Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Iowa Review, Hudson Review, The Poetry Review (UK) and other journals. His first collection of poems, North of Paradise, was published by Kelsay Books (2019). A collection of his poetry was also published in Lithuanian translation by Kauko laiptai (2019). He is translator of Caravan Lullabies by Ilzė Butkutė (A Midsummer Night's Press), Then What by Gintaras Grajauskas (Bloodaxe), Now I Understand by Marius Burokas (Parthian), The Moon is a Pill by Aušra Kaziliūnaitė (Parthian), and Vagabond Sun by Judita Vaičiūnaitė (Shearsman). Uzgiris has contributed significantly as editor and translator to two anthologies: How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets (Lithuanian Culture Institute), and New Baltic Poets (Parthian). He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, and the Poetry Spring 2016 Award for translations of Lithuanian poetry into other languages, he teaches translation at Vilnius University.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Monika Furmana, Exits, 2012. 165 x 128


New Worlds

The Red Army arrived in heavy armor,
civilizing adjacent lands with factories and machines
that sprouted like mushrooms in wet woods.
Their tongue took root and rang in a new world.

Chingachcook and Uncas withdrew
to the mytho-poetical heart of the swamp.
Their corner of earth, small as a mouse,
had suffered more plagues than Egypt.

No deerslayer came to their aid. Collaborators
hid under eaves. The natives were raked like lice
from the trees. Some fled a continent in flames,
crossing a wash of febrile waves, disembarking

in a newer world where fathers read Fenimore Cooper
to their sons who ran free through wild woods in play:
I’ll be Uncas, you Chingachcook, don’t shoot
the redcoat until you see the whites of his eyes.

This is how the world ends: muddled, scarred.
A rock escarpment on the path bore witness
in Trilobitic detail to how empires crumble
almost as soon as they are made: Gaia invicta.


Sand Piled High

We were bred on castles and knights,
reading in the pregnant dark – not quite fantasy –
but a past that loomed like a feverish dream.
Sick with nostalgia, our parents passed it on to us.
And now I set my feet below this castle’s stunted knob,
each day to walk to work or lull my child to sleep
in the park, at its feet. Will this pilgrimage give us peace?
Last summer, on a distant beach, we stacked wet sand
on more wet sand and topped our confection
with sea-weed. Then we watched the waves
level our glory to a blank. More armies have razed
this capital than Rome, Jerusalem, and Troy.
Napoleon wanted to carry Saint Ann’s church
back to France on the palm of his hand. Instead,
they found the bones of his soldiers buried here
while replacing a cracked Red Army base
with shiny flats, smartly down the road from a mall.
And every day, my son and I walk through grey husks
of Soviet fantasies on our way to the baroque and medieval
hive nestled next to the castle hill on which a duke
once dreamed a howling, iron wolf. I heard it’s call
even huddled under New World firs, watching quaking
aspen leaves, learning the robin’s song. I tracked raccoons
along the Mohawk River as it poured itself
into the Hudson’s history, to be subsumed.
There has been a great transmigration of souls.
And here we are. A nation born again. The Neris
flows swiftly by my eyes while I feel the thunder
of Atlantic waves washing our castles down.
Seagulls squawk like souls unmoored in dreams.
The sand is fine and glitters. The Kennedy Compound
glows in late light like a vanitas. Saint Andrew’s-by-the-Sea
sits atop its salient – a castle that feeds on our final hope:
that this not be the last goodbye, not for this boy
at my feet, nor this song I sing to him for sleep, our speech.


Under Vilnius

–Two mass graves were recently found at construction sites
in Vilnius: bones of Napolean’s soldiers who died retreating
from Moscow, and bones of Jewish civilians murdered during
the German occupation of WWII.

April slinks into the city
breeding unknown bones

that give themselves away
like the breathing of the land.

Foundations lose stability
as builders slit old veins.

