Volume 33, No.3 - Fall 1987
Editor of this issue: Vilius L. Dundzila
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1987 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.




Sometimes you gaze at me like that,
when it is Fall, and the nights are long.
Huge and inquisitive you hang
in the peartree's branches,
and your gaze holds out to me
the polished silver disk
that a Roman woman put
to her dying lover's lips,
till his breath
could cloud it no more.

You gaze and ask, you await
my breath against yours,
my outstretched hand groping for you,
and my tears clouding your face:
    look, I am living.

Now and then
through the autumn night
a pear falls. Slowly
you turn toward morning,
and I —
    look, I am still living. t


The drinking lad lamented,
where to find a bride?
White flower in the lake,
that's the drunkard's bride.
    (Latvian folksong)

In the forest lake grows a single white waterlily, very near our neighbor's boat landing. From our place we have to row a good bit to get there, for the neighbor it's a couple of steps. He's a bachelor, but doesn't seem to be a drunkard. And I, rowing over to fetch milk, plucked the only waterlily blossom. When I held it on my palm, I was almost frightened at how inviolately fine and pure it was — like a star, like feelings inexpressible in words. And I knew: if someone were to hand me a white waterlily flower on a summer night, that could be my life's most sacred moment.

The flower was at the height of its beauty and fully opened to the noon sun. The petals seemed arranged in a four-square format — so unlike the yellow waterlily, that grows along all the shoreline. The white sepals of the waterlily hoard their whiteness like a secret, only on the inside.

On the outside they're green: close to the stem a delicate pale-green, the ends edged in fawn and bright-green.

The first foursome of petals is as large as the sepals, but white. It is followed by five white crosses of petals, put together crosswise; each a little shorter than the one preceding. The starry petals form a wreath about golden fringes. Within it the waterlily stigma is hidden. The golden anthers arch to a stand above the inner petals and weave together, guarding the secret of the rose.

This was a young blossom. Perhaps maturing would later lift the stigma above the curve of anthers, awaiting pollenization.

The waterlily was scarcely scented at all at noon — only a slight trace of water and silt lingered.


This morning, a March rain steps between us,
rain over the leaning branches of my birch.
I listen to the chatty streaming —
it does not reach you. Rain and clouds separate us,
the sun itself, and the sky.
I raise flowers which you will never see,
plant trees whose fruit you will not taste.
At night the Big Dipper steps between us,
the Pleiades and the Morning Star.
And now the rain.
I caress children who do not know you.
Evenings the new moon rises between us.
I talk to people who have never heard your name,
I shout it in their faces, but they just
shrug their shoulders.
And I am again alone with your name.
I tell it to the earth, I whisper it to the rain,
and rain and earth do not reject it.
I want to keep and to save your name.
This morning the first spring thunderstorm
separates us. I strike your name with lightning,
and look! it echoes over the wide horizon
in the resonant rumble of thunder.



Fuchsias, drops of blood,
wounds in Ireland's body
torn by the sharptoothed blackthorn.
Fuchsias, Ireland's tears,
blood dripping from the empty space
left by language.
Stones they left us, stones
in place of our oaks,
instead of our language.

Do not weep, white swan,
swimming in the blue sea,
do not weep my white swan,
swimming away in the wide sea.

Ochón mo eala bhán!


Tell me, white swan mine,
that which is gone long ago,
silent on the tongues of people,
sunk into the depths of the sea.

Into ancient legends you dip your beak,
you swim over sunken laments,
songs you bear on your wings,
the white souls of words.

Ochón mo eala bhán!

Tell me, white swan mine,
that which is gone long long ago,
bring my voice back to me,
recall the wisdom of old.

Swims away my white swan
looking for the magic key,
looking for it in the blue sea,
looking for it in the wide wide sea.

Ochón mo eala bhán!

Ochón mo eala bhán: in Irish Gaelic, Woe, my white swan!


(In Mother's Memory)

And asleep, he came to Ithaka.

There, just opposite, an island of three summits with a cave hollowed out by the sea, where perhaps of an evening and in early morning mermaids sing. Perhaps they can be heard — perhaps it is best not to listen.

In sleep he came to Ithaka.

Tired, he came to his island; weary, stepped on the shore of his birth.

Clouds, islands all around, the sun's arrows hit them here and there.

And there he was awaited.

Fortunate is he, who after long wandering is waited for at home. To wander is easy for us all; turning back is difficult. Not every exile comes at last to Ithaka. Not for everyone do the sunrays lift from distance the home shores. Not in sleep, nor awake; only in dream. How deep and gentle will sleep be in Ithaka, after the long weary years.

The time comes when we must give ourselves up to what was in the beginning - to fire, water, air and earth. The time comes when we must give our flesh back again. A lifetime has passed, the time of Ithaka begins anew. Dreams are left behind, longings hidden among the gulls' sorrowful calls. The circle horizons of earth close, the hand-loomed ribbon of life weaves into eternity's safe-keeping. And in sleep we come to Ithaka and open our eyes to different, more distant horizons.

You too fell asleep in Ithaka.

In vain I asked whether your closed eyes saw the shores of home. You were no longer behind them. And I climbed to search for you high in the air, but you were not there. And I looked into the waters' flow, but you were not there. And I asked for you back from fire, but fire had you no longer.

And I asked the earth, where were you, but the earth was silent. Then I gave the earth back your ashes, and you remained in Ithaka.


                                                        for Alene Puterbaugh

Flying over stands of oak-pine and hickory,
watering holes muddy from a long-awaited rain
(a blanket pulled across my knees),
I am an Indian now, and surely my Latvian ancestors
are happy that I am now, I am here,
flying over the hickory hills of Oklahoma,
that I am now not where they are,
but an Indian in Oklahoma,
happy with sunsets over oak-pine rows.
This house on the hill, this stout elm
that grew so perfect, standing free and alone,
this house with its own life,
with its people, it was always there for me,
even before I ever saw it, but now it fills
a place that was always there for it.

I am now part of the trinity of lake, lodge,
and those nameless, low, gentle hills
that it's easy to keep and love,
so easy to love because I am an Indian now
and part of those gently smoking hills,
wrapped in an Indian blanket and looking
like an eagle across the reddish watering holes,
the trees slowly turning to Fall,
the house on one of the hills
marching toward winter,
slowly, gracefully descending
toward winter when the acorns have fallen
all, when the wind across the lake
tatters the teepees that once stood there
on this same land in another now,
when we were all still Indians.

I am in a strange country
that I call home.

NOTE: "Moon Poem," "To One Far Away," "Ireland 1-2" were translated from Latvian by the author; "White Waterlily," "The Ionian Sea: Ithaka" were translated from Latvian by Inara Cedrins; "Visiting McAlester, Oklahoma" was written directly in English.