Poems of Judita Vaiciunaite


Where the yard like a sea shell guards
        the tiny graceful church,
where green shutters and windows open
        onto the sooty snow,
on the pavement's cross section,
        onto clay lives,
        and the depth under peat,
where the tree's holiness rotted,
        where the sun's magical circle
still guards the fireplace flame,
        and the green bronze sand,
the bear's thousand year old mask,
        the boar's teeth amulet,
the ghostly enchancing dance above it -
        in medieval clay,
where the alley deepens
        towards the Neris' missing ford.

Translated by Laima Sruoginyte


By the railroad tracks and the market,
by the trolleybus stop under snow
I still found the cafe with pigeons -
old women and gypsies gather there,
there I heard the pigeons' coo
and the morning rustle of their frosted wings,
there I picked up
a snow feather
from the dirty stone floor
and took my bag,
and, with a torn heart
glanced swam into the distance,
through the crossroad's fading stars,
February clouds...

Translated by Laima Sruoginyte


In the central post office
        fresh from the springtime sun,
still with their primeval feathers
        ferns sway
in shaded flowerpots -
        old as the world
they sprouted in the dark,
        they spread for the present,
they spread for hope,
        and I crumpled up my letter -
I too belong
        to that primeval world,
a shaft of sunlight still so green
        earthy and eternal
in the post office,
        fresh from the springtime sun.

Translated by Laima Sruoginyte


In winter's oblivion, in the snowbound cabin's
        unheated sitting room
only my grandparents' portraits
        have returned to the empty farmstead -
I stumble upon them, by the frozen well at night
        as if in a dream
where centuries old midwinter linden trees
        reach toward heaven on tiptoe,
and in the dark on a bleached
        frost-like wall
so lonely, painted after their deaths,
        mourning in midwinter
my country grandparents' portraits,
        every day they become more familiar, every day
I come to resemble them more,
        myself evidence of their existence.

Translated by Laima Sruoginyte


A shred of newspaper lies on the table. A common statistic.
The people are divided into men and women. There are
Twenty million women.

Nature doesn't recognize divisions. A shadow grows
Between the two worlds, falling from the unknown soldier's grave,
Burning the faded lettering -

Twenty million.

They were meant for one another. He was buried.
She remained.
The laments must have been horrible when twenty million
Wept by the grave.

Light loose skirts turn there in the sun.
Here, in this dark corner, twenty million lean heads on hands
Grasping mourning handkerchieves.

There the world's glare is absorbed by newly opened eyes.
Here twenty million speak to unknown infants and bemoan
And unborn love.

They're testing the atom somewhere. A shred of newspaper
Lies on the table.
It's not necessary to say anything.
The paper counts out the dead -
Twenty million.

Translated by Jonas Zdanys


           "...and time unfeelingly passes..."

Forgive me if they're only a herd of pigs.
I herd them from trough to pen.
But if you're sad, they'll sit like mute actors
Around the festive table...
And the goblet's former song, and the drenched black-and-whites
Will muddy the hexametric order,
And eyes brimming with laughter will raise my antique statue...
...But, once the flames go out, the three-legged pot will quiet.
Curses will die.
The same hands will throw out the poisoned pot.
And Circle will obey the most astonished...
And you... You will sleepwalk to the calling light,
The feast.
I will not force you to stay. Sail away,
If you're afraid of enraging fate, cutting the plot's red thread...
I give you wine-sacks for your journey.
I offer my wisdom, my gentleness.
A flying ship will carry you near the untraceable cliffs
Of non-existent Ithaca.
O if only you couldn't see how my large knowing eyes
Shine with sorrow,
Unseen I'll part with you.
I was hospitable. I kept my word.
Strange one, renouncing me.
You are mine alone...
I love you, Odysseus.

Translated by Jonas Zdanys


                "...he didn't love the beautiful
                   nymph, even though he rested in
                   her bed, in her bright room..."

No other can compare with me in brightness of face,
Beauty of hair, or stature...
But the gods envy my good fortune.
I fear their anger.
I am building a boat. I'll bring you an ax and a drill.
I'll weave your sails myself - those wings,
Weaving time - that flag, flying and straight,
And in an instant you thirst for me,
And again you press my graceful body
To yours.
I envy all, I envy all without end:
Your wife and your dogs,
Your distant foreign land...
That role is too dificult for me.
Why was this goddess assigned passion,
Importunate and painful, like a miller sprinkled with flour?
You grew tired of me.
For seven years I bound you
With hands, hair and caresses...
Humbled, I longed that you too would be immortal
Like the stars in the sky...
But you spilled the ambrosia,
Running away from my loving grasp, you lamented,
Pressing your face in the sand -
I couldn't plant even pity in your heart...
In this run-down withering grotto only the sea
Understands me.
I wanted only the best for you.
I love you, Odysseus.

Translated by Jonas Zdanys


                "Greetings, traveler, until you
                   return to your homeland take
                   heed; don't forget me..."

I've never kissed a man. And my voice - like a wave.
And my body hasn't known man's hands.
But I've longed for one such as you.
And we were both dizzy with weariness and surprise.
Cursed and blessed be that ball
That we, hanging our clothes up to dry, threw on the shore,
And the two funny jackasses that pulled my small cart
On that ancient golden morning...

I am Nausicaa. I am sailors' kin.
And I have someone from the dying ship.
And joy - the purple wool my mother spins.
And my father's house is open - high and generous.
And we raise toasts to heaven like kings and commoners
To our lost and unexpected guest's honor...
We don't ask
Why you hide your tears in your cloak -
You are powerful, incomprehensible and free...
Pressed near the column I melt into it...
Let it be concealed how I stood alone
In the great hall,
For no one will ever know how I felt then,
For I can't admit it even to myself:
I love you, Odysseus.

