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Artūras Valionis (b. 1973) is a writer, poet, and translator. He holds a PhD in social sciences and has worked in the diplomatic service of the Republic of Lithuania for 14 years. Artūras Valionis has published five poetry books, one poetry anthology and a book of essays; he has received multiple awards and prizes for his works. Valionis’s poems have been translated into 14 languages. Composers Vaclovas Augustinas and Vytautas V. Barkauskas have written music based on Valionis’s work. His most recent book Lėta medžiagų apykanta (2021, Tyto alba) contains new, previously unpublished poems as well as a selection of works from his previous books – Skrendant nelieka pėdsakų (2003), Apytiksliai trys (2012), Daugiau šviesos į mūsų vartus (2014), Iš natų. Kameriniai kūriniai vienišam balsui (2015), π-moll (2018).

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Photo by Artūras Valionis

Poems from the selected poetry collection “slow tolerance”

Translated by Rimas Uzgiris

 

 

Clean Future

about the time the sun
turns its face to my window
to check out what I’m doing
and (speaking non-poetically)
to fuck with my mind (and feelings, no doubt)
every weekday
late afternoon
a van drives by
maybe a truck

(I am not quick on the take when
it comes to questions of vehicular nature
and more often stare at clouds – no gears, no traction –
only cumulus cirrus baroque…)

the van or truck, white
with Clean Future written in green,
stops by the renovated house
which had just recently been almost a hovel
and now just look at it
curious what it’s like inside
as insides are often more attractive

the people from the renovated building
are also a bit refreshed or fixed up
they toss black bags
of the filthy past
into the van or truck

the van or truck
called Clean Future beeps and backs
up towards the street named Beautiful
it is worth emphasizing
that a clean future moves toward the beautiful

but if it is a Friday
like today
then I have to resign myself to the fact
that there won’t be any possibility
of a clean future all weekend
the clean future only rolls by on workdays
so the black bags
will now lie there as eyesores
for seventy-two whole
hours

 

 

Early Education

When I was a child
before sitting down
in front of black
and white
keys
my grandfather always
told me to
wash my hands

I washed them
because if you
have to
then you have to
and only this morning
a little bit more grown
did I feel
the why of all that

If you have dirty fingers
and run them a couple of times
over the keyboard
with all your heart
how will you tell
the third time
which ones are black
and which ones are white

 Arturas Valionis 03Photo by Artūras Valionis

 

Alpha and Omega

Crossing the Rubicon,
passing the Augean Stables
he returned home, well after
midnight, in silence:
go figure, Sisyphus’ workday
had been cut short.

No one met him
but the scapegoat
munching on
a forbidden apple
while watching
with Medusa’s melancholic stare
the regular flight of Icarus.

He smiled at the sight,
scratching the goat’s
Achilles Heel,
who was then inspired
by the pleasure to bleat
something or other
in Aesopian speech.

He looked in
through the window:
last night’s Pyrrhic victory
had been well-celebrated,
and others now lay
in his Procrustean bed.

So he piled the gifts
brought by the Greeks
in the yard and burned them
with Prometheus’ flame.
Then, stepping into the entry hall,
he opened Pandora’s Box
and withdrew the sword of Damocles.
He brushed off the dust
and strode into the room.

His gaze fell on the sleepers once more.

Then he lifted the sword
and with a sudden stroke
cut right through Ariadne’s Threads
before tossing his weapon away.

He bent down and scooped up
as many of the severed threads
as would fit into his hands.

Closing the door after himself
with the Hand of Fate
he bound it tight
using the Threads
cinching it with
a Gordian Knot.

 Arturas Valionis 04Photo by Artūras Valionis

 

Inventory

the sloshed road

a valley

swings
and cinders
snarled latches

a penumbral mold

olden hinges
the plaster lingers
a plethora of gravel

the hateful hornet

a sieve
my father’s cigarettes

a dissolute puddle, wire cinched

ah, also the odd
bullfinch

so whose is all this?
no one owns it

 

 

Epi sto(la)ry

in the chapter on past tense
of the Spanish language textbook
I furtively peruse
foreign personal letters

José from Badalona
writes to María González
to tell her how much he misses her
and sends kisses
it’s been a wonderful trip
he saw many interesting things
and met the necessary people
yesterday
he was travelling around the district
and got almost everything done
that he had planned
so he bought a ticket home
for Wednesday

and although he didn’t write this
because he had to use as many
different examples of past-tenses as possible
you could read between the lines
that when he gets home
they will do well together

