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Kornelijus Platelis was born in 1951 in Šiauliai. He published his first poems in 1977 and is the author of ten collections of verse: Žodziai ir dienos (Words and Days; 1980), Namai ant tilto (Home on the Bridge; 1984), Pinklės vėjui (Snare for the Wind; 1987), Luoto kevalas (The Boat Shell; 1990), Prakalbos upei (Orations to the River, 1995), Atoslūgio juosta (Tidemark, 2000), Palimpsestai (Palimpsests, 2004), Karstiniai reiškiniai (Cave Phenomena, 2010), Eilėraščiai, (Poems, 2014), and Įtrūkusios mėnesienos (Ruptured Moonlight, 2018).  His extended essay on the ecology of culture, Būstas prie Nemuno (Being by the Nemunas), was published in 1989 and Ir mes praeiname (And We Are Passing) in 2011. He has also translated many of the most important American and British poets – among them Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Robert Bringhurst, John Keats, e.e. cummings, Ted Hughes, Czesław Miłosz (poems and “The History of Polish Literature”), Wisława Szymborska, Artur Mędrzyrzecki, Adam Mickiewicz, Adam Naruszwicz – and has been instrumental in developing commentary for a new Lithuanian edition of the Bible. Among his many honors and awards is the National Award for Culture and Arts in 2002. Platelis is the initiator and organizer of the annual international literary festival Druskininkai Poetic Fall. His poetry is noted for its deeply intellectual voice, and inventive use of archetype and myth. It is a mixture of political and declarative styles on the one hand and mystical intensity and metaphysical questioning on the other. His poetry is translated into Armenian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, Chinese, English, French, Gaelic, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian and appeared in various editions. His poetry collections were published in Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, and USA (3).

Jonas Zdanys

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Eduardas Juchnevičius, Reason Warns the Feeling, 3/15, linocut, 1979. From the MO Museum collection.
Poems form the poetry collection “Ruptured Moonlight”
 
 
 

Burning a Life

“Addresses”, postcards, greetings,
“For the birth and resurrection of the Most Holy Jesus”,
prescriptions, blood tests, cardiograms,
(I file her letters in a separate folder),
clothes both worn-out and almost new,
dentures, x-rays,
bank cards, receipts,
bouquets of dried flowers (so that their shapes,
seeping as smoke through the walls of this world
would regain their once-possessed bodies and
her ghost could place them at Persephone’s feet),
fear and doubt, dismal sorrow,
passionate prayers
(I need to periodically add wood
so the flame would not suffocate),
poems copied by hand,
mostly banal
(she was not understood,
not addressed in her own language –
I lacked the wisdom and love
to cross the thresholds of imagination,
vexation and petty lies, to learn
to behave naturally,
without pretension),
the poems she wrote herself,
rough but passionate
(these too – in the archive),
works of art – trifles of small-batch make
mouldering half-forgotten on the furniture,
and that whole period of time, subsiding –
days and nights, years –
all full of words, feelings, misunderstandings,
and understanding, memories, hopes –
that real life we cannot enter,
and for which our bodies are just a premise.

She seemed to have wanted cremation,
changing her mind, reconsidering.
They buried her in the earth.
And here I am cremating
everything with which she lived –
what is more than the body,
more than us.

 

Spring Readings

The spring was mad with apple trees.
The scene outside reflected itself
in the glass of the bookcase doors,
along with me, along with
the names of those dear to me
on the spines, their faces
no longer on this side of life –
pens held between their hands calloused
from writing would meander
as if drunk until they staggered
into places beyond the pale
where only they could reach:
one never returned from the sea at dawn,
another declared his wisdom to customs
and disappeared down a tunnel’s maw,
another melting into mist above a bog,
creating from mere words
a world so familiar, yet
existing to the side of this one…
The view from the window was enough
for me, with the white madness of spring
at a safe distance, beyond the glass,
but I would have liked to ask
what signs, what meanings (where)
were left in the material beyond bounds?
What kind of place (white like spring?)
is the earth of our misunderstanding?

