dunes (where there is no breeze).
But doesn’t want to. It’s still the last day
of dialogue between the two of them,
between the mermaid and the sea.

(She likes that word: mermaid.
A picture from a children’s book
or her long wet hair – these feelings
have sprouted again from pain.)

OK, then. Not a mermaid. It’s time to go.
She exhales her credulity with her smoke
and turns her pockets out with the remains
of yesterday’s adventures, dead and done

(but she keeps the polished sea glass).
She shuts her eyes. Warms her toes
in the sand, humming quietly
to the weather. Maybe she cries.


 

Breaking Us In

Don’t look trains in the eye for long – you’ll scare them away,
and don’t caress the banisters of bridges – they’re already tamed –
they remember a walk and a palm like a thought – or
a cube of sugar – when a pedestrian goes all the way across.

Turn away from the whimsical shadows of indolent parks,
and they’ll follow you in wonder, and nestle at your feet,
then you’ll hear how patient, late-arriving blizzards
sweep through crossings – I’ll charm them too in time.

Wandering Februaries will chant along with a quiet flute
until I take them out of the city to sink in the highway’s maws
so caravans flooded with lights would stop repeating themselves,
lost labyrinths that can’t get home on their own.

A mute, tired dove cries in your bosom.
Close your eyes and touch your finger to worn brail –
I won’t make it, having as if poured sand onto my road –
at least you can hide – the Handler is passing by.




Waiting for Wolves

Summer ends in my womb
while autumn begins to ripen.
I’ll have a little wolf
every night now.

Do you hear?
That’s the wind in the yard
escaped from its leash
dancing
with the city’s dust.

That’s how the pack of wolves
lopes up – whether from me
or from the ragged border
of sorrow’s land.

They won’t let anyone
dream in our city tonight.
Winter has begun.
One of ours will survive it.



Lullaby for Midas

I pray to you, Midas, just touch me
like you touched your soldiers
knowing this time they won’t return –
yet still you made them brave.

Touch me – that alone will heal us,
and the feeling will always be young.
No one will have to know – the doors
now bolted – how much we will not find

when we return. Nothing remains.
So touch me, Midas, my darling,
like you touch an old, beloved stallion
before giving it to the city’s butcher

in exchange for the reins and a handful of coins.
Touch me and I will always be here –
only yours – quiet, eternal – like
all the other dusty, golden things.

 

Translated by Rimas Užgiris

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