Poem By Algimantas Mackus
For Antanas Škėma
Instead of the somber grace to live
understand what a mean joy dying is
Death's this aged and faded
sunset across the Lithuanian landscape
sweet sunshine, back in spring, set up with
the moonman first spoke a language strange to her.
Death's these deviates, the windmills
lurching into the rough side of wind for their gold,
that midnight a fullgrown girl went sneaking off
to grind the grain of her day-to-day chores in secret.
Death's these fanatic plowboys
in a blind blood ritual with earth
to rise like wild wounded animals from their lairs
then smash up on concrete, come sundown.
Death's the cynical veterans enraged at being
sent back to the front with decorations, the hot lead
our girl, starved through as she was, threw herself
on once she was all out of tears to shed over her fate.
Death's the manuscript sheets turned yellow
along with title pages to old books
a gray-haired Vilnius antiquarian set down
in the chronicle of mold with its date for vanishing.
Death's the maps to colonies reaching
right through to earth's yield,
the baptism that slavery was
Maria lay body and all down into.
Death's the names of new republics drawn
from Africa, a landmass in history's snare.
Black Maria drops to her knees unconscious,
a slim amulet clasped in her hands.
Death's all the states wiped out,
all rivers that reach to the sea erased from maps,
a drought black Maria sings of
in the idiom of lillies, ice and rain.
Death's a collage of water and stained glass
kept from fading in museum vaults:
one girl rose at dawn and along
with sweet dawn lay down in her down bed.
Death's dead set against both, in black or white:
Gethsemane and Fire Sermon.
Having first sung drought, Maria gives birth
over to death, the landscape no longer there.