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Ieva Toleikytė (b. 1989 Vilnius) – writer and translator of Danish literature. After completing a degree in Scandinavian studies from 2015-2018 she taught Danish language, Scandinavian literature and literary theory at Vilnius University. Since 2017 she has been volunteering at Angel of Hope childrens' day centre. Her literary debut was a collection of short stories Mustard House in 2009. This poem is from her second book, Slippery Red Palace (2020).

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reflections on belonging

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Graphic Novels

Raimondas Martinėnas, The Gardens of Eden, 2002-2005. Front the MO Museum collection

A selection of poems from Ieva Toleikytė's second book, Slippery Red Palace (2020).

 

 

* * *

I saw a massive stump in Sereikiškės Park
shining petrol blue
blemished by brown slug trails
they were enamoured, had gone mad
crawling circles on its soft surface
around that stump sprouted tiny little mushroom
colonies: honey fungus erupting before my eyes
I was surprised no one had gathered
by that magical stump in the bottom of Sereikiškės Park
no one noticed the mysterious spectacle, the slow-motion of shimmering slugs
I recalled how you love to talk about corpses
the various ways to use them, to hide them
it seems that at one time you'd wanted to be cremated
but now you're at a loss, no longer know what to do—
what a shame
for all those caterpillars and worms
to take away their pleasure, their ability to live
drowning in the sopping juices of a rotting corpse
giddy from the deliciousness, the abundance
intoxicated, flourishing in the dark underground, phosphorescent
you befriend the things that give me the creeps
and as the older, more experienced one
you comfort and protect
your body white, gentle, warm

 

 

A Personal Matter

Travelling on a night train in January
Marrakesh-Tangiers in a coupe with bunks
our blue eyes rejoiced: bunks! warmth
surging through the rails into all my cells
I finished reading Kenzaburō Ōe's A Personal Matter
in my sleep I startled from the thought
of the world collapsing
awoke and nervously packed my things
(what if I didn't manage to climb out in time and lost you, never
to meet again)

there was no voice to tell me where and when
weet soft blood spilled from my nose
I stood by the window tipping my head back
it was dark and gathering in the silence
were grass-green and azure cabbage caterpillars
later we'd see them again
while walking through the meadows and middens
through perishing blocks of flats and cow pastures
my muscles will ache and I'll remember what it means to dream
those gentle slow days
smeared in unctuous dreams

 

 

One visitor to the Glyptotek

When I met the cyclops
I thought I no longer needed to fear him
I'd seen Redon’s interpretation—
a woman lying amidst foaming pink moss
and a creature as large as a mountain range:
his intoxicating eye
looking at her, or more correctly, looking at the gallery visitors

though foreign and scary
he looked almost innocent—
as though he'd like to make friends, would be childishly curious

I believed it was better to caress fear
rather than run from it

for on the portico of the altar at Delphi
were carved these words:
"Know thyself”

But when I met the cyclopes
he appeared to me as a former flame
voluptuous lips and small chubby hands
that sad smelted-steel gaze that made your skin crawl
he specialized in psychoanalysis
his eye saw clear through me: I couldn't resist him
but I did

for some reason no one mentioned that knowing thyself
was so directly connected with disillusionment
with a strange loving of disappointment

apparently, poetry has to destroy all
self-illusions, all cliches, has to tear apart the thick sticky
cobwebs where He has settled:
a spider overgrown in black bristles limbs sharp as
needles, in whose dark snout you can just barely make out a smile
(what it means is another question entirely)

apparently, poetry...

but nonsense, as we all well know:
the only way to escape alive, to get out of this cave
is flat against the belly of a sheep

 

 

* * *

I know what stagnant water means:
stench, shame and hopelessness

in forgotten mines, in metal turbines
lakes that can no longer move

but the worst is that sticky, dirty
like diluted milk
in a basin with a clogged drain
it has no poetry, only time
quietly bearing witness:
you've let yourself go, no longer remember
when or why

on the other hand, stagnant water
can also spawn life
horrible (non-human) creatures
can create invisible megapoli
that will develop into single-celled organisms
and then one morning will birth
a radiant, round, hardened-water
baby
which will look just like a real one, but won't be

(oh that scream: Aaaahhrhahhrrhahrhhha! Aaaaaahhhaahhhrhaaha!)

standing water can bloom
I won't lie, it can breed diseases
and other intangible things
that will touch everyone

 

 

At the Musée de Cluny

A vertical crystal coffin
housing a two-meter-long horn,
brought out from a church treasury somewhere—

ceremonial proof of the existence of unicorns

though, as a conceited 21st century person,
I knew it was a narwhal tusk
this didn’t lessen its effect:
a ridged, bone grey ocean spear
sharp point
clearly designed for battle

there I met a pious soul straight from the Middle Ages

our sentence was the same: death
to things, molecules, feelings and all the rest
only I was promised more journeys

even before death my colourful knapsack, Keds,
violet velvet skirt, my other things and nothings
will go off to charities (no one will eat leather goods during a famine)
or will slowly change colour in landfills
maybe by some waterway a little scrap of my trash will reach a tropical island
settle blasphemously
in a narwhal's stomach

I guess these banal details
help avoid thinking about the essence—
a thinking shaped by google and facebook

but maybe in that moment I experienced the same
blessed fear, the same aesthetic capitulation
as that soul from the Middle Ages,
when I too laid eyes on this magical horn
capable of cleansing poisoned black rivers
capable of impaling, piercing your cherished
exhausted body—
turning you into meat

it would be fair if afterwards,
someone ate me

 

 

* * *

Found at the edges of forests or in clearings on the flowers of various plants and on tree trunks or hollows. They smell of pitch. (Wikipedia)

I noticed that I sometimes stop breathing
yesterday (for hours) I was translating a film about eating insects
and I'd sense that I was no longer breathing, I'd slowly take a deep breath
and continue to translate, this repeated over and over

those insects and larvae bewitch me
I understood why they are so disgusting,
they wriggle, there are so many of them, they often feed on manure, rose nectar
all sorts of rotten stuff, but in the pan they begin to wiggle
come alive in the heat, move and whisper
in other words, they're so full of life

we are used to corpses and abstractions: shimmering pink
fillets, colourless blue chicken quarters, heart-red ground meat
having never seen mosses, silvery elk-horned lichens and streams
where creatures skate on stick-thin legs,
in English they're called Jesus bugs,
we are used to eating corpses that will never move
on our plates
why is this any less horrifying
than resurrection, transformation, a miracle

 

 

I want to travel

Remember the day
When I left home to buy some food
Myself in that painful February mood
I did what I could

                          
Sibylle Baier

I saw a video on Facebook made by environmental activists:
a whale swam to the shore and didn't want to leave
people would pull it deeper into the sea—
it would swim out onto the sand

in the end they shot it so it wouldn't suffer

during the autopsy they found 28 plastic bags
that its stomach couldn't digest
people washed and flattened the bags
then filmed them carefully laid out on the ground
to make the digital people shudder
(you could still make out several company logos)

but in actuality I melted with amazement:
to think that in the Atlantic ocean
in an enormous mollusk and seaweed
encrusted whale's stomach travels
a dismal bag from a shopping centre
that I used one day to carry home food or clothes

useless, hard to swallow, meaningless
very slowly and patiently
inviting death

in the Atlantic ocean…

if I could find a way to imagine that bag
it would be almost the same
as understanding infinity

 

 

 

Translated by Medeinė Tribinevičius

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