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Greta Ambrazaitė (b. 1993 in Vilnius) is a poet, editor, musician, translator, and publisher. She holds an MA in Literary Anthropology and Culture from Vilnius University. Her second poetry book, ADELA, appeared in 2022.

Ambrazaitė's debut poetry collection Fragile Things (Trapūs daiktai, 2018) earned the Young Yotvingian Prize as a best young poet’s book and was announced as the 2018 Poetry Book of the Year. She was awarded the Young Artist’s Prize by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture in 2019. Her poems have been translated into several foreign languages.

Ambrazaitė has translated poems by such poets as  Borges, Cortázar, and Pizarnik and edited the anthology of young Georgian poets Aidintys/ექო  published in 2021.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Saulius Paukštys, The Garment, 1996, 36 x 27 cm. From the MO Museum collection

Poems from the poetry book “Adela”

Translated by Rimas Uzgiris

 

 

How I Gazed at My Grandmother’s Hands

 

Hands are inherited with the clay of garden beds under the nails, with swollen hillocks of joints, with invisible foundations sinking under the years, growing moldy in jars of cherry preserves

Hands are inherited with a conductor’s muscle memory, inferred from the grace of palms, as if every bone were spurred to dance by a hammer’s fall, a girl’s four-voiced choir

Hands are inherited with unsigned papers, refusals, Article 58 of the penal code, a door slammed shut, the biological laboratory locked, the house taken away

Hands are inherited with openwork tablecloths, hot water and a teacher’s room, with the goodness of the world and the drawn-out co-mingling of dregs, with the patrician breath of cabinet dust, all that will never change

Hands are inherited with hope chests of fabric and libraries up to the ceilings, with “Where will they put all that junk? Give it up to the paper mill in exchange for some emery paper.”

Hands are inherited with spare keys buried under the rock in the greenhouse used to turn cabbage sour (perched nearby on the bucket you’ll find a clairvoyant crow inherited like sour apples and pared down thoughts)

Hands are inherited with a plucked lilac branch, with rings from the nameless finger, with sun-spots, blueberry brooches, chess pieces, afghans, beetles, herbal soup, a child’s cosmos that cowers in its cradle, wanting to be rocked again

 

 

Adela Różewicz

 

Adela Różewicz leaves a package
of bones outside the front door
on a day like this Adela
Różewicz gathers tobacco leaves

tilting her head back Adela
dismantles the stadium of lights
and the temporary viceroy of earth
becomes the almighty’s keeper

Adela does not bat an eye
in her search for baneful signs
but today Różewicz gazes
annoyingly over my shoulder

she has lived for a hundred years now
as name and surname frozen in sound
in the way that the sputterings of a fish
are like the static of an old-time radio

in the way that the earth’s crust steams
with the sound of hissing meteors
Adela Różewicz pricks her finger
stringing a rosary of little skulls

a steel splinter under the nail
the hot anesthetizing syringe
the acids of cancer melt
the body’s fibrous weave

Adela Różewicz rises above
the operating table
while her IV of memory
drips through my bellybutton

Adela slides down the bannisters
of nerves into a fifth generation tunnel
that ends here outside the doors
where tobacco smolders off to the side

in the green margins of shrubbery
Adela Różewicz now rests
and even if the first words can be found:
            Mam dwadzieścia cztery lata
the following line: ocalałem / prowadzony na rzeź [1]
refuses to be written down

no fruit rises to breathe
from the rosewater that runs away

 

 

Monk

 

Greta Ambrazaite Adela 04

                        approaching the confessional
                    I fear the emotional charge: my god
                how they speak and the rapacious symbols
              that rob me of all lucid thought, for in the end
           everything I said to you remains unreal and even
        turns into something second-rate: something is wrong
       with the prayer
     I would like to understand so much more about you but
  didn’t you let me know that I’m            simply a good person
   though sometimes I wonder if                             goodness
    couldn’t become the greatest evil or even a noir criminal
       his                                  story
          litera                      ture      counter       Greta Ambrazaite Adela 03        feit
                                           betrayal                             god
               something is wrong          with the prayer
                 as if speech choked the field of thought
                     and everything falls into its power
                     because language is more rational
                      than mathematics more rational
                    than                                          music
                            does language
                                                    surrender
                               to intimacy
                                                        I do
                                        not know

 

 

Name

 

            for my daughter

I imagine you not like a growing thread
putting on flesh until the X-rays pick it up,
and not like a little red fish in a crystal bowl –

can it be that you’re a miracle (I always hear this word),
not a real one, but as if, as if it were a question of belief

the belief or knowledge that you are an independent
heart’s pulse, viscous dust quickened by lightning

it’s not for nothing that we are named after cycles, after
wild grasses and trees (that which turns in a circle, repeats,
returning without purpose, surpassing all miracles) –

girl’s names of rue and bird-cherry, chamomile, fir and linden,
of storms and mists, mornings, dawns and sunshine

a flash of greening leaves and a sun-truth –
the even flow of reality on the other side of miracles

 

 

Misericordia, or Mercy

 

Once when I passed through the Gates of Dawn
the blades of memory flashed with a childhood
dagger in the shape of a cross

my father’s toy dagger came from a kiosk
and was similar to a real medieval misericordia
used to put the dying out of their misery

his dagger was covered
with thick layers of myth

my father once, swishing the blade before my eyes,
explained how the Templars used such a knife:
they stick it in the solar plexus and break it off –
no one would even know what lies under your belly’s skin

but actions were more important to me than words
and the right to empathize, the right to forgive

it’s strange how much misery
we were made to feel
watching pseudo-historical films
about da Vinci and the Grail

and how limpidly the light reflects
off the plaque on The Gates of Dawn which says
MATER MISERICORDIÆ

 

 

Untitled

 

One summer, my grandfather was teaching my cousin and I a new game – how to skip stones. My older cousin’s stones would ricochet off the water’s surface for several skips. I would lose every round because mine would only skip once or twice at best, usually sinking without a single jump. According to my grandfather, the number of times your stone skips equals the number of Jews you shot. My childhood friends remember many similar such equations.

*

a clean slate, thoughts like still water,
breaks when someone begins to write

just pluck feathers and scour the sun from your palms
wash, scrub, until the crayon snaps in your hand

put their names in plaster and teach me to count
how much? one Rachel two Michael three Sara

now they fiddle in films, an emetic catharsis
tickling the sensitive throats of viewers with their bows

*

sometimes Yehuda knocks on the bunker of my breast
bouncing a ball off the wall, asking me to play

once, Yehuda sank under the parquet of gray water
struck by my stone, sinking to the bottom

remind him, Grandfather, of the parallel between heart and stone

*

the shimmering lake ripples rhythmically
at an even frequency

a drowned signalman hits the electrical switch
and you accidentally decipher a madman’s old song

            drop by drop as they say
            drop by sweaty drop
            drop by bloody drop
            drops on Rothko’s canvas

            birds arrhythmically cheep
            like the arrhythmical striking of meat
            and the machine gun is set on repeat
            in 3/4 time to mark the beat

*

stonemurder did not concern me

what did?

maybe the night when the idea
of Yehuda fixed a bullet in my grandfather’s skull

and when our grandfather sucked on the barrel
he was only listening to his heart

*

the lake is becoming a mire
nothing has been cleared up

*

what remains of the real
is the slippery mud of truth and fancy
all mixed up

 

 

1. “I am 24 years old / I was saved / from the path to the slaughter” (from Tadeusz Różewicz’s  “Saved” [“Ocalony”], translated by Anna Maria Nowak).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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