Translated by Jonas Zdanys


                "...I'd go to my grave with
                   Odysseus' name in my heart."

It's difficult to experience your love -
For no one can change you, for no one is worthy of you.
And why am I to blame if I can wait centuries for you,
Grow deaf, as the court whistles and claps.
And why am I to blame
If I remain lonely and eccentric Penelope.
I want to shine the hearth for you through the
Shell of walls and years. Pure as an idea,
I want to protect
Quiet untouched waters for you,
Like a brimming pot.
Let all women in time feel the longing implanted
In my heart,
Hearing the ocean's roar in shells and seeing an empty room.
For I, of all, am the one you return to.
One of the faithful.
I have become famous for all time
For my patience and wisdom.
I'll wipe the blood from your hands with my hair and lips.
I'll weep with joy at your knees.
I love you, Odysseus.

Translated by Jonas Zdanys


On the table - white dishes, bread and yellow apples.
And summer - beyond the opened window on the fifth floor.
Thunder and rain have quieted.
                                And the sun sketches
Itself round...
And a woman approaches the plaza - lighthaired and tall.
Drops of water on the roofs flashed for her.
Photographs of the holidays are ready.
These noisy, weary streets were laid with hot hands -
And the window,
                calling pigeons from towers
                                           and sparrows,
Rising like a high melody
                         above ghetto fires,
                                            requiems and ashes...

Translated by Jonas Zdanys


Eight beats the towerclock beneath its white stone bark.
I run along Latako Street, so long and dark,
Along the blue ice of illusions towards your spark.

The benches in the park with rain will shine.
I'll bring a burning cup - half-joy, half-wine,
And I'll forget the blue ice is so thin, so fine.

You will be kidnapped by long-distance roaring trains,
But you will need me most - with a desire that pains.
The blue ice blinds - its sparkle never wanes.

My anguish is like seaweed; tangling, it stays whole.
And on the blue glass, vague,
   The routes of ships arise before my sight.
I will not hold you...
   An unheard-of spectrum floods your soul -
The water's phosphorescent, strange,
   Mysterious light.
I will not hold you...
   Seaflowers will unfold...
Yet understand me, if I start to call
With letters never written,
With flashes sent from old
Lighthouses -
   Long abandoned, long forgotten.
Those boundless blue expenses are created
   For ship and bird...
And I must wait for my stray love
   Without a word.


Translated by Dorian Rottenberg

* * *

I go away.
   My dress opens and flaps
     like an old parachute -
never before did so much wind
   and so much space belong to me.
As if a shopwindow with postcards
   all districts whirl beneath me, mute,
and like a dandelion, white beside the gates
   a century-old pear-tree I can see.
Like soap-bubbles
   I blow out varicoloured suns
and bribe the streets
   with hardly audible
     and slightly hoarse-voiced songs.
At the rusty fountain
   I'll only take a drink out of my palm.
Except the warm day's dawn
   I won't take anything along...


Translated by Dorian Rottenberg

* * *

Let's wait till Sunday.
   On our bread we'll spread some kisses and fresh butter,
then feverishly read the circus bills,
about the noisy, gay and sunlit town we'll flutter
like naughty children seeking thrills.

On sensing noon like dust between the teeth
we'll fill our tumblers with bright orange beer
and though the crowded bar with folk will seethe
we'll bear ourselves like brothers sitting near.

The bridges, columns, domes will fly past intermingling,
but we'll forget that time is also flying on...
Let's wait till Sunday.
   Seven lamps will crash down jingling
before confetti-coloured skies announce the dawn.


Translated by Lionginas Pazusis

* * *

A yellow field of flowering mustard.
   Loneliness and sunshine.
And such a mood -
   as if I turned the handle of a kiddy's organ deep in thought.
All angles are erased
   and in the round, warm world of my imagination
something again, transparent and oppressing,
   arises in my throat.
These bitter yellow vistas...
   I expect a wonder, quite a real one,
and to myself of yesterday
   in vain I try to get unused.
All there is left is the great rolling mustard sun,
   a state of weightlessness
and love
   which can explain the meaning of these tears, this wind
                                          that blows, cold, unamused.


Translated by Dorian Rottenberg

* * *

How the fluff of the poplars and dandelions
   and flocks of white buterflies fly!
How thick they set on my rocking chair here
   on the balcony open to dawn.
How the earth spins round!
   Lest my heart, as in old songs, burst with joy, rock me high
over all these houses,
   infect me with the sweet madness of passion born...
What shall I do now?
   Perhaps, stuff your pillow with hovering fluff,
or maybe, scatter your black demoniac hair on a cloud, to teach you?
Kiss your lashes and draw your brows on the snow,
   till the wind, rude and rough,
grabs and throws us down in the mud beyond heaven's hills...
   But then my hand will no longer reach you!


Translated by Dorian Rottenberg


That white house - a reflection,
   where the two of us will live,
where a lonely boy will play
   with wet ashberries;
where we will never need to be separated,
   where childhood's beams
will splash from the stones,
   and where you can't avoid me.

Like a dragonfly's wing from the water
   shiny and green
The glass of your opened window quivers in the sun
   - I love
you to your depths,
   not erased by hundreds of miles
through larch branches
   my green gaze hungers for you...

Translated by Laima Sruoginyte

To Lithuanian page of Judita Vaiciunaite