Kerry Shawn Keys minibio

“I don’t know who I am, but I have many names and live in Vilnius,” says Kerry Shawn Keys, an American living in Lithuania of nineteen years now. He is a human orchestra: translator, poet, prose writer, author of children’s books, dramatist. Kerry has already become part of the Vilnius landscape and culture. The poet Sigitas Geda said about him, “by his presence and participation in the everyday life of Lithuanian poetry, he has made us stronger as well.” Kerry, though, calls himself an “outsider”, and outsiders are generally better at seeing certain things than locals or those ensconced in everyday life, in the “system”. A view from the side is always interesting, and with that in mind, the Vilnius Review has decided to begin publishing Kerry’s short, witty essays about Lithuania and Lithuanians. So, here, each month you will find "A Palmer's Chronicle".

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reflections on belonging

Graphic Novels

Photo by Dainius Dirgėla

By Kerry Shawn Keys


It’s been ages since I first visited the shore of the bay. The sand dunes are resplendent. I think some of my earliest memories are from here. Again, I feel the soft surf as much as I see it, lapping the sand, my toes. I don’t remember the amber then. It’s something I look for now. I remember my mother, or her flesh anyway, cooling me from the hot sun, her voice drying me and licking me clean of the rough sand and the goose pimples that covered me when the sun was covered by clouds and the seabreeze was windy and dark. Not much more that I remember, but these are my earliest memories, and if I squeeze my brain a bit more, and concentrate, I think I remember a ball or a balloon in my lap, and a bright slivery glistening stone caressed and clenched and unclenched in my fingers. I think it was a pebble like this one in my pocket, seeing so many pebbles here now, and knowing how even today I enjoy picking up a few and fondling them between my fingers.

It’s not really a bay. I call it a bay because usually it is so calm and not at all similar to the rough seas and oceans where I’ve passed so much time since my days here with my mother. Though I visit here every few years whenever possible. It’s a sea, that’s what it is. A seashore. And not far away is the lagoon, which is really more like a bay. And this is the spit in between.

I don’t remember my father being here. Maybe he was, or for sure he was according to my mother. Was? Was here I mean. With me. Maybe he was the one who put the ball in my lap. I don’t suppose it was a balloon. The wind would have whisked a balloon away in too short a time for the memory of a balloon on my lap to be so strong,

and I don’t have any memory of crying, crawling after a wind-tossed balloon, abandoned.

No, I don’t feel abandoned even now. Not by my father since I don’t remember him. Not by my mother since she seems a part of my flesh, especially when I am here sitting on the beach, my legs stretched out into the surf, my hands buried behind me in the cool sand, and the sun an orange ball on the horizon.

I don’t think I would come here anymore if I couldn’t come at evening and watch the sun going down, my slow gaze taking in the pink and orange feathers of sunlight, the

green-dark gloom of the sea beneath, and sometimes a sail on the horizon in between. It’s cool in the evening, and often cold because a wind comes up at that time, but the custom of coming here and sitting in the surf has made me almost inured to feeling little more than a shiver. And I feel my mother is here with me, as though her flesh were keeping me warm from the shiver of the water. The sun’s hot fingers don’t scorch me like before,

now that I’m older, tanned from so many suns, and the sun in the evening is a small ball held in its own faint light out over the water and then suddenly vanishing behind clouds or down somewhere I can’t see or imagine.

At times, looking out over the bay and seeing the sail – not the same sail each time as one sees the sun, but the sail nonetheless – and not a sail, I imagine my father’s

maybe there on that ship. I imagine one time when I am here, half of my body in the surf and half out, that the ship will come a little too close to the shore and suddenly be washed by the tide almost to my feet. Looming there in the dark in the moonlight, the moon having just taken over the duties of the sun. I won’t be afraid at all. I’ll just crawl up to my feet and get on board and hand him the silvery glistening pebble that my mother gave me years ago, saving it from when I was a baby on the beach. He’ll nod and speak to my mother, not me, thinking I’m her because I suppose I am. The surf will pick up and knock the ship loose from the sandy shoal, and we’ll be heading in the direction where the sun like a ball of yarn unraveled over the rim of the world. I’ll take a furtive look back to the sandy beach, and see a little baby there all alone, and then a mauve and balmy mist will envelop all of us in the thickest of clouds.





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