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One of the most well-known poets of the newest generation, Mantas Balakauskas debuted in 2016 with his poetry collection Roma [Rome]. The title was chosen for a reason – the book is an attempt to build on ruins, an attempt to write while understanding that these efforts are secondary, for everything happens now after all the battles have been fought. But this does not mean that we don’t need to fight or write. Mantas’ poetry is shot through with creative fury. It is, despite the title, very much contemporary. Social problems, our society, the individual’s place in a fragmented world – all fall into its range of vision. According to the critic Neringa Butnoriūtė, “cities are already built, ideologies already formed, so we can now play with the not always polite means of provoking them.” Balakauskas plays – seriously, passionately, ironically.

a palmers chronicle right bw

Comics

new VR 14 10 16 2

Tadas Gindrėnas, Play, 2004. Linocut, 141x152 cm. From The Modern Art Center collection.
 

From the poetry collection „Rome“

 

***

words are just this hollow chimney smoke,
these stuffed birds, perched in your shade,

or silent hanging heads of boars, having lost their bodies
and their power of speech, you know, I went hunting for ducks once,

I watched how little dots fell to the ground,
insignificant as all hell,
and then we walked arm in arm
to search that ground, through bogs and all kinds of brush,
treading over soggy clay, clay full of little soldier limbs,
little spirits burnt by lighter flames,
and a strange scent of the end clung to our backs,
the sodden footprints of shoes were not ours anymore,
and it appeared that others were walking here,
people of rain and soil,
neologisms who waded out to look for feathers
for pillows to lengthen their sleep and speech,
looking for grass to outgrow the tops of trees,
there, were a still living bird sings,
sings of how we will not die,
but simply remain invisible for all time.

 

***

faces smeared with mud, encrusted with shells,
          I don’t recognize them,
the nails still grow, I suspect, only for them to defend their meat,
when the soul rises, stomach to the sky, it will leave what needs to be left
to rot, and hair will wrap around necks, becoming sea weed, a part of H2O,
yet another documentary on the History Chanel,
          on the Discovery Chanel,
about lives under water,
the most beautiful people, diving head first
through balcony railings,
breaking the eternal Schengen forms,
the forms of things, the forms of skulls,
           forms of love,
forms of our dearest conversations covered in ice,
and fingers are caught in closing doors
          as letters try to return
          home.

 

 

***

all the records contain trees, fragments of people,
mostly – ashes, imitations, sleeping screws in structures,
sleeping screws in structures, and if they’re not sleeping?
music in pipes, laughter, the sticky murmur of the dew collector,
they’re all filled up, the archives, endless archives, frames running
through my shadow and yours, millions of galaxies of information, unimportant,
unclean, unweighted – and – and it seems it should be important for someone,
at least, it should be important – time is broadcast, e.g., 03:18, e.g., 03:24,
and nothing. 03:24 and nothing. E.g., you meet people without meeting them,
fall into oblivion, and they return in different forms to your small life
from which there is no road because you got there through a small cavity
belonging to Zeus, or through the scar of some other god,
because you are just the fragment after the glance, and everything is
just a fragment in the head of a strange bird, and everything is just is
until a wing beats on the window curtain –
                         while you still draw breath –

 


***

minima media maxima, [1]
    minima media maxima,
    minima media maxima,
in the fields of Catalonia, the young barbarians
are playing maxima with the young emperors,
why in the fields of Catalonia? and why not? what
difference does it make now? it could be in other fields,
in football fields,
in dandelion fields – as far as I’m concerned – even space,
and those who lose, still travel
the streets of minima media maxima,
because these streets are really there,
I saw them: big, wide streets,
with homes sweet homes,
so you don’t have to walk far to anything,
    you can fight right here
with pitchforks, axes and knives
for whatever you might want
because they have a sale – 95% off,
    because there are
three circles in hell for them, nine gates of hell,
    enough for everybody,
and their time is someone else’s maxima,
personal, unbearable, permanent
minima media maxima,
after the scuffles, the young emperors
divide the loot, break the bone in half,
and ask the young barbarians –

minima media maxima
minima media maxima –

who answer firmly –
minima media maxima,
raising their calvary spears into the air.

 

 

***

... so crack open my head from which a new world will grow,
throw a stone at me and sow my skull in the earth,
sow my skull in the earth so that a person might grow, hard –
as a yew tree, you heard right, a person, not a Roman anymore,
Rome has nothing to offer, it doesn’t exist for your thirsty soldiers,
its silos are empty, and everything we now see is thorny bushes
to my eyes, burning bushes for my memory, I say to you,
Rome is empty, there is no wine, there are no figs or slender
maidens, no innocent-faced serving boys, everything has been taken
by your accomplices, everything has been taken by my accomplices,
the hot springs are cold, Lethe has flooded its shell, we have communal
housing in blocks, our corpses are already cold, bills arrive for the heating
of my body and yours, while heavy humps of water weigh down our backs,
yes, Rome is far, far out beyond the borders of this world, and I throw myself
into the flames with it because your army has trampled the golden crops,
has broken the shop windows, plundered the shops, and what was left, what
was not yet stolen, well, they tore the noble metals from the church altars
and drank aqueduct water even though it could no longer quench anyone’s
thirst, they slurped from the feet of fire and laughed while turning into smoke...

 

1. The name of the biggest supermarket chain in Lithuania.

 

 Translated by Rimas Užgiris

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