ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2008 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Volume 54, No 3 - Fall 2008
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas

Poetry by Liūnė Sutema

Translated from Liūnė Sutema. Poezijos rinktinė. Vilnius: Vaga, 1992.
Translated by M. Gražina Slavėnas

Liūnė Sutema (Zinaida Nagytė Katiliškienė) is one of the outstanding Lithuanian émigré poets and the recipient of the most prestigious 2007 Lithuania’s National Art and Culture Award (Lietuvos Nacionalinė Meno ir Kultūros premija).

* * *

I have saved myself
for crimes
which cannot be redeemed,
saved myself knowing
that each will remain
in me like a knife cut,–
on wood, on tree bark,
on a footbridge railing,
on my face.
I have no secrets.
Everyone can touch me
and watch me.
I have saved myself for

* * *

My good-natured neighbors whisper
hoarsely downwind:
– no stone will be left unturned,
the sun will go black,
torrents will flood everything,
after us no one will be left
to enjoy our things.

My neighbors’ weather wanes
are pointed into the sunset.
I try to cover the sunset with my body.
I want to protect it.
And I talk against the wind:
– Who turned you into prophets?
Put back the stones,
put away your weather vanes,
let your children play
with their building blocks,
between the plastic flowers
of their home yards. –

My neighbors’ children are
playing in the streets
with knives and rocks,
with fire and glass,
and they laugh.
My efficient neighbors
pave a road
of frost and ice
into the night. –
They don’t hear their
children cry for them:

Wait, our socks are not yet knit...
We have not yet spelled a single
word with our blocks. We have not
yet learned how to love our things
or how to live with them.
Who turned you into angels of wrath
driving us into exile,
barefooted, stinging us
with fiery tongues? –

On their way into the night,
my neighbors’ children
burn flowers, flags, leaves,
burn the Ten Commandments,
burn the white-painted homes
and warm themselves by the flames.

* * *

I shall never leave. I shall never return.
Every threshold is sharp and curved
like an old battle dagger.
My feet are afraid of pain,
afraid of their own footprints,
my hands are empty
and unshackled.
I don’t want to fight,
just stand by an open door
always and everywhere.
Things are all the same,
here or there...
Also always the same
is my longing:
ravenous, thirsty,
not here, not anywhere.

I am looking for my brother Judas.
He betrayed me,
unable to trust and enjoy
our childish song,
unwilling to hear its sound
in our yard, under the shade
of alder trees.

So I took it with me as I left,
in a small wooden alder pipe,
but the dark wilting bark sucked it dry,
and now it is mute.
Mute too is my brother Judas.
And I know it is only at this price
that my lips could revive
our first song of childhood
in the alder-shaded yard.

I am looking for my brother Judas
so he can betray me again.

I grew up in your shadow. Nobody noticed me.
Like a stunted bush in thickening darkness,
while you could not get enough of the sun…
Then I too started desiring it.
Abel, you tempted me.

Mothers guard you and see you off.
Sisters keep you alive
in their songs. Younger brothers
strive to grow up like you.

I am branded by your light.
Shunned by everyone like a noxious weed,
and my solitude expands,
while you ask for more and more
of their love. I too want to know how it feels.
Just once, for a moment – but how?
Abel, why are you tempting me?

One should not have a sister –
she will always feel unloved
while waiting in vain
for her third brother
who will never come.
She’ll pursue you
with her longing and her thirst
she will scratch and burn in you
the shapes of every guilt
until you will be like a totem pole:

We pour sand into one another’s eyes…
I n this quicksand desert
grow withered twisted pines.
The grass blades are dry and sharp
like fish bones through which
howl the winds
and choke.
We pour sand pour sand
until we fall asleep
rubbing our eyes. –

And the sandman sits there
and watches us.
Watches the sand as it runs
in the hourglass.

We forgot
that there still are

What sea was here once?
We jump on layers of salt
as on pieces of floating ice
in spring.
We were warmly welcomed
with salt,
like newlyweds,
but there is no bread, –
we could bake sand buns,
but there is no water.
What sea was here before?

We pour sand
into one another’s eyes, –
the pines turn greener,
We keep pouring sand
into one another’s eyes, –
the grass revives and softens...
we keep pouring sand pouring sand, –
the sky is so red,
as before a sandstorm.
And we close our red-rubbed eyes...

The sandman smiles
and observes us
and hums:
– from sand to sand...
he covers us
in the hourglass
with his palms.

I will emigrate to a country
that does not yet exist.
I I will name it SUTEMA.
I I t will not depend
on heaven or earth,
it cannot be bought or sold,
it is not a fairy tale…
When the Great Wizard
waves his hand
and touches a cloud,
the river Liūnė will start to flow
and wash away the dead.–
I I will emigrate to the country
which is yet to be.