 

 

The Blues about How There Ain’t No Way for the Blues To Be

Copper has become insanely expensive, the hoodlums
Have stolen all they could reach, took it all
To the scrap yards long ago,
And whiskey is now poured into plastic bottles:
Two hundred milliliters each,
Two hundred milliliters, I’m telling you,
And in plastic

So how am I going to sing
Of rain drops
Clanging on the copper window sill,
And of whiskey bottles rolling on the floor
Clinking like the masts of sailboats
Playing with the wind
With no regard for the law

What am I going to sing about
When there is no order to the world:
Raindrops politely seep into wood,
And bottles spin in circles, unopened
Colliding softly like yoghurt containers –
Whop whop – you can just go nuts

Even my woman comes home every evening.
My woman comes home every evening,
Comes every evening
At half-past five, more or less, depending
On traffic, home,
And her eyes flash when she sees me –
She drapes her arms over my shoulders
And says, Oh, you.
So at least there’s that.

 Arturas Valionis 05Photo by Artūras Valionis

 

Rondo

the earth steeped in the measure of rain thinks with both hemispheres
you can only take in what lies within the sweep of your eyes
auxiliary measures are worn out in the fog by rust

the veins of the moon pop out and arrhythmically twitch

when the deserts spread and expand in mouths
when the frozen hedge’s scream is trimmed
with fresh shears
and train tracks are slicked with oil
the nights gather their dark implements
and abandon our sand boxes
stealing away with their heads lowered
dragging the glove of dusk on a leash
then the four-abreast pier pales in shame for its nakedness
rough and unshaven it ages right before our eyes

the rushes its psychoanalysts say the rushes will soothe you
pulloutthesplinters
pulloutthesplinters
pulloutthesplinters

and the water seethes as if someone
were tickling its feet

*

i’m a drummer who can’t hold a rhythm

i’m a singer wandering between keys
i’m a dutiful and attentive listener
i listen and i force myself to hear

i hear how goodflowers beat against weeds
break through and hatch through their shell

now a few seconds of eternal sleep

shadows nervously stir in sheds
the sun fries grass for lunch
the stones of the work day shimmy with the hum of the arrows of silence
and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand does

naked wires hang in the air
i have almost stopped them from breathing
smoke goes sour in chimneys now is the time of tar

dust smells of strawberries and milk
just as actual interminable deceptive dust should smell
grey hair bathes itself in that same dust
just as actual terminable grey hair should

*

fern fronds
lured closer by a ray
lean in to taste
what is secretly proffered
burning their lips with boiling water

vocal chords soak into primer
their pink horsehairs become disheveled
the wind tosses the spent shells of words

then it becomes clear what the difference is
between flatland and hilly terrain

*

the titmouse sneaks up
and steals the piece of fat set out for it
retreating backwards

time runs backwards

three
two
one

snap! go three violin strings of dawn
the remaining one has nothing to be in tune with

the monochrome medicinal shadow cream
smoothes out the potholes at the side of the road
like road crew scattering salt onto the asphalt’s wounds
from a freshly purchased new-fangled gadget
with carefully measured doses

frost holds tight to the country’s eaves

but defrosted moths
those second-hands of dust
intend to chew into clothes and linen
the preposition here is important

passers-by ski by
and mark their tickets
in the composters of dusk
they mark them twice just in case
for anything can happen after two tries

they may even stay on their feet

*

a mixed choir of evergreens
stands untrimmed and ungrazed
the quickly rising dough of deciduous verdure
synchronically cleans
the heavy and bitter air

cockchafers born in test tubes
assiduously work the glowworm’s field

the concrete and tangible sweaty scent
of rotting earth recedes
until the horizon’s menstruations expropriate the cropland
and the worms of darkness gather the dividends

the fortuitous belly of a bird fills up
with glowworms and glows while
heart valves flutter in nocturnal races
and a phosphorescent ball rolling through piercing dampness
inflames its bladder and then shrinks

a ball can be lost just like that

assumptions breed consequences as soon as
the reins are dropped
shadows square off
one on one

*

the woodpecker’s scalpel opens the foliage’s brains
it syncopates the membrane’s folds
as the stork nest violently collapses
a crash entirely lacking institutional approval

on earth as it is in heaven

frightened by the blow
an oscillation of black midges
wraps itself into a cocoon
and with one sudden move
it pins day flat on its back

 Arturas Valionis 06Photo by Artūras Valionis

 

 

 

 

 

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