Poems from the book „Singerstraum“
Anna Lee Fisher, the first mother in space –
In flight, I contemplated her photograph, black and white.
Dressed in a spacesuit, an icon: beautiful, famous, a woman.
Maybe, in some sense, I could launch myself as well?
Maybe gravity is not so universal as it seems?
Apparently, one can leave one’s children on earth,
sending oneself out into orbit for some time.
Yet here I was, afraid to fly across the ocean...
(For who will raise my child when the plane goes down?)
In my dream, they were training me to be an astronaut –
I had to slide through the narrow intestines
of water park attractions, to eat live meat
without vomiting – impossible, but I passed the tests.
I was ready for the ether now, or at least for the army.
Awaking, I understood these are powers in which I cannot believe,
but secretly, I felt them: in the thought-written world.
And I knew that world is safe, made ready
for our lives and those of our children.
At one time or another, it’s going to happen.
Alcoholics will quit, the economic crisis will end.
The child will speak, and walls will open for me;
I’ll quit watching Lithuanian TV,
and begin to speak in forgotten tongues.
Little by little, I’ll begin to think politically, rejecting
the myth of higher education, growing an urge
to live in Washington, where tulips remind me of gender;
so many women politicians here, and by my house –
sleeping lions (melancholic, cement)
in this Lazarus love garden.
I had lived as if wound hard around a spool,
or as a ball of thread that no one
unsews. The time came, all the same,
when I was caught up in a Jacquard weave.
A Jewish custom, where lamenting women
cut and rip their clothes – in this way
I proclaimed the mourning of my home,
shredding swaddling clothes with a vengeance.
It’s liberating, like removing diapers from a child –
I crawl through my dream naked and without shame.
Old New Vilnia
The social class of snobs
calls it Provence style –
yellowish Stalin-era homes:
I saw a silly television show
where they babbled about how
this style can alter not only your interior,
but your relationships as well.
Winter mornings, on the way to kindergarten,
by a building like a locomotive
(a building we wanted once to buy
in order to live next to the trains) –
dawn reddened the sky,
and by the doors of the wooden orthodox church,
trampled by inhabitants of the land of headscarves,
the snow began to shine.
We were separated for the day by river and rail,
and that, for sure, can alter a relationship.
It’s quite pretty here – even when
the river bank lies grey and black
like a monochromatic Cézanne.
On the other side of the Provencal homes,
in the hospital’s park, as evening arrived
we made politically incorrect snowmen
to mimic those watching from windows.
Their brains were being eaten by pills,
but that didn’t stop them from shouting
and making signs – they declared
their permanent addresses
in my poems.
At night, wherever I now happen
to rent another apartment,
I hear the trains from childhood
that sewed themselves into my blood.
Even the smell of oil paint lingers.
After all, Provence is just a province.
Last Christmas, I got
a Singer Serenade – bragged
my composer friend.
I began to imagine how
it writes her a serenade – once,
in the high school cafeteria I was told
that all the clinking of aluminum forks,
the footsteps, the clatter of dishware,
the fragments of conversation and other sounds,
What is going on these days
that this hobby is so trendy
for relieving stress?
In the loft I found doll’s clothing,
sewn with an old-fashioned sewing machine
according to cut-out patterns.
And two toy machines:
mama had the red, heavy metal one
with that romantic hand-turned
wheel, and I had a newer model,
an electric motor, driven
all the way from the GDR.
An expensive toy for writing serenades;
I used to imagine how, at night, a witch
would clatter in the loft on her old-fashioned
sewing maching, stitching bags for kidnapping kids.
This train runs on and on on pedals –
instead of hiring pshychologists,
I invested in a sewing machine.
Love is a sterile way
to kill someone; spoon serenades
prove it every day.
The Monk Tent Fest
This garden – I dreamt
two hundred years ago –
before I had children.
The people are all the same, like me
in youth when I was still a prude –
ugly, untalented, and good.
They’re not so different from
the silly society of glossy magazines:
especially when they speak about meaning.
The one and the other practice
the same techniques for suppressing madness:
eat, pray, love.
If I were to listen to them,
my faith would be smaller
than a poppy seed.
Having grow old, I would drop
out of my very own eyes.
And from the loudspeaker,
they might just as well play the voice
of the dictator from Chaplin’s film.
He ought to be saying how the wretched,
bumping each other on the bus each day,
are the real communion.
Or how under apartment blocks, on benches,
the elderly chatting all day – someone
goes by, now someone comes this way,
someone sticks a head out of a window –
how these are the invisible tents, this
the festival of monks without vows.
It’s funny, at the very same time,
in the very same park,
some hopeless newlyweds
hold their photo session.
I couldn’t find anyone to ask
if love endures this posing.
The Pretender Writes Back on the Philology Wall
That fall I read Sappho’s poem instead of my own.
In tune with the words, losing consciousness out of love,
I collapsed on the floor.
That semester, we studied stress patterns in words –
I hated it, skipped it, and always snuck into
lectures at the Art Academy instead,
carrying home my portfolio
of worthless sketches.
Where, I wonder, could those people be
whom I drew with sanguine and charcoal?
Perhaps in the state next door?
I still think about women’s gender
like the stresses on words, and my insides roil.
We four Lithuanian poets, wandering America,
should secretly agree to transfer the philology department
to Trakai Castle so we could have our elective
sailing class like at UW-Madison.
We could found a Sappho sorority, writing
Greek letters over the door.
With the fire of our blood, we’d burn our poems into stone houses,
and we’d forgive ourselves for others’ sins. No one would be depressed –
not like once before, in a grim cafeteria
with matronly meatballs of self-flagellation,
separately and secretly, breaking down words.
Translated by Rimas Užgiris