Remembering Independence Regained
Fog hangs over kelp like the hangover over my dorm at dawn,
March 11, 1990, the LA Times splayed to a musicologist playing
The chord that breaks the Soviet Union’s back, impossible as that sounds…
Lithuania’s swift March sun migrates behind clouds.
A sudden snow shower soddens urchins at play
Who pause their horsing and tumbling to watch
A lean, gray-haired man, glasses, pony-tail
Spark a candle wick –
Set a whispering tongue
On a black slab.
What remains in memory’s name?
I remember a Tarkovsky scene:
A dying man tries to cross a drained, dilapidated pool:
Sheltered in his palms – a flickering flame.
Wind snuffs it out.
He goes again – it blows out – again, he begins – again –
Until it is accomplished, and he falls.
Thirteen dead on January 13, 1991
Defending the Vilnius TV Tower.
Who among us, Americans, would die for a TV tower?
And what do our toddlers understand
Of those early years? Elated or crushed:
Bones to them. Our graveyard.
A small flame.
Small Town Poetry Reading
– Varėna, Lithuania
Sunlight dribbles through dappled branches in a park
on the margins of sandy paper lined with pines
harvested and regrown, like the country itself, space
re-written countless times like a draft that finally goes.
Yet, the sandy soil is not as absorbent as I had thought:
I stir spilled water with a twig. Our Elysium Fields. But,
we have no Homer to tell the world of what we fought –
how heroes came like locusts in the name of the One
to wipe out the pantheon of pagan gods, how the One
was erased by the Many and an earthly time to come…
A few of the young can still be seen listening to our verse.
Maybe they are heroes yet to be of our post-ironic age
of right makes might, setting up to tear down towers,
bastions of privileged speech, then reciting ink-stained
struggles around a bonfire in the woods, perhaps after
a day of mushroom picking, moonshine with bison grass
releasing hands from green ambivalence and lips from their
cocoons of words to fly to the one flame that’s still sure,
the breath of ancient gods making pine crowns sway.
Now, I think, our words just pool like water in their ears.
Rimas Uzgiris is a poet and translator whose work has appeared in the Paris Review, Barrow Street, Hudson Review, Poetry Review (UK) and other journals. He is author of North of Paradise (Kelsay Books), Tarp (poems translated into Lithuanian, shortlisted for Poetry Book of the Year), translator of poetry collections by Ilzė Butkutė (A Midsummer Night’s Press), Gintaras Grajauskas (Bloodaxe), Marius Burokas (Parthian), Aušra Kaziliūnaitė (Parthian), and Judita Vaičiūnaitė (Shearsman). Uzgiris holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark. Recipient of a Fulbright Grant, a NEA Translation Fellowship, he teaches at Vilnius University.