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Kristina Tamulevičiūtė (b. 1989 in Šiauliai) is a poet, writer, and translator. She studied Lithuanian philology and Slovenian language at Vilnius University, with internships at the Universities of Ljubljana and Sarajevo. A graduate of the University of Sarajevo and the University of Bologna, Tamulevičiūtė earned her master’s degree in Democracy and Human Rights. Five years later, she graduated from Kaunas University of Technology with a master’s degree in Translation and Localization. Since 2008, Tamulevičiūtė has published over a hundred of her works in the Lithuanian cultural press. She is a member of the Lithuanian Literary Translators’ Association and the Lithuanian Writers’ Union. Tamulevičiūtė translates from Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, English, and Spanish. Her latest book Gyvybė (“Life”) was shortlisted for the Book of the Year Award and won the Zigmas Gėlė Prize for the best literary debut.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Adasa Skliutauskaitė. Old Window. 2000, color lithograph, 43 x 64 cm. From the MO Museum collection.

 

Poems from the poetry book Life

 

Translated by Agnieška Leščinska

 

 

 

The Wind

I sat on the windowsill till dusk
(no one has a cozier spot – perfect
for reading, painting nails,
and waving to you)
I knew though no one had told me
but I knew
elderly wisdom had gnawed
through the apple of my eye
like a worm
don’t you open the window my child
don’t open it
the wind will tangle your hair
and then you’ll see
and then you’ll see

 

 

***

2012, volunteering at a retirement home in Maribor, Slovenia.
I was studying Slovenian for my bachelor’s degree

I didn’t like their stares, the confusion in their eyes,
I didn’t like their slow movements and awkward arrogance,
the retirement home in the mountains was more depressing than I’d heard,
it didn’t smell, there was no putrid stench of death that most people write about,
none at all,
the elderly loitered in the halls with their walkers,
like teenagers, looking around kind of oddly,
if you hadn’t known they were waiting for us, you’d think it was some kind of conspiracy,
especially because of their gazes, which were, as I said, confused,
yet they waited for us, they longed for the young people,
they longed for us, the equally confused volunteers, even if they tried to hide it,
but they kept waiting, and waiting, until we’d come and spend half a day with them,
have some tea and cookies, paint a few pictures,
talk, actually we waited too, but we waited differently,
without the wide observing gazes, we had work to do,
make a few drawings with them at the foot of the mountain,
we were given a job, we didn’t expect to have fun,
we didn’t expect anything, we had to work, each of us had to
pick someone and make their day better, if not
by drawing, then chatting by a cup of tea or complimenting
a lady’s beautifully groomed dog, we had to pretend like we didn’t see
they never have any visitors, I looked around
and picked her, she was lonely, I sat beside her, she said she’s ninety,
told me she was there by choice,
that she doesn’t have any kids and she doesn’t want to draw,
she had some tea before, and her favorite show was now on, so thank you,
she’d be going to her room now,

but wait, girl, wait,
take a good look around, look at this place and remember,
please, remember where you were,
and do everything in your power so you never end up here

do you understand me

 

 

***

February 2017, bone marrow donor

when blood returns through the machine
it’s cold

first the cold takes away my arm
then my shoulder
and seeps deep into my heart

there’s many of us here but I’m the only healthy one

we’re connected to the machines
lying here besides one another
the oncologic and the genetic

a nurse in pink scrubs walks between the beds
she tells me
you’ll save somebody’s life
i thank you
for that person

she smiles

and hits the vein
only on the third try

 

 

***

my body’s like a lightbulb
with a tiny wire scintillating in my belly
when I see it on the screen
for a moment I think you see me too,
from the inside
because it’s you who’s touching my tissues
it’s you who sees their true blush untouched by daylight
your fists tap the walls of my stomach
your feet keep me restless at night
now we are one
I hope you don’t feel my fear
during the storm and squall
when lightning cuts through the sky
I hope you don’t notice when I get up for the nth time
to turn the light on and off

 

 

***

Am I pretty or fat – I ask myself.
Thirty two. Size S/M.
Sometimes I fit into the larger size, other times the smaller one.
I experience emotional eating episodes
when I’m hurt, when I feel betrayed, when my ancestors
don’t visit me in my dreams.

I see my first wrinkles in the mirror.
But I’m not hurt by them at all.
I want to age gracefully, with gray strands in my hair,
I’ll tie them up in a bun and still listen to heavy metal.
I’ll wear my leather jacket.
When I’m 35, I’ll pierce my bellybutton, because
I won’t give birth anymore.
I’ll buy a cross motorcycle, and all the forests will be
mine. The swamps too.
I come from nature and belong to nature, I age for nature too,
I am protected by the forest’s moisture, the river’s steam.

In the mornings I work out by the riverside.
In overgrown areas someone breaks branches,
the ducks cruise through the water.
The Neris is wrinkling.
I’m intoxicated by her ancient beauty and I envy the river –
I envy her eternal flow through the centuries,
her first rays of sun, the fishermen’s angles,
her mysterious womanhood:
the memories of our ancestors and historical testimonies
washing at the bottom of the river –
everything inscribed into the blood and stored there forever.
Every morning we’re rinsed by the river.
The waves carve wrinkles into our faces.
Hair like bullrushes and bullrushes like hair.
I kiss my daughter’s forehead – I wish to be like a fish,
fecund, and fresh as a river.

 

 

***

I speak to you when no one is listening.
Come, my babe.

The forest grows dark, eyes lurk among the trees,
In the morning a deer will search for last year’s apples.
Nature stirs, birds sip the blood
of frozen rowan berries.

Come, my babe.

Snow melts under the grass’s nudge,
Fall branches into the heart of the forest,
following its trails.
Each step you take is desired and traced
by the songs of birds growing bolder
And the hungry eye of the cat
staring from the thicket.

 

 

***

You’ll feel bad after surgery,
there will be pain in your stomach, your flanks,
and your shoulder, maybe your diaphragm, and dressing up will be hard
because your stomach will be deformed, your scars
will take a long time to heal, but eventually, as time goes by,
all will be well, and you will really get better,
the doctor said with a tired gaze.

But all I wanted was to go home.
Lie down in my bed, which smells of my daughter’s hair,
I wanted to curl into my covers, where my husband and I sleep,
I wanted to curl into my cocoon, and wait until spring,
until the warm weather comes and calls for me to crawl out.

I wished to crawl out of the torment and the pain that I felt,
and that which waits for me still, I wished to vanish into a wild field,
among the yellow dandelions and apple blossoms
thin as membranes, I wished to swim in their midst.

But now I’m in a hospital gown.
A white gown and white bedcovers, between walls of white.
Only the tree, beyond the window, persists against winter,
yet even it longs for the birds.

The first to fly away are the storks, they take our
journeys foretold.
Their nests linger empty, like the uteruses
operated on here every day.
You know, I think that the bullfinches are coming
My hospital roommate says, closing her eyes,
she smiles, she waits and believes, her yellowish grey hair
like straws in the nests during winter.

 

 

***

Roses and rhododendrons
will still bloom in my garden,
though it’s nearly fall.
The last week of August.
I lost you first.

Just a few cells,
my future unborn blonde child,
now drawn by my daughter.

In her drawings people resemble potatoes,

With two arms, two legs, big eyes,
and lashes,
no necks, but turned toward the sun
in the corner of the white sheet of paper.

She also draws balloons, drifting toward the sun,
mushrooms, birds, and a river, surrounding her,
flowing into the rising sun,
she draws our garden, brimming with cemetery flowers.
Sometimes she draws me, yellow with freckles,
with long lashes like branches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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