Location in Lithuania, which later became their home
YOUNG MASTER. I kept looking in through the little window to see how you were writing. Concentrated, stooped over your desk. Never doubting your genius. Requiring special time for that. Special time, special space. I strived to create the kind of home for you in which you would be free like a bird in your poems. Free like your namesake river. Salomėja Nėris. There is a river of this name in Lithuania. Impetous and independent. The way you wanted to be, the way you always were.
MAIDEN. You made me a little glass window, a little window into my study where you were able to see my desk from the passageway and know whether I am working or resting. According to that you used to decide if you could disturb me or should rather leave me in peace. As the ink streamed onto the pages of my embroidered notebook, sometimes I felt your gaze gently caressing my back. This feeling used to flood my body with warmth and I smiled. The smile you did not see.
YOUNG MASTER. I felt everything. I designed this home in Paris, and we built it in Lithuania, in Palemonas, not far from Kaunas. Surrounded by pine trees, three kilometres from the lagoon, which has moved so much it can now be seen from our window. Pine tree logs, oak doors.
MAIDEN. We moved here with our baby son Saulius in our hands. Straight from the maternity hospital. I put our son into a pine wood cradle.
YOUNG MASTER. You were able to write anywhere. While rocking the child, every spare minute, when in the garden.
MAIDEN. I was always short of time, my lines started to crumble.
YOUNG MASTER. You were able to compose poems even from those crumbled lines. The nation liked you, your words became songs.
MAIDEN. I did not like to cook. I used to look into your working space through the special window which allowed me to see what you were doing even from the kitchen. I used to think: “Just don’t stop working”. So I would never have to serve food on our dining table.
YOUNG MASTER. Nevertheless, you always served it ingeniously.
MAIDEN. How to eat was always more important to me than what to eat.
YOUNG MASTER. You were a dashing housewife, my maiden!
MAIDEN. Wake up at dawn, weed the garden with my writers’ hands protected by gloves. Walk three kilometres to the train station, then get to Kaunas where I taught at the gymnasium. If there was no train – to walk those eight kilometres to the city centre…
YOUNG MASTER. Remember how once you walked to the national awards ceremony to get the best poet’s award that year.
MAIDEN. Then teach all day at school. Buy groceries in Kaunas because there was hardly anything in our backwater. Walk to the train station with two big shopping bags. Then ride a train home. Then – you meet me. And then I cook dinner. And boil poems together with potatoes. Then tumble into bed exhausted.
YOUNG MASTER. Into our oak bed. Big bed on a wooden dais. We used to sleep like royals, elevated above reality.
MAIDEN. I keep thinking about what we call reality. Do romantic dreams of adolescence dreamt while sitting leisurely on a bench in a courtyard and watching sunsets belong to reality? Or was it just a projection of youth? Being the only woman among many men – I can’t deny, it was flattering and I was proud of my opportunities – did it prove that there were no other good poets who were women or that I was simply lucky? When I graduated with a degree in Theology and Philosophy yet failed to come to believe in God, in fact, got even further from Him – was it more real than fanatical prayers to the sky? Is what we believe in real? Or perhaps it is the opposite? Real is just that which we doubt? When I came to believe in political leftists’ ideas and started expressing them in my poetry, was I one of those who could see clearly or those who were blinded?
YOUNG MASTER. Or when you wrote a poem to Stalin…
MAIDEN. Or when I wrote a poem to Stalin in which he saves the nation by bringing us the sun on his steel shoulders… Was I blinded by the rays of that sun and equality ideas? I believed that I cared about the nation. That I cared about ordinary people. While at the same time I was ashamed of my parents who were ordinary people.
YOUNG MASTER. Reality is an unceasing creation of our imagination, Salomėja.
MAIDEN. I always believed that I am smarter than others, that I can redeem the nation. And only upon my return to Lithuania from Moscow after the war, when I found a bunker and trenches dug around our house lined with volumes of my German encyclopedia, of the best paper…
YOUNG MASTER. And your relatives deported to Siberia…
MAIDEN. And intelligentsia all killed…
YOUNG MASTER. And the empty houses of those who survived, any way they could…
MAIDEN. I realised that I was just a cog in the machine, my darling. Just a genial cog in the machine. That was once needed for the sole purpose of spreading propaganda through its poems.
YOUNG MASTER. Oh, this is not…
MAIDEN. This is reality, my darling.
YOUNG MASTER. I know that you did not mean any harm. Any harm.
MAIDEN. My new poetry collections that challenged the government were not published. My wish to die in Lithuania and not Russia was not granted.
YOUNG MASTER. Too soon, everything happened too soon.
MAIDEN. God destined me to die young… In the early, unwritten, morning*…
YOUNG MASTER. But we are here now. Together.
MAIDEN. Tree to tree.
YOUNG MASTER. Two oaks, one on each side of the house entrance.
MAIDEN. Tree to tree.
YOUNG MASTER. From the wooden house.
MAIDEN. From the wooden fence.
YOUNG MASTER. From the wooden cradle.
MAIDEN. From the wooden bed.
YOUNG MASTER. From the wooden work desk.
MAIDEN. From the wooden writing desk.
YOUNG MASTER. From the good wood shelves for your books.
MAIDEN. From the bunkers lined with good paper.
YOUNG MASTER. Tree to tree.
MAIDEN. From the wooden coffin in which I was transported back to Lithuania.
YOUNG MASTER. From wooden coffins of all who were crushed by the system.
MAIDEN. I was just a cog. Just a cog in the iron machine of that entire governmental tree.
YOUNG MASTER. Salomėja, you were more than this reality.
MAIDEN. Our souls live in these oaks. One on the left, one on the right of the house entrance. Remember, they called us the same way we used to call each other: Maiden and Young Master.
YOUNG MASTER. Visitors go into our house and don’t know that our spirits are nearby.
MAIDEN. They are used to a different reality.
YOUNG MASTER. Do come, dear visitors, the Museum of poet Salomeja Neris and architect Bernardas Bučas is open every working day until 5 o’clock in the evening.
MAIDEN. Although sometimes the museum employees finish work somewhat earlier.
YOUNG MASTER. But this is yet another reality.