“The Kiss” is translated by Sam and Clay Witt with Arturas Valionis and is also taken from In Those Beautiful Years of Great Disappointments.

Excerpts from
In Those Beautiful Years of Great Disappointments are translated by Craig Czury with Arturas Valionis.

For more Poetry from Lithuania

Arturas Valionis Arturas Valionis

Translated by Sam Witt and Clay Witt with Arturas Valionis

the kiss: a fragment of fortune-telling

       those born
are obliged to watch
    the arrangement of elephant bones

to them stories about the marks
            of the nails
    on the smooth, unbreakable forms
are dedicated.

                    forms that are rinsed
                                   with the sweat of palms
and shaped by the granite
            of trained fingers.

not every scratch
            has its own story —

              and only some of them
            have been memorized.

after stories languish,
             the rough edges are worn down
   and out of the bones
various adornments are turned,
the cavities are hollowed
      into belt-buckles —

            what is all this for?

    soft and blunted,
the voice of the woman
            in a whisper,
will give a name,
            her lips will touch the forehead,
hiding her regular bite

                        (will the mark remain? )

will her kiss moisten the pits of memory,

( black measurements on the doorpost
show through a fresh coat of enamel )

          — and melancholic then become
the thoughts of the born.

             and so I hail
the downpour which will wash onto the dunes (will it?)
                        objects, plenty of objects,
spoiled somewhat by the water
   and the unchanging movement of the sand —

            downwind, downwind

water and sand sharpen the forms,
       and the body movements
   become lighter and less distinct.

have you seen the leaden gondolas of the clouds
                           above the drying sea?

into the ground their elegance has soaked,
          and sails like puffs of smoke held
                    in the cupped hand of the coagulating water.

          let the restored remembrances
of the alleys
                leave me —

   the wish of the sea-woman
to give me
   the illusion of ice-covered hair,
                the eating of pears at night,
                     echo of a laugh,
coming back.

the silhouettes of fruit take shape in the bowl
and the knife I throw
                  does not hit
the bread of inclement
                      non-reality —

I am here. I touched the wall
                                     overgrown with moss
     but groped for only a few
           crumbled bricks —

     already the cobble-stone road of the fourth city
flows by under my feet,

          while an army waits patiently
by the half-opened gates. For a regular bite —
               the mark on the forehead. For the sign to enter,
which is absent.

excerpts from
In those Beautiful Years of Great Disappointments

Translated by Craig Czury with Arturas Valionis

glittering in the sun

our stories
written and re-written
without changing a thing

for a great sudden change
wait       wait       wait

stinging under gusts of rain
glitter in the sun


Goodbye your women melted in smoke
as they closed the gates and rode into shadow
the lighthouse saw them off and grew hoarse

Our women rode out with the horde at daybreak
their horses left furious shoes strewed with crumbs
enraged my sweet slumber my eyes glazed with dust

how quiet looks:

the smoothness of pebbles
stuck in the rush
your silhouette moving further away
my disheveled memory

I would like to measure
by the hitches at the ends of ropes

the nearest

this echo's not real
there are no tree trunks
it slides down


there is no surrounding
half-circle of forest
which continuously creeps closer


there is no steamy flooded swamp
scurrying critters through its root mounds


nervous watch-springs don't tick
but tumble against her in front of me
their thunder illumines

how to defend oneself from the wind of recollections

monotonous strokes of wings give peace of mind
triangles that leave us cackle
snow into sawdust
as cold wet pieces

flood maybe only moisten
every movement of the dam
every stirring
needle prick by prick

the places that are given a pointed nudge
are lazy fishes of the mind that jump
above a dense blast of steam

swimming their dusty bodies away
through crumbled arches
fountain minarets

(when they pass each other
memory spurts through their seams)

later carried back
in a cascading color of asphalt

back again

cutting like an incision into a tree trunk
coming together

counting stumps and rings
more difficult to recognize each year

tear them to shreds
the bandage leaves of plantain grown in holey pits
gossamer veins of grass