The Ruins of Troy
—Outside Troy, NY
On the butcher shop door
hangs a picture of a
child gone missing: me—
my life is over, it seems
I am led to a great mall
where passing escalators
speak the same lines
of gates at cross purposes
and my childhood photos
on the wall of the now
non-existent house hide
in Troy like Helen
preserved by mythical time—
adolescent Achilles claims
his watch is broken, Hector alive.
And the trees are busy with snow.
I was happy that my father came and stayed with us in Brooklyn
during the astrophysics conference at Metro Tech University.
We talked dark energy, and Alan Guth was there, who discovered
inflation. Apparently, the universe began by running away
from itself, like some people I know. It continues to be inflated
by mysterious energy, blowing us apart. My father pointed out
how this theory assumes all supernovas burn with the same intensity,
like candles. But why should they? Still, he is not an astrophysicist,
and the astrophysicists are all convinced, so that's that. Alan Guth
deserves the Nobel, my father said, but Perlmutter got it instead. My father
rode the F train to the conference, and was excited by that. I picked
a traditional Italian place for dinner after the talk: downtown Brooklyn,
"Queen" was the name. The staff seemed to be cheering us on.
The food was good but my father was miffed that he got potatoes
on the side instead of spaghetti. After all, this was an Italian restaurant.
Still, he has eaten potatoes on the side his whole life, so I guess
it just felt like home to him. When we rode back on the subway
arguing about empiricism and theoretical assumptions, everybody
around us seemed annoyed. My mother and wife were there too,
but she's not my wife anymore. I'm not exactly a little kid, but I can
still sound like one because he's my dad and I'm proud of him.
Café de Paris, Vilnius
Cig butts on the stone steps from which
tightly swaddling jeans can be seen
through a wan window. Young women primp
in front of a mirror outside the WC.
Used kegs clog the crimped room.
After long silence, you return to your theme:
"Bishop's exile was itself surreal." "Love
is always that." "Surreal?" "Elsewhere...
Are you willing to take your son to Korea?"
"What else can I do? How many others
will it take to get over the connection
that keeps ringing in my ears?" A girl
stumbles up like a drunk dove, bemused,
"ka?", "ka?", she coos, shooting duds.
Our mugs do not fit the description. Who
fits the description? Do we ever see what
they see in the mirror? Our selves
are a great divide. Continental. Drifting
plates. Foamy mugs. Smoke snakes thin
until the coldness of stone seeps through
our speech and we rise to leave for love.
—for my niece
Saoirse saw the park and went to play.
She shared the slide with a local child
wearing a cap of crochet. The summer’s day
was gay as a child at play, though a cloud
blocked rays like an uncle going gray
in his early middle-age. Saoirse’s proud
grandmother watched her play,
having herself gone quickly gray
in merry-go-rounds of chemotherapy
with a cyst in the lung like a little cave
from which the huns did come
to plunder and rape the plains.
Lithuania is a land of forests and plains,
swamps too, where people ran to be saved.
Grandmother just plain ran away.
Saoirse runs in circles as she plays.
Her world buzzes bright and gay.
Later in the day, she wears a cap of crochet.
What They’re Up To
The trees are bored with snow
and cars grunt along an icy road.
Twisting through a twisted arm
of the Milky Way, the earth leans
on its axis, pushed by Atlas
with Cerberus barking at his heels.
Smoke exits pedestrian mouths
as people slip along sidewalks
stopping at the grocery store
on their way home from work.
The Fates have weaved their footprints
into parking lots, aisles and yards
below serried apartment blocks.
Fireworks light up the sky
celebrating a holiday no one knows.
Something is different from when
the myths at first were made.
It takes a neighbor to stumble
and swirl up like a leaf sucked
into the vacuum of space, or
for a siren to sound like a voice
from another world... The lights
in the sky have a story to tell
but you have to watch the news
to know, unless it’s the new Ares
trying to get Aphrodite’s attention
as she sits down below with her husband
who fumes like the boiler next door.
RIMAS UZGIRIS is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Iowa Review, Hudson Review, and other journals. He is translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets, compiler and translator of the Lithuanian section of New Baltic Poets (Parthian), translator of Caravan Lullabies by Ilzė Butkutė (A Midsummer Night’s Press), Then What by Gintaras Grajauskas (Bloodaxe), Now I Understand by Marius Burokas (Parthian), The Moon is a Pill by Aušra Kaziliūnaitė (Parthian), and of Vagabond Sun by Judita Vaičiūnaitė forthcoming from Shearsman. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, and the Poetry Spring 2016 Award for translations of Lithuanian poetry into other languages, he teaches translation at Vilnius University.