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Gintaras Grajauskas (b. 1966) is a poet, playwright, prose writer, and musician. His poems are ironic and precise, re-thinking our everyday domestic lives and emphasizing certain clichés in our actions and thoughts. His experience as a musician can be felt in his poems, which are jazz-like and exhibit light-hearted attitudes. The poet is no stranger to pop-culture elements as well, though these are not the most important thing in his work. His is a rare Lithuanian poetic voice that doesn't put on airs, doesn't impose on you, doesn't suggest or elevate anything, doesn't have a national agenda, and doesn't moralize the reader. In the words of a policeman from one of his own poems, the goal behind Gintaras Grajauskas' poetry is to “write down exactly what happened.”

a palmers chronicle right bw

Comics

new VR 14 10 16 2

Nijolė Šaltenytė, Striped Caps, 1993. Aquatint, etching, relief printing, 38,5 x 64 cm. From the MO museum collection
 

 

***

Good day! Nice
to meet you. How may I
be of use to you? I can tell you about
contemporary global poetry, it’s very
interesting, about making paper at home,
about the sonata form, the fugue and counterpoint.
I know something about ancient harmonies – both
natural and pythagorean, I know a few good Jewish
jokes, I know how to tell good whiskey from bad.
I can also tell you about Antonin Artaud and his Theatre
of Cruelty, some funny stories from my life,
some funny stories from the lives of others,
I know a few things about knives, the thickness
of steel and diamond whetstones,
da Palestrina, Thelonious Monk, John Paul II,
I can curse out women, everything is due to them,
I can curse out the weather, everything is due to it, I can
offer my hand, offer my slippers, fetch
the paper, wiggle my ears, I can learn
to write poems – though no,
that I can’t do, sorry – I can learn
to play bass guitar, to eat without my hands,
to not yelp, to not stoop, I can even
learn to approach someone like this:
smiling strangely, saying – good day,
how may I
be useless to you.

 

I Understand Her, Seriously

... and then she says – don’t be angry,
I don’t know what to do with myself

and I say – I won’t be angry,
I know what you’re talking about:
I also don’t know what to do
with myself

I tried to play cards with myself
I tried to speak nicely with myself
I tried to yell at myself
I tried to drink vodka with myself

once, I even tried to hold
my own hand

I also tried to do with myself
what I sometimes do with you,
well, you know.

but imagine, nothing came of it,
cry as you wish.

so I understand you, but you should
also understand: if you leave me,
then how will I be with myself –
without you.

 

Whatever they say, what matters is how it really is

if you’re proud,
they say: arrogant

if you’re obliging,
they say: bootlicker

if you’re good,
they say: fool of fools

if you’re polite,
they say: coward

if you’re generous,
they say: prodigal

if you’re ascetic,
they say: miser

if you feel bad,
they say: you look so good

if you die,
they say: we miss you

if you’re holy,
they say: swindler

if you’re a swindler,
they say: a man of means

and if you’re a poet,
when you’re a real poet,
what then? what will they say?

they’ll say nothing,
finishing you off with silence.

 

Person with Half a Watermelon

everyone like everyone – all aflutter, bags full,
pushing carts with all kinds of meats,
pastas, oils, beer, booze,
shitpaper rolls, but he, you see,

just walks along, that guy, holding
half a watermelon

why just a watermelon? why half?
he what – doesn’t need anything else?
must be a madman or a cult member

why half – well, that’s clear enough:
a whole watermelon is way too much
for one man

and why a watermelon – let’s relax, maybe
he just hasn’t had watermelon in a while, and he likes it,
loves spitting those seeds

but why does he look so lonely
holding his damn half a watermelon

he gazes ahead, as if into emptiness,
and he walks as if not walking, but going out

so why am I terrified –

but I already know why –

when he gets home,
he’ll sit and eat his
half a watermelon, sigh
and die.

 

Cinematographic Poem

    I am William Blake.
          – Jim Jarmusch, Dead Man

so now I know: angels are like insects,
easier to hear than to see –
wings neatly folded – water resistant
quietly rustling like soft, warm leaves

angels wearing full-length raincoats,
Hollywood style, faces like hired guns

“sorry,” I say, “is it me you’re looking for?”