 

Cleaning the Cistern

I siphoned out a mess of water, I dug
leaves and mud from the bottom of what
my father had dug and lined to collect
the falling rain.

It hadn’t been cleaned since his death –
autumns had filled it with their harvests,
and I’ve collected a few autumns myself
in the meantime.

How do I scrape out their dispensed burden,
rotting deep under the limpid surface
of shallow consciousness? So I mused, leaning
on a pitchfork.

Because night often changes those dregs
into the stuff of dreams, trying to tell me
that I’ve lived those years like this
screwy cistern.

I have submerged everything into myself that fell,
misunderstanding the meaning of phenomena,
what I thought I believed in, but which was all just
a mask of desire.

Then, the moldy pile suddenly spoke to me,
saying, you are full of useless dregs, but
if you sow again, use them for the stanzas
of your garden-beds.

Not a bad idea, I thought, and buried
the whole pile under the young trees.
Now I need only await the fruits –
someone may eat them…

 

Bicycles in the Garage

There are as many as seven bikes in the garage:
the Minsk was my father’s, twelve years absent now,
the Baltik Vairas I received from the journal Bells
as a literary prize back when bicycles were already
not my preferred means of transport, the Terminator
was my young son’s, then there’s my wife’s Panther,
all of them made in Šiauliai, like myself, and the others –
for the grandchildren, some too big, some still too small…
Sometimes someone rides them, pumping up the tires,
sometimes I try to ride one as I used to do
when the tires pumped themselves up
from inspiration, or the pressure of necessity…

Memories – yes. They ride
the curbs of clouds, fall into oblivion,
appear again (from over the mountain, as Blake wrote).
Maybe that’s why I don’t throw them away. I can’t.
For they are the shadows of these bicycles,
the childish, the youthful, and the adult ones,
all of which I rode, they say, with cold passion,
although, I would call it – hot wonder.

I visit them over and over,
just like the other lodgers here
that I will never need, casting warm glances on each.
I know none will steal them, even if I leave the gates
unlocked. Who knows what awaits them…

 

The Aging Herald

I walk apace, carrying the message,
wings on my loafers speed my way.
A woman in high heels walks ahead:
tic-tac – her loins gently sway.

I pass her, going swiftly
as it seems, to my goal –
to carry people the news,
urgent, deceitful, and true.

But a woman, unexpectedly,
passes me in low heels,
her legs ticking twice as quickly
as the arrows of time-clocks.

She treads her path more briskly
than I could manage to do,
so perhaps I should pass the news
to her, as they do in relay.

But will she accept the obol’s
two sides: the false and the true,
will she give up her path in lieu
of an imagined goal?

Will she slow her swift pace
when she has nowhere to haste?
Will she not begin to heed
the “how” and don high heels?

No, I’d rather imagine my speed
in another way – it may be
I carry my message late
because no one awaits.

 

Prosecutor

(Script for the prosecutor’s speech)

Whatever we might say here and now,
time kills us slowly all the same. Just look:
the defense is trying to distract you –
it pulls masks over things, it takes away
their symbolic meanings, and vice versa –
it gives meaning to the accused. This
I declare, as Prosecutor-General. (Nevertheless,
the defense isn’t lame, but answers that time
does not exist, it is but a mental category,
an eternal present swallowing its own tail,
and duration is another thing entirely,
like the arrow of a dial, an abstraction
that cannot be personified, even if
you manage to put a price on it.
“Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.” – oh, how they quote,
arguing from authority, even as predatory
birds, scavengers, circle overhead…)
And where will our desires and sufferings go?! I ask.
They can’t come up with a timely answer.
So I move on to the charges
against the things and masks, the scavengers.
We may have to let the past go free on bail,
and maybe it will even be acquitted,
but the future must get at least a hundred years,
postponing the punishment until that time.

 

Translated by Rimas Uzgiris

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