Poetry by Marius Burokas

Home Again

Above the city, neither antennas, nor bushes
(trapped within them, the wind whines, which, evidently, is not ours)

the sky
open to nothing
the sun and the moon
wicks extinguished by fingers
(redemptive darkness flows between homes)

I recognize
these, my concrete innards
the rusty gums of mailboxes
vases covered in cobwebs
side boards in the corners gone wild
(and the elevator shaft with sooty miners)

my neighbor
has taken his white horse from the balcony
(he rides it down the stairs, holding a souvenir lighter)

the hawthorns outside the window are probably mine
mountain-ash
hawthorns
mountain-ash
hawthorns
(in circles, in rows, and further–carriages and volkswagens
roll down the street, the steppe and mountains behind)

this, my wind-strained landscape
the crooked perspective
a sore for the eye

I would enumerate further, but it is already easier, easier
(I can breathe again, it grows dark, I can’t see)

you cover it with your dark palm
your calm palm

all of this horror
(this blessing)

***

*
1.

o god,
what offending creatures
steam in me

cooked by concern

2.


i don’t read
your scriptures

afraid
of a greater light

3.


the white lightning
of a birch
rends
a bent back
from nonbeing

this is what
i always
prayed for–humility

4.


how i rummage
in memory
searching for signs

but darkness
places there
a radiant
dot

***

for my daughters

*

i sit
between two sleeping
bodies

she gave to her
and to her…

fire and water
magpie maiden

under her stone arch
tomorrow
we will step
into the day

i will look
over my shoulder–

gold armor
gold offerings
of hands and feet

incense oil
essences

and two
bright heads

– – – –

already receding

By Holy Lake

for Ugne

*

i wait
until the small bright head
emerges from the water
eyes shut
frowning
red-faced
as if born again
tearing her way to the surface
again–with all her strength
thirsting to drink
of this world

this light

ineffable

Photographs – Writers

I tried to grasp you
I stared at your faces
But was never really looking
for the secrets they contain–
I was searching for mine:
whether something connects us
a thread, a cord, a tie
whether we are touched
by the same finger
whether we picked up
the black receiver in time
whether the spark pierced us
the light
when you know
it is given to you
the curtain parts
deservedly
certainly, it is deserved
those snares
that knowing
the dependence
and sweet impatience
it is deserved
reflected in every face
that same derangement
wonder
the coy audacity

haughtiness

February

Winter’s dog
licks my hand. Snow
and stones. Heads
of children glow
in windows. Pipes
have burst, a tree
has split, steam billows
as pearly light
touches glass. All states–
uncertain. Time is
a wind from the sea
that beats, blows, burns.
I needed this salt,
your skin, my chapped lips
warmed beneath your palm–

a clean life.

***

…………….–how much blackness
…………….from childhood up until now?

the knoll of
teeth

no bones
ever broken
a red ball
in the lungs–

i took such an inheritance away
from the house by the forest
a house by a slaughterhouse:

fuel oil floated down the river
sleds flared
on snowy hills

…………….–how much blackness now?

it has faded to gray

an old bandage
like police tape
fences off the present:

i look at myself–
worked over
with fingers covered in ink

and feel nothing

***

i have read you
over the years

your slim wrinkles
capillaries
agape

in the darkness
like malleable emery paper

in the darkness

we merge
as one month
into another

Visby

the blood has been covered in snow
strewn with salt, with sand
then covered in snow again

hundreds of years ago

now only the fish-bones of churches
rattle the grey sky

axes no longer split skulls
everyone retains ten fingers
everyone’s teeth are sound
curtains are pleated
and desk lamps comfortably
dissipate darkness

–the country is conquered
by prosperity

–the island is flooded
by peace

–the town is covered
in plenty

White Death

with bony feet
she rattles the flagstones
at five in the morning
just like the poets said

she passed me by in childhood
as I lay in a glass box
having screamed out
the choking, warm
meat-scrap of my soul

I expected nothing
didn’t get
anything

but solitude
like boiled
government-issued sheets
white
as death
stretched over
covering me

such is the legend
that’s how I arrived
so I thought

I’ll die this way
a toad
will crawl up
onto my swollen
heart

and squeeze

white death
with bony feet
rattles

past the linden tree
past the stone wall
past summer

in Vilnius.

Bios

Marius Burokas

Marius Burokas is a poet and translator. He studied Lithuanian language and literature at Vilnius University. Now he is a freelance writer and translator. Marius made his debut with the poetry collection Ideograms (Ideogramos) in 1999. His third book, I’ve learned how not to be (Išmokau nebūti, 2011), was awarded the Young Jotvingian Prize, which recognized the best book by a young poet during a two-year period. That book was also awarded the Antanas Miškinis literary prize. Burokas’ poetry has been translated into Polish, Russian, Latvian, Finnish, Slovenian, English, German, and Ukrainian. Some of his poetry is published in the New European Poets anthology (Graywolf Press, 2008). He has translated the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams, and the prose of James G. Ballard, Charles Bukowski, Philip Roth, and Jeanette Winterson, among others.

Rimas Uzgiris

Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor, and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Atlanta Review, Kin, Quiddity, Per Contra, Hudson Review, and other journals. He is the translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets (Vilnius, 2015). He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers University-Newark. The recipient of a Fulbright grant and an NEA Translation Fellowship, he teaches literature, translation, and creative writing at Vilnius University.

Copyright (c) Marius Burokas, 2014. English translation copyright (c) Rimas Uzgiris, 2015.