Groan like the brash ice, or hiss like the slush

Language: Lithuanian 
Poet: Judita Vaičiūnaitė 
Translator: Rimas Uzgiris

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Groan like the brash ice, or hiss like the slush

Two poems by Judita Vaičiūnaitė translated by Rimas Uzgiris

Judita Vaičiūnaitė (1937, Kaunas–2001, Vilnius) was one of Lithuania’s leading poets of the second half of the twentieth century. She graduated Vilnius University in 1959, and spent most of her life in Vilnius. She published over twenty books of poetry, as well as translations of poetry, poetry books for children, and plays. She worked as an editor for several leading literary journals in Lithuania. Her poetry has been translated into English, German, Russian and other languages. Her work has garnered numerous prizes, including the Lithuanian Writer’s Union Prize in 2000, and the national award of the Gediminas Cross in 1997.
Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Atlanta Review, Iowa Review, Quiddity, Per Contra, Hudson Review and other journals. He is translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets (Vilnius, 2015). His translations of Ilzė Butkutė and Judita Vaičiūnaitė are forthcoming from US publishers. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, he teaches literature, translation and creative writing at Vilnius University.

Bevardė versmė

Lyg bevardė versmė po katedra,
lyg iš rūko šviesos čiurkšlė
prasiverk, atgaivink dar kartą
ir be gailesčio širdį užliek.

Lyg dangus būk – šaltas ir žydras
lyg iš lango angos pily
dar išvysk virš Neries žuvėdras,
kai sparnai tau vėjų pilni.

Lyg ledonešis gausk, lyg ižas
atitirpusių gatvių tėkmėj,
nes tą balsą, į saulę grįžusi,
iš bevardės versmės ėmei.

A Nameless Source

Like a nameless source below the cathedral,
like a spray of light within the pall of fog,
open yourself, and come to life once more.
Water your heart with no remorse.

Try to be like the sky – cold and blue,
or gaze at the gulls above the Neris as if
through an arrow-slit in the castle wall,
but only when their wings are full of wind for you.

Groan like the brash ice, or hiss like the slush
that melts in the flow of the street –
for this is the voice, returning to the sun,
the one you took from a nameless source.

Trys lemtys

1. Nikė

Citrinų žievės,
            cinamonų skonis,
            jau išgertas vynas iš Balkanų.
O rytas – toks švarus,
            kai, nepriklausanti
            nei dievui, nei žmonėms, nei velniui,
tokiam tuščiam bute,
            įkaitusios skardos ir stiklo blizgesy,
baltam
rate –
            birželio saulės beprotybėj –
            kryžiumi guliu, ir verksmas – veltui.
Už mano nudaužtus suskaldytus sparnus,
            tik dulkėm šviečiančius virš gatvių,
už mano nuogus krūpsinčius šviesoj pečius
            aš nekenčiu tavęs –
            bet burną atveriu
šiurpiam ir purpuriniam tavo viesului…


2. Raudona tunika

Moteris trumpa raudona tunika
            pasaulio aikštėse,
moteris prie mikrofono –
            sielvartas išdidina jos balsą,
ją, bežemių minioje klajojančią,
            mažytę ir išbalusią,
apteškia užlūžtančia banga,
            audringa, sūria ir šviesia…
Ji dainuoja.
            Ausys užkimštos vašku
            – juodi nakties yrėjai
jos negirdi.
            Graikija – didžiulis lageris.
            Ištrūkt turėjai
tu, prie stiebo pririštas…
            Rūdija nugalėtų ginklai – krūvos
skydų, iečių ir šalmų.
            Sirenos rankos – surištos ir kruvinos.


3. Ragana

Pusiaudienio aikštė – troški, triukšminga.
            (Kino salės – tuščios.)
Jie spiečias. Ir nuožmus, nežmoniškas smalsumas
            jungia tūkstančius.
Ir gėdos stulpas auga virš namų
            lyg sausas keistas medis.
Ir pilnas išdidumo mano žvilgsnis –
            kliedintis ir merdintis.
(Prigrūstos šiltinių palatos,
            pirtys, lagerių kirpyklos.
Raudonais viržiais gula kerpami plaukai.)
            Ir plūsta pyktis –
toks nesuprantamas,
            lyg būčiau kitoje planetoj gimus.
Ir plaka įsisiautėję balsai,
            nuo buko džiaugsmo kimūs.
Sunki grandinė trina mano kaklą.
            Nuobodžiauja budelis.
(Beprotišku trenksmu nusviedžia po stalu
            išgertus butelius.)
Tiesa – iš mano vaikiškos burnos,
            laukinės, neliestos.
Uždekit. Mano kūnas ilgisi
            nuplaunančios liepsnos.

Three Fates

1. Nike

Lemon rinds,
            the taste of cinnamon,
            wine from the Balkans, drunk.
O morning – so clean,
            belonging not to God,
            nor people, nor the devil,
in such an empty apartment,
            in heated tin and glare of glass,
in a white
circle –
            in the madness of June’s sun –
            I lie like a cross, and tears are for naught.
For these broken, battered wings –
            this dust shining above the street,
for my naked, wincing shoulders in the light,
            I hate you –
            but open my mouth
to your ghastly purple gale…


2. Red Tunic

A woman with a red tunic
            in the plazas of the world,
a woman by a microphone –
            anguish augments her voice,
wandering among the landless crowds,
            pale and petite,
splashed by a breaking wave,
            stormy, salty and bright…
She sings.
            Ears stuffed with wax
            – the night’s black un-ravellers
can’t hear.
            Greece – a vast concentration camp.
            You had to leave,
tying yourself to the mast…
            The weapons of the vanquished rust:
stacks of shields, spears and helms.
            The Sirens’ hands – bound and bloodstained.


3. Witch

The midday square – stifling and loud.
            (Movie theaters – empty.)
They swarm. And a fierce, subhuman curiosity
            unites thousands.
A pillar of shame grows above houses
            like a strange, desiccated tree.
And my gaze is full of pride –
            delirious and dying.
(The typhus wards, saunas, gulag
            barbers are packed.
Cut hair lies in red bands.)
            And anger flows –
incomprehensible,
            as if I were born on a different planet.
And raving voices throb –
            hoarse from dull pleasure.
A heavy chain chafes my neck.
            The hangman grows bored.
(He tosses empty bottles under the table
            with a mad crash.)
Truth – from my childish mouth,
            wild, untouched.
Light it. My body longs
            for a cleansing flame.