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Tomas S. Butkus (b. 1975) is a poet and publisher. He graduated from the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University with a degree in architecture. In 1992, he founded the “Copper Mouths” idea workshop where he continues to work on the art of ideas: connecting design, publication, literature, urban studies and other artistic and scholarly initiatives. In 2004, his poetry book, Generated Language Mutation, won the award for most creative Lithuanian book of the year. That same year, Butkus was recognized in London at the International Young Publishers Contest as one of the eight most creative young publishers in the world. Since 1996, he has published one poetry collection and nine chapbooks, as well as two children’s books. His poems have been translated into seven languages. Butkus is the author of more than two hundred art and publication initiatives.
His second poetry book "Lakeland" was published in 2020.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Photo by Tomas S. Butkus

Poems from the poetry collection “Lakeland”

 

 

Aquarium By The River

we don’t have to wade into the river
to take mouthfuls
of blue

so blindingly distant
belonging to the time

when water was vision

 

 

Mingė's Poem

no one sits in the barge any longer
just rampant
motors of arthropoda
tapping at the window-sill of a grocery

spiders
picking up bottles

 

 

He Makes That Which is Not

he makes
he makes that which is not

he makes that which is not
what emerges from mist

scattering ashes
dragging the forest bank along the lake
with the moon

he travels by hot air balloons
filled with the gas
coloured by our blood

he is closer than the world
left now and then
we look into the bonfire - someone's
light there, it's going out

he does that which is not
what comes from a blank page
and the love, and death
and home

he hears the fearful nearness
of flying creatures
which block my ears

he hears what’s not
which i don’t notice
while sitting beyond the grass

eating the stranger’s hair
and looking into the bowels of evening, luminous
as something slowly edging in there
(which is not)

 

 

titmouse

I wanted God to fuck me
tenderly –
God was supposed to come
through the mouth
through mind
spilling quietly
into the cavity
of sky
into which all things
flow –
the sun
the clouds
trees and grasses
that ruffle
and stretch
grow hard
and burn out
touched by lightning –
now I fuck myself
into deaf night
ringing
with the weed-covered boreholes of wells
with buckets and dishes
in slop-basins
in shards of snow
at the bottom of Labanoro Lake
mute and intoxicated –
a dead titmouse
thaat flew into this white emptiness
through a broken window
through a cavity of
quashed words
through the mind
soft as bread
I crumble it
and the bird’s
glance crumbles
along with
this night
this world
this god

 

Tomas S Butkus 03Photo by Tomas S. Butkus

 

 

jack

so what are these seas?
these forests?
these birds and beasts?
this small
injured
voice?
who now owns these
trembling hands?
whose are these moose
and moles?
whose these mushrooms?
whose black sky
pastures black clouds?
like ashes
like tin
like stairwells –
at whom is jack shooting
this butcher
with blue eyes?
bullets that cannot lie
harrow the just
judged by their own
deaths –

whose deaths are these?
whose eyes?
whose bullets?
they are unplugged by the network
which flows through dyke walls
and sinks our souls
back down
into the god of life –
into sleep

 

 

the minister’s box

the jewish quarter
german street
russian soldiers wipe their shoes
in the dust
this place is now
an open dream
strangers rest
in it’s abode
this place is now
foreign
to the locals who come from the countryside
and to the minister
tying the gordian knot
on his neck –
in the bedroom
his woman
and the first night
is their first secret –
he and she –
is this our home?
I don’t know I answer
it is a night
as if bodies danced
on the table in the kitchen
as if a friend were sleeping in the bath
and on the corner of the balcony
a poet taking aim at himself
with a stolen weapon
with a chambered shot
and an empty clip
the possibility of healing this emptiness
to live in it anew
this home of dreams
and to get inside
a velour box with fur
with a time machine’s brake pedal

 

 

divine containers

                      “His mother was Christ.”
                                     – Albert Camus

my mother is Christ
my father is a PC
he said that we came
just recently from far away
our god is pagan
on the pulpit from the cross
with a red star
on his forehead
and then from the sky
swastikas began
to dance
and everything turned
to nothing –
this island
this state
this city
made-up names
and things

he spoke in the
dockyards
in the bay of the megacity
at the bottom of the sea
above columns of piles
above naves
whose spaces
contain millions of containers
millions
of dreams –
he repeated – this day
and evening – war
these nights
and morning –
the last person
locked up

that’s how everything
repeats
slowly
until it’s gone –

Supermarket
Mass

at the heart of istanbul
in hagia sophia square
I heard a muezzin’s
sermon
space threaded by a laser
a voice
spreading from
courtyard
trash bins

I thought,
so this is God
revealed in sound

this island
this state
this city
in the stairwell of public housing barracks
locked
in the trash chute’s aorta

and I feel how everything
grows quiet
and how
His elevator rises
deeply from on high –

His
special ops soldier
overturns the market
tables
and boxes
and stands

and people repeat
in the church’s clearing

having broken in
through the gates of troy

 

 

North Isle. In the West Bank

toy lead soldiers are being poured out
milk-white toy lead soldiers are pouring down
doves use them to water
our days buried in
cool concrete rue-gardens
laid down in the light’s night
heads to the north
faces to the west
bound eyes
stabbed hands

let it be
bluish flames from mount olive
meets them
the anger of the indifferent meets them
and the cruelty of the disillusioned
also thousands of those
engaged in what will be done
by their hands
by their eyes

they will repeat
let it be
bluish lava of the dead sea
fills our heads
let it be your faces and thoughts
you wear
worn out in revenge

and in the west bank
north isle will rise

 

Tomas S Butkus 04Photo by Albinas Stubra

 

 

***

they are loading the night
and taking it away on steel boats
over the unsinkable sea
and the moon is singing
with a yellow scythe
ripples all around –
not far not close
on the cast-iron shore
the city is washed out pale
the people all asleep
and streets and squares have grown quiet
in the mobile cranes of words
in the ship-holds of poems
in a baltic mouth breathing
the northern lights’ cold

 

 

Aquarium By the River translated by Kerry Shawn Keys and Edgaras Platelis; Mingė Poem translated by author, He Makes That Which is Not and North Isle. In the West Bank translated by Edgaras Platelis and Jake MB Levin; titmouse, jack, the minister’s box, divine containers and they are loading the night… translated by Rimas Uzgiris

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