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Juozas Grikis is a product of the Lithuanian diaspora. His Lithuanian parents immigrated to the United States as refugees following World War II. Grikis grew up in a Lithuanian-speaking household and within an active Lithuanian community in New Britain, Connecticut. One of his childhood acquaintances was the prolific Lithuanian-American writer and translator, Jonas Zdanys.

A management consultant by profession, Juozas has maintained a life-long interest in the language, history, and literature of his ancestral home. He has contributed to the Poetinis Druskininkų Ruduo as a writer, translator, and co-translator. His poem on the Ukrainian War, "Offering to the Blood Bank(“Auka kraujo bankui”). appeared last summer in Lituanus

Grikis is currently collaborating with Edgaras Platelis on poetry in English and Lithuanian. His themes frequently explore the boundaries of free will and he often inhabits classical writers and mythical figures, such as Sappho, Odysseus, and Lizdeika.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Palo Duro Canyon, photo from personal archive

 

 

Offering to the Blood Bank

       When I was small, my mother
explained the colors of the flag to
me: yellow is the wheat field in
the month that I was born; green
is the forest tree in the summer;
red is the blood released so she
could be here to tell me.

       Land pulls at us; draws us in like a black
hole. Like the event horizon, steppe stretches
to nothingness, like body on the rack. Or
body compressed and dwarfed — as with all
good intentions — on the surface of a
neutron star.

       Winter always leaves, eventually.
Tractor eventually replaces armored
vehicle. Tractor tills the loam:
upturns shrapnel, pieces of body
armor, 100-year teeth from strategic
famine, bone with fresh marrow from
someone’s miscalculation.

       Land always rebirths and always
through decay. Decay of plants;
decay of animal and human waste
products; decay of animals; decay of
humans in death pits and the ashes
from portable crematoriums.

       In this place, how does someone
smile at me? Lift a hand in greeting?
Give me direction to a street or
building? Sing in harmony without
tears? Is everyone that much better
than me?

       Where I live now, people cheer on
the sidelines — like at a soccer
match or game of tennis, but on top
of faraway body parts. People root
for innocence, but not more.

       It is something in our water that leaves us
voyeurs? Something inert in the soil unless
mixed with blood? Is here where the Lotus
Eaters keep farms and gardens?

 

Reflections
of Black and White

          *

Was it for the barbed wire?
For a street which they always walked?

For a homeland, or a hometown—
occupied, divided and self-despised?

For someone’s life in the resistance;
someone’s death at a market or school?

          *

Or was it for themselves, this sadness,
her face concealed against his own, his

eyes another weight upon her shoulder?
Was it something simple as a lover’s

absence? More complex, like a mother’s
age, or a husband’s unwanted return?

          *

And you, not in a photograph or news
feed, but face to face so many times,

how close was I to hearing
the beat of your silent heart?

 

What the Oracle Told Him
(Lizdeika’s Dream)

I explained his dream to him. He was pleased.

And what’s not to please a Grand Duke? Castle on a
hill. Silvered town below. Silken ribbon of river.
The most beautiful city in the largest kingdom in
any direction.

But the second night, I had his same dream. I stood
right there in the sacred grove at Sventaragis. I saw
what he saw. Heard what he heard. Felt the Iron
Wolf’s howls quiver through the air.

The next morning, I offered the gods a doeling and
prayed for straight and true sight. Lord God of
Thunder, Perkunas himself, heard me and I could
see through day’s distance again.

I saw that dream lives on as a seed. That branches in
a memory forest sprout into strength. That leaves
are always grow from tears. I understood the forest
lives and dies by the longing in its roots.

I explained my dream to him. He said nothing back
to me. He was silent. He bent down. He picked out
and picked up a beautiful and heavy stone. He
began to climb the hill with a cornerstone for the
castle.

 

Consolation of
Philosophy

Equinox at twilight.
Then a slide back
down the ebony womb.

Demeter’s daughter,
How I wept with you,
Lockstep heel to toe—Footprints

Collapse into shadow.
And I
Earthward plunge,

Tugged by you,
Prodded with moonlight
Shafts, each silvered breath,
A death.

 

Fragments

An Imitation of Sappho

*
You said:
It’s nothing much. Just come the way you are.
Some friends.
You might have mentioned her.
                              *
She is a god, your guest, this girl with eyes
as dark as earth in spring, whoever she may be.
Near you she sits, and faces you, and leans
into your words, then laughs in a laugh that shed
petals, rocks heart against the chest.
                                                                     Her lips
open and my tongue breaks—with silent heat
each single vein ablaze beneath my skin.
Her whispers echo, fill my ears; a night
within her eyes is all I see, and sweat
leaks cold from me like rain on winter grass.
                              *
Outside,
the moon paints fields as smooth and pale
as I believe her belly is. Did you invite me here because we’re
friends? Did you invite me here despite the fact we’re friends?
                              *
But I can try for anything—
Even the poor embrace the feel of money.
                              *
I am too free with time to think of her.
To someone: come press against me hard.
Dear anyone: This hunger swallows towns
and kings alive; what will it do to me?
                              *
Artful, deathless Aphrodite, how I
make you smile. Did I just say someone?
Please smile again on me. How could I mean
just anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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