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Alvydas Šlepikas (b. 1966) is a writer who lives in Vilnius. Šlepikas writes prose, poetry, and plays. His most known work is the novel Mano vardas – Marytė, which has been translated into more than ten languages. Alvydas Šlepikas is the recipient of various foreign and national literary prizes, most notably the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts. Last year A. Šlepikas published a collection of short stories titled Namas anapus upės: įvairių laikų istorijos, which was listed by the Intitute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore among the Most Creative Books of 2023 and the Top Five Best Books of 2023.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Saulius Paukštys, Animal With the Red Belly, 1990. From the MO Museum collection.

From the selected poetry book “My Father Is Fishing”

 

 

Doll

in labyrinths of evening sky my soul gets lost
in the blind eyes of heaven
in the bottomless
rifts of consciousness

distant thunder
the autumnal                             hair
god                                opens
time                         to dead-ends
         sleep the stilled breath
                    of a child
with orange ribbons in her hair a mother
with a basket of oranges       forbidden strawberries
a snail climbing mountains a giant snail dragging
a stone defensive tower dragging a giant sheep
by a leash                                   scintillating
on the pale map of childhood’s skin
rising out of oblivion forgotten
almost a death               a doll
fluttering artificial lashes
fake slow wings
lungs filled with cellar’s mustiness
quicklime quicklime and phonograph music
almost from the other side almost from life

 

Karoliniškės Elegy

Having swilled poetry
down to the dregs
he stared with grey, watery eyes –
above angular multi-story boxes,
hollow monuments stuffed with
dying fish –
clouds, fog, fatigue.

there should be something more significant –
some stain on which to fix the gaze –
in which to find a barely discernible silhouette,
a shadow, appearing for a moment
in every etching, fresco, canvas
in every stone, every animal’s footprint.

His fingers have sucked up fragrant
typographic lead,
have wrinkled carbonated manuscript paper,
fluttered above unmoving cement floors
penetrated by the x-rays of solitude.

There should be, there should be much more –
some non-synthetic element
humid and warm and alive –
which always seeps through the nestled leaves of books,
which penetrates the husks of things,
spills from forgotten photographs, blunted knives –
which is always now.

 

I Forgot To Take My Umbrella

Mr. Rain was everywhere. He rained water on my hair.
These were my roots, changing color, changing again. Grey.
Rain and hoarfrost.

Birds retreat to the horizon.
He closes his eyes. Radiant windows recede. Their light is sleep.
The river runs slow. A mother’s road. He is there. He is not there.

Give me back my hands. Give me back the fields and how they tremble.
Skylark, skylark, the wind is with you. Sleep. And sails. And light.

 

Children

Damn. How they sleep,
Sleeping as if
Not blood –
But peace! –
Ran through their veins.

 

Fear

I can hardly remember his name
a machine-gun spit it out
and its metal letters
rang
through the bars of my chest
the name like a crow
above a black forest
where I am young as my father
singing partisan songs
where I am so young
like my father’s mother at the pond
mourning over my wounded uncle’s clothes
whose bitter scent hung over the dirt floor
so strong the scattered onions couldn’t best it
their yellow peels carried by draughts

my father’s sister is crying
crying on the unmade bed
the door ajar
the backs of drunken riders pulling away
my father’s sister is praying
not knowing to whom to pray
you gaze through the door like a gunsight
just the name that name!

I’ve heard it for twenty years
I’ve smelt it with the evening planes
spearing the red wound of the sun
that reflects
in animal eyes
I listened to Vatican Radio
announce it
quietly whispering in my father’s ear –
but everyone hears a whisper –
and I heard it even more
for twenty years he was my atomic bomb
my father saw himself in the black
depths of the forest
and that name like a crow
lifting silently into the air

 

The Policeman Looks at Market Birds

Just past peas and beans, a dark and hungry
child is sleeping, his hands sprouting.
His sleep is all washed up:
canaries, goldfinches, parrots – birds
meditating in cages, the schedule of crimes
written in dirt. Greetings, policeman, father, brother,
good-day, protector, thief.
Your mouth is twisted, wind in your hands, holding
sleeping beans, Asian palmers,
the liquor of quotidian fatigue.
Fly, blood beetle, counter-top memory,
the bloody Sunday of slaughter steams
from its open mouth. You are calm. Calm. You are calmness.
A sad lady reels along the market walls – the market
countess. She has been walking this way for so long without
responsibilities, having left churches, gods and
the sleeping accomplice of crime. She had the brains
to understand –
nature defends all. Where does hatred live? To where
does it return after a sweaty day? Who hides it? Who fences
its stolen goods? It hangs in everyday serenity,
in the day’s quotidian crucifixion. Sleeping
market birds and wasps, peach nectar.
All that is sadness – here. Even wind. Even I.

 

Translated by Rimas Uzgiris

 

 

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