(one slowly turns to face to me – a thriller, no, a western)

“and who do you think you are?”

“well, so and so, shelter for the soul, bag of th’ol’ faeces”

“ah, yes, yes, I’ver heard of you, heard
that you answer to the call of writer –
yelping and wagging your tail”

“well, not exactly, when I wag my tail
I’m usually diffident and ashamed”

“But you’re a member of PEN, if I’m not mistaken”

“that has nothing to do with me”

“yes, of course, but then who are you really?”

“others say that...”

“that has nothing to do with you”

“I’m trying to be...”

“I’m not asking who you’re trying to be. I’m asking – who are you?”

“as of now, I’m nothing, and the farther I go
the more nothing I become”

“Indeed. So, then, what more would you like,
O Caesar of the Palemonids?”

“maybe it’s silly, but I always
wanted something more”

“yes, that is quite silly”

“I used to secretly watch madmen,
believing that they could tell me...”

“the password? the code to get you
into the Lord’s Directory?”

“well, I thought I might get closer
to people, you know, I was missing them”

“a dubious pleasure, unless
you dream of being stoned”

“yes, I agree with you now, but
I still think it was worth it”

“and what did you do next, if it’s not a secret?”

“then, I came forward, like some
first grader, raising his hand in class:
teacher, teacher, I know I know!”

“first grader you say, maybe more like a whore...
excuse me for a minute, I’ve got to take this”

(and I can also hear it: the mobile in his pocket
is playing Für Elise – “yes,” he says. “good,”
barely nodding his head, “it will be done”)
“pardon me, but it’s time to go, work waits
for no one, it was a pleasure to meet you”

“wait, wait – I, mean, is that all?”

“that’s all. the two of us simply had a chat”

“had a chat? and that’s that? wasn’t there
something you had to give me –
instructions? recommendations?”

“who do you think you are – James Bond?”

“so what do I do now?”

“you still don’t get it, grajauskas? –
the same as you’ve always done”

“oh for pete’s sake, and when will it end?”

“when God’s plan is done”

 

The Artist’s Wife

did you read what that art critic
wrote: “the practical uselessness
of an artist’s creations
is his resistance”

well, no. the artist’s resistance
is the practical uselessness
of himself

seriously, no use whatsoever,
cry as you will, he doesn’t fit
anywhere, always too big or too small

now, if you want to talk about resistance,
then there’s this ugly souvenir here,
come from who knows where: a plastic
eagle on a plastic rock

(and with an inscription to boot: kislovodsk!)

it stands there, stuffed in the corner,
taking up space. it makes me so mad at times
that I want to smash it on the wall
and watch the wings fly off

but I can’t bring myself to do it, I feel sorry
for I don’t know what, but I do, feel sorry

so I say to myself, when my man dies
I’ll put it in the coffin with him:
let them enjoy each other
together at last

 

Ballad

harum harum said the dragon, waking up
and pointed peaks were promptly scorched
harum harum said all nine heads at once
and the moon stuck a horn out of a cloud
harum harum said the dragon for a third time
then, wriggling his fatty tail, he danced

webbed toes trampled the firs of peaks
roots ruptured deep underground
nine heads bobbed right to the beat

then a knight rode through the ravine
carrying a shiny tool, maybe a spear
his mighty steed, caparisoned in plaid
trembled to see the dragon’s perfect dance

harum harum said the courageous knight
and the moon covered its face with its sleeve
harum harum shouted the courageous knight
banging on his shield
harum harum said the dragon a third time

then the knight, steed, dragon, peaks and moon
all shouted – harum harum –
and began to dance

 

Meaning

meaning is
a melancholy little beast
who didn’t fit into Noah’s Ark
and napped through the flood
even through Newton and Galileo

meaning is
a sleeping whale
dreaming
it’s a sleeping whale

meaning is
an exotic fruit

hanging there, frightened

 

Festival of the Sea, Day Twelve

empty

only gulls,
pecking puke

 

After a reading

he stood up, gave a dignified
cough, and asked –
what was the author trying to say with all that?

well, everything the author was trying to say
was just said

you deaf dumbarse!

 


Translated by Rimas Uzgiris

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