Rimas Uzgiris – Five Poems

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.


The Lamp

–for Jadvyga Lendraitis, who loved (lived) her knick-knacks

Back and forth went the boy. Hardly aware, he skipped
His waking dream over the crimson carpet (or was it russet?).
The lamp, as always, with darkened bulb stood at
Fancy’s end, sporting a shade like cherry cotton-
Candy with frills, a stand depicting man and woman
Ensnared in plaster embrace, her body stretched
Back over his waist who, twisting round, reaches for her
Right thigh raised, the ruffled skirt hiked, quads bare,
A puritanical blank slate below – what lies there?
The stars, or the space between? (Even kitsch can kill.)
Back then, in his grandparents’ room where he slept,
He was soothed and sweated by that kiss above the riddle
Of sinuous muscles (Roman? Greek?) blended into one
Form wherefrom a post rises and the light comes on.


Original Sin

–St. Helen’s Catholic Church, the 80’s

It began in church
with the Lord’s Prayer:
us, hissing
Our Father

let us not trespass against those
hundred-fold tongues
of glossolalic snakes
who trespass against us

while Holy Mary
sat three rows up:
my brunette classmate,
Jesus smiling come

so that I saw my cock
snaking under pews
knocking at her pearly gates…
lead us not into temptation

but deliver us –
you’d make a good priest
said the en-habited nun,
and my friends just grinned.

O pray for us sinners,
now and in the hour that comes,
for we are all sad and secret –
silently slinking into the Styx.


Joseph

He is an embarrassment of sorts:
Cuckolded by the God of men,
Yet quietly (meekly?) dutiful
To his wife and another’s child.

Where, after all, is the dramatic
Chiaroscuro scene of his learning
That he will be, has been, replaced?
It should be an honor, I suppose,

For this hero of self-abnegation
To rear a Godhead that wasn’t his.
(Did he ask her if she enjoyed it?)
I saw his statue once (the only time)

On an island south of France,
A bit off the trail, in the bushes:
As if he wanted some privacy,
Heavily draped in cobweb lace.


Annunciate Madonna

– after Antonello da Messina

Her hand suspends – is
A bell in ringing air –
To pause the speech
That bears too much to hear.

The moon has ceased its circuit.
The sun is done with its illusion
Of motion. Time on hold.
But some inner part still stirs –

5/4 fortissimo
Pounds her heart-drum
To an invisible baton writing signs in the sky.
A black hole opens in her gut.

We, from a sill left unsighted, know
Where the dove must have stilled its song,
Whence a wind wafts a whiff of winter
Snow: first flakes, last flakes,

Death.
The child will change everything,
She tells herself.
As every mother knows.


Baptismal

– for Adelė Atėnė

Yesterday, you swam in the sea,
you bathed in the sound in my arms,
you floated on the ocean, Adelė.

Waves lapped at your plumb lines,
christened newness while you slapped
back at them with your hand – green

Athena, my little flirt, charming
the god who dwells in the watery grave,
kicking, smiling with a baby’s inborn

knowledge, the happy cobalt of your eyes
forming kinship with water and sky,
as if you were made to skim or to fly –

a heavenly Venus in my scalloped hands…
There could be no better baptism
than this sun-drenched swim by the strand

where evening stretched its shadows
from off the far headland, throwing fire
to feast on our flesh, lending us this passion

for the ticks of a stellar clock. But what grave
accidents lie in wait in this ever-shifting space?
What slouches through the sludge-filled depths

towards us while you splash and play? What
infects the wind-stirred waves with death?
We pass fetid sea-weed draped along the mole.

You too will know this, in time, so turn away:
it’s not for us now, this memento mori.
For born again this day – that which saves.

 

 

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