LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Copyright © 2011 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Volume 57, No.1 - Spring 2011
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
VITA LAUMĖ’S POETRY
VITA LAUMĖ lives in Olympia, Washington. She makes yearly pilgrimages to her native land, works with amber and writes poetry. Her new chapbook, Letters, is forthcoming.
She Dreams Only in Black-and-White
Train stations, frightened people on platforms,
black suitcases, gray bundles, pushing crowds.
She is holding onto her father’s coat sleeve.
I don’t want to be lost! I don’t want to be lost...
Children’s faces, white as communion wafers,
slide by the window until the train snaps,
and she is stretched over the sky
unable to touch what she knows.
In the village below, old women are squabbling.
Black crows. With their shawled arms
they beckon her to come down.
No, no. she shouts, the soldiers are coming!
Her voice is turning into a white cloud.
White foxes are running over Siberian tundra,
large bones in their sharp teeth.
Nothing but snow, wind, barbed-wire fence.
Then she sees a huge pile of logs.
Good, she notes, at least the deportees
have wood to heat their frozen yurts. But
these logs are bones! Picked-clean skeletons
of adults and children. Stacked ten feet high.
This happened, this really happened...
an outside voice is drumming in her skull.
Black sky and white sand stretch forever.
She is walking barefooted over thin bones
of birds. They crack and powder
under her foot soles. Wind coils the dust
into a dance. This must be the far edge.
Who has allowed her to walk here?
She fears, and any moment now,
she’ll step upon her own white heart.
Slave Labor Camp in Siberia
The white violet on my desk,
with frosted petals and purple edges,
turns into the pale face of a child.
He is looking through his breath-circle
on a frosted window.
Mother is not back from the woods.
It is already dark.
His eyes are focused on the path.
The howl of the wolves is coming closer.
Hunger keeps him frozen
to this gray windowsill.
Out there, even children
had to make unthinkable choices.
Forced to choose,
would it be bread, or
the safe return of his mother?
After 55 Years I Regained my Ancestral Land
I take my sister Grief by the hand
and we walk the fields. Out loud
I say kaimas, seklyčia, koplytėlė,
Lithuanian words of places and things
long since gone. Not even a trace
of my grandmother’s farm, the well
ploughed over, the orchard cut down.
At night, I stand in the middle
of my land. A dome of stars
all around me. I dip into the galaxies
with my home-keeper’s ladle.
How many stars can this common spoon
hold? I scoop and scoop,
drink this black light, fill myself
with emptiness – black-on-black
sailing through us
a black ship
guided by extinct light
of a black star
Where am I now? Where am I with my
full of stars? Am I with the ancestors
or the unborn?
There is no end of us.
We are all returning,
this much I know.
In 1944, as Russian freight trains
were pulling their weight
between Poland and Lithuania,
deserters clung to boxcar roofs
no longer caring about front lines.
They saw you as an apparition.
You were their Holy Maiden.
They blessed you, were thankful
that your last moment was soft.
One of them, alive at eighty,
tells me: I still see her so clearly,
the way she escaped those rapists,
her bruised naked body climbing
to the top of the boxcar,
the torn comforter dragging behind her.
she opened her arms and
Like an angel she was –
all the white feathers lifting,
like small birds around her,
His hand reaches for his cheek,
eyes glaze over. One stuck to my cheek...
I can still hear that thud
as the train continued to move on...
A holy feather.