from Stories About Love and Other Animals

Indrė Valantinaitė


Since the time I moved away from you,
I slide along the ground like a snail
on whose slimy body fragments
of my shell still stick.

Behind me, I leave an insentient trail of ooze.

A million hotels in the world—of ice, ivory, rock salt—
washed in the seas of foreign tongues, faces, habits—
would hide me, would open their doors.

I would return to where, twenty years ago, I prodded the dead jelly:
the color of water and limpid cloud.
On that beach, I did not yet wear my bikini top.

My fingers penetrated its formless body—

To return would mean "to start everything anew",
to glue oneself together from the first words,
from the nails of one's toes.

There, where my heart was—a sharp shard of glass
over which muscle will forever weave its petals . . .

Until, with every pulse it will hurt less,
reminding me less: of guilt, origin, my native tongue.


Men, who won wars,
and courageous women, who crossed rivers of doubt—
a pile of bones and medallions on her desk.

Death domesticated—she arranges the mosaic of eternity
and plaits the braids of history's gray hair.

Frazzled, she blows her nose in the frayed sleeve of her sweater,
and continues to smooth the ballroom dress of non-being.

Climbing steps of recognition, this steward of the past,
in the department of history, Vilnius University,

doesn't feel anything in the morning on her way to work
when she passes the Europa Hotel—

where she once whispered a lover's name, now forgotten,
as he opened the gates of her legs. 

translated from the Lithuanian by Rimas Uzgiris