Backhoes break through to face
the faceless ancestors (of whom?)

mottled in the sun’s soft eye.
Shivelight falls like tracers

through bursting boughs of spring.
The maples run their sap in secret

while roots tap feet down deep
not knowing what they touch.

This light has no grammar
to tell us who we are.

We look and look and look away
like lovers on a strand

wandering down a moon-road
that whitens the murmuring sea.

But progress turns nourishing night
into drab day, and the sun-scald

of reflection burns our eyes.
We dig our past like moles,

with dreams, but whose bones
are these that wait to wake?


Snow melt on the eaves
churling into gutters, falls –
and the butt end of the town
spreads through shark-skin fog
towards half-hidden hills.
Belarus lies behind the veil
like a dying auroch blinking
in a primeval swamp. Lithuania
hangs at land’s edge. Dreaming.
Black rooks stoop in birches
watching wet crystals dapple
a concrete sky. This is where
the world’s rusty wheels moan,
exuding the scents of burnt oil,
gunpowder, blood, and musk.



The day does not bring much
to the cobblestoned street adrift
in the plaid weave of an Old Town
of the east. Europe has been here
before, the long summer sun
dragging its glorious tail
across the faces of antique clocks
that just don’t care to look. Time
is neither essence nor money
but measure – and it does run.
I know, we’ve been here before.
Others have – so many undone
now under the stones. Plain stones
like the gravestones of paupers
now carved with the runes of time.
Today was a slow day, a slug,
and it’s already eaten its leaf.
So speak, soul. Listen. The street
creaks under the weight of a rover.
Car horns, cries, then quiet again.


Eppur Si Muove

–Don’t get off the boat.
               Chef, Apocalypse Now

The swiftness of the Neris belies
the flatness of the earth on which it feeds.
Reflections run like images
on a television screen. My infant son
likes to watch them both, but differently.
Why can’t we walk on water –
he seems to say, with an inquisitive, ay?
And points his arm across... If Jesus
walked across our simulacrum stream
would any of us be amazed? I teach him
to resist temptation by throwing a stone
and watching it drown. The waters now
are so polluted that fishing is a waste.
Where would Jesus find his friends these days?
The bells of St. Paul’s peal on the far shore.
My son keeps looking at the white bridge
as if it were a mythological monster
or a miracle made by Man. It’s just a bridge,
I tell him. I’m just a man. These flickerings
are just images on the cave wall, and the vision
you have of me will pass as well in dream.
Πάντα ῥεῖ, said Heraclitus. What remains
is abstraction. Let me not be that. Hold
on to something. See that log? Don’t let go.


Stealing Trees

Leaves and loam gave way to spade
that shot through soft and sandy soil
with a crunch. Arm and boot pushed down,
torqueing metal up – a sucking sound.
Repeated, the circle was completed,
and the tree began to budge. Cars like bees
on the other side of a screen of trees:
a hundred yards of scrub pine and white oak,
a gridiron of forest along Cape Route 6.
We took the Juniperus Virginiana young,
to fence off our neighbors because we knew
good fences make good neighbors.

But there are times when no fence is fit,
and there is only so much you can mend.
My father’s father also planted trees – he
watched a stretch of woods outside Vilnius
until the Red Army came, and then became
a manager of mysterious men: begrimed
fays of freedom, fighting occupation while
hunted like foxes on a country estate.
Ignas gave them food, gear, information –
an officer from an independent Lithuania,
he knew the drill and stood on the side of home.
But there are times when one just has to run.

We wrapped the snaking roots in burlap,
like common thieves with bags of loot,
and dragged the sapling to our van. We stole
from public land, like a corporation,
we privatized public wealth. Not Reds.
No, but would anyone miss these trees
growing vainly in the shade of siblings?
I wonder too: did anyone miss my grandfather
when he left his forest brothers behind,
uprooted his family and replanted them here?
No one is left to tell us. But our neighbors,
here as there, are back where they belong.

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