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Mindaugas Nastaravičius (Lithuania)
Poet, playwright, and journalist Mindaugas Nastaravičius was born in Vilnius District Municipality in 1984. He graduated from Vilnius University with a degree in journalism in 2006 and studied philosophy during 2008–2010. In 2010, Nastaravičius won the First Book Competition organized by the Lithuanian Writers’ Union and subsequently published a collection of poems under the title Dėmėtų akių (“Stained Eyes”). This book received the Zigmas Gėlė prize for the best literary debut of the year. In 2014, he published his second poetry book Mo. The book was deemed by literature experts to be in the “top 5 poetry books of the year.” It was also listed as one of the “12 most creative books of the year” by the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore. In 2014, this work was also awarded the Young Yotvingian Prize of 2015. Mindaugas also works with four Lithuanian theaters that have staged four of his plays, Paukštyno bendrabutis (“The Dormitory of Poultry-Farm,” 2012, directed by V. Masalskis, Klaipėda Youth Theater), Kita mokykla (“The Other School,” 2013, directed by V. Masalskis, Klaipeda Youth Theater), Demokratija (“Democracy,” 2014, directed by P. Ignatavičius, the Lithuanian National Drama Theater), and Man netinka tavo kostiumas (“Your Suit Does Not Fit Me,” 2014, directed by V. Masalskis, Klaipeda Youth Theater). For the two latter plays, Mindaugas Nastaravičius received the Golden Stage Cross – the most prestigious Lithuanian theater prize – in 2015.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Rytis Masilionis, Infinitive
Poems form the poetry collection “Common Wheel”
 
 
 

Infinitive

I thought I had already written
everything, though I didn’t know a word
about you, and then I understood it’s time

in this room of memory, to tear out the load-bearing wall,
to rip up that feeble construction holding a person or barn,
the hopes of you and me, slowly ebbing
no matter how much I twist and turn

I thought – it’s time to stop, because everything
that seemed meaningful slipped away when pressed against the wall
and then it seemed – here, finally, just like time itself –
I don’t mean a thing, no matter how much I pity myself

then I heard that in the Gariūnai market, “somewhere
by the wall”, they buy up ashes, so that’s why we burned up
our parents’ photos out beyond the barn, until we burned down
the barn itself, only a wall left standing, holding up emptiness

then, pouring it into buckets, we went to sell our ashes
and we learned that there is no wall “somewhere by the wall”
and that no one would even take our ashes for free,
our parents’ burned faces blackening our fingers

so we trudged back to the bus, the uncovered ashes
billowing from buckets, and I now lift and scatter them
into this eternal infinitive on the ruins of the unloaded wall

 

- -

you were born here, maybe I, too, began anew
and so I’ll return – said Father

nothing has changed for thirty years
you see, there, next to the park – the maternity ward
and here – the geriatric hospital

I don’t know what else to show you

if you don’t have time, don’t come, I’ll be watched
by Saint Roch, I’m his loyal dog, licking
my own wounds all my life like spilled vodka

I don’t need anything from you, just show me where
to go with this bag with slippers, water, where
my bed is, who will heal me, who

to call when it hurts –
I see you now
growing distant, entering the bus

you said, I’ll go to the sea
to breathe

so get drunk there, with me,
alone

 

- -

the double bed in my parents’ room – except he now sleeps
his single everynightness here – impossible to squeeze under it

dust darkens the space between bed and floor
which is the only secret of this room
I was able to touch

awakening and looking straight ahead, Father would see
a red rug hanging on the wall
turning his head left: a black and white Šilelis TV

it’s because of that that I’m on the other side of the bed
early on a Saturday morning when the Ostankino channel
is still white noise

after which it drones for five minutes, followed by the clock
and then, finally, the show comes on, some kind of family tourney

mothers cook and men arm-wrestle, children recite
something in Russian – and lying in my parents’ bed

I still don’t understand anything, but am, probably,
happy

Mindaugas Nastaravicius 03Rytis Masilionis, Infinitive 2

- -

driving back from the funeral, I remember
how we dug a hole
for the basketball post

and I asked my father not to stop, to dig deeper
otherwise, I wouldn’t reach the rim, couldn’t dunk

my father taught me to slam dunk
though he never could reach the rim himself

once, returning from the collective farm, he removed his jacket,
set himself up from inside the barn, and ran across the whole yard,
leaped and smacked his head straight into the protruding post

which turned into dust, and we didn’t see a thing

driving back from the funeral, I understand
my father’s suit is worn, and will fade away

then, it’ll fit me just right

 

- -

with bike flipped, he turns the pedals by hand, testing
if the rear wheel is straight, if the front is crooked

just don’t stick your fingers in the spokes, don’t touch
my tools, just watch and learn
kneel

the size twelve wrench, pliers, screwdrivers all went missing
for which he would turn over half the yard looking

not suspecting that all the tools – the awl, hammer,
language – I buried beyond the barn

in that other world, in a dried pile
of dung which he had not the strength to try –

all of his repaired bicycles and tricycles,
wheels and rims, rot in the empty barn

I kneel by his side and learn
I kneel by his side and watch

how nails turn blue, how
the blood-stained common wheel
still turns

 

- -

I try to answer all of your questions
hoping to hear some day from you
where you were when you weren’t yet

some day I’ll tell you the story about the hospital by the stadium
where you were born – in no hurry to climb out onto land,
that’s why your nails were longer than ours

going out into the hospital yard at night, I hear in the distance
a woman who had put her mother’s things into a bag,
waters of darkness and light washing our common lot

we sit next to each other on the bench, strangers
remaining silent, suspended between life and death

and we understand everything

in common

 

- -

your grandfather sits me down at the table in the kitchen
sighs, and asks – maybe you want to talk about life?

to talk about life means to listen to stories
about the ruined communal farms, your ruined grandfather

and the village Poles nicknaming us Litvins
and what of the wife, praying for him to sober up

so is this life? your grandfather would ask
not having, in essence, lived

that’s why when we sat to talk
he would soon grow silent, then come to life again

once he brought a hammer and stretched a handful of nails out to me,
and said – do what you want – and so we love each other, smiling

I choose the prettiest wall in the house and whip it with the hammer
nailing up your grandfather, so that he would live

Mindaugas Nastaravicius 04Photo by Rytis Masilionis

 

- -

and we’re returning to the bus, and the uncovered ashes rise
as Liepkalnio Street fades through the darkening window, there’s
the construction supply store where we’ll buy one hundred meters
of cable and cement, and you manage to fall asleep even in the bumpy
bus, even as we take down the load-bearing wall by our bed, talking
quietly in my ear about who this man and woman are, sitting across from us
tell me what you lack, my love, to be completely happy
I don’t know, probably nothing, and you? probably everything, and
it’s as if I know these people, understand their speech, our Orphic
song began similarly, there and back, fading, the kingdom
into which we travel, our plans, wealth and debts in common
if I get out of the bus first, scatter my memory with a smile
if I don’t wake you, keep going farther, much farther

until we wake up

 

 

 

 

 

Translated by Rimas Uzgiris

 

 

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