Other Realities





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.




They said: walk with a spring in your step – girls walk lightly with a smile,
They said: no one dresses like that – this skirt is too short,
They said: no one dresses like that – this skirt is too long,
They said: sky-blue panty hose only fit with sky-blue clothes, red – with red,
Home Control assiduously inspected even the color’s shades.

They said: stop eating, you’ll be like a cow

[I often gazed at cows. Conclusion:
no similarity. Cows are very pretty.]


They said: eat, otherwise you won’t be able to have children – you master of the fast.
They said: but if you want children, you can have them without men, children don’t
need men

[Nor men – children, was my conclusion,
according to this logic. QED.]


They said: live how you want, you know what you’re doing – everything was said
with love,
Playing handball – a boy’s game,
Hockey – a boy’s game,
Swimming – a game without gender, but revealing it.

After that, they said: girl’s don’t fight – when I kicked a classmate in the nose
Who decided to cop a feel of my burgeoning breasts,
They said: I wouldn’t want such a daughter, so help me God –
When they found a bag of peas in my backpack, though I battled with the boys
Who would have been, we should understand, fitting sons;
They told my mom: she’ll grow up a lesbian, look what she does with those girls
In that room, pretending to play doctor;
They said: everything outside the norms is a perversion,
They said: even the neighbor fixed herself, from a tomboy to a taxi driver, in
They said: don’t talk to the other neighbor who is always trying
To fly like a bird from her balcony, and one time she succeeded,

They said: you goat, you can’t drive, and then they said: for a girl, you drive well;
They said: do what you know best, though they didn’t think I knew anything.
They said: “NO” so many times for so long and so persistently
That I became the girl in the tower of glass, lulled by rosy illusions,
An obedient, deafened girl, layed out in the coffin of the beauty myth.
But one day, I woke up – kissed by feminism’s frog.
I woke up and said: you can all just fuck off!

Translation by Rimas Uzgiris of a poem „Pabudimas“ by Gabrielė Labanauskaitė




They set other lives aflame with candles
And the smoke of unspeakable sweetness
Drifts across the floor, trampled by military boots

O inspire me with southern
So I won’t have to sigh at a nearby table
Inhaling 103 cigarillos


It’s raining again today
Another war is declared.
A tear drops
Into an ashtray.

We Have Never Always



We have never sailed on the lake, river or floated on top of the Dead sea.
We have never been at a concert, cinema or exhibition together.
We have never said to each other: look, this is a genius picture!
We have never climbed on the top of the roof or mountain.
We have never gone around the world in the same boat.
We have never given flowers to each other or presents.
We have never felt how it’s to move on the same dance floor.
We have never licked melting ice cream together.
We have never asked much about the roots of each other.
We have never combed each other’s hair, gently and slowly.
We have never felt Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday together.
We have never worked together, fighting with passion.
We have never been skating, skiing, running, long walking together.
We have never got lost in the forest or in the parking lot under a shopping mall.
We have never gone hunting, shooting, fishing or picking up berries.
We have never made food, coffee or tea or some other disaster.
We have never played cards or lost our last money at the casino.
We have never smoked weed, gone high with all other good or bad stuff.
We have never got dizzy, drunk or lost in the labyrinths of consciousness.
We have never called each other by phone.

We don’t even have each others’ telephone number.

So why do I feel knowing you so well?
Why do we feel knowing each other more than
thousands of years?

We have dived in each others’ bodies, sunbathing in each others’ heat.
We have been drawing inner maps, routes and movements.
We have seen so many pictures of moons and red sunsets.
We have climbed into each other, slipping down and starting again.
We have built a world within a world, it’s spinning in us and around us.
We have painted blue flowers on each others’ bodies.
We danced on the red bed sheet as bull and toreador changing our roles,
Dying, resurrecting, fainting again and again.
We have melted into each others’ palms, becoming teenagers.
We have common roots, past lives and some secret knowledge.
We have stroked each others’ hair with finger combs and shower brush.
We have felt Monday, Friday, Saturday and two Sundays together.
We inspired each other, weaving the carpets of words, everyday longer and bigger.
We went into the curious, spoiled, ambitious, creative, iching territories.
We got lost in each others’ forests and none of us wanted to be found.
We have gone smiling, laughing, kissing, touching and picking up pleasure berries.
We drank water, milkshakes, prosecco and some other bubbles of happiness.
We played distances and proximities, opening cards to each other
and hiding again.
We smoked each others’ lungs, went high by elevators under the ribs.
We got intoxicated and lost in the labyrinths of unconsciousness.
We know each other’s name. We know it by heart. We know, how to write it, to spell
it, to hear it, to swallow it.
It’s tattooed on each other’s skin.
It’s called: my insomnia.

We Swim Through Hair



We swim through hair,
In its whirlpools
We exchange formulae

We swim through hair
In its whirlpools
The drains are clogged

We swim through hair
In its whirlpools
Mouths full of drowned men

We swim through hair
In its whirlpools
The bottom sinks toward us
We do not notice

30 me in 15 you

30 ME IN 15 YOU


I went to the party and heard some nice music, I thought it was you

I opened a notebook to write a poem and I thought it was you

I saw a slice of orange in the dark blue sky and I thought it was you

I met a lonely cat on my way home and I thought it was you

I swang up and down before going to sleep and I thought it was you

I smelt black orchidea around my neck and I thought it was you

I washed my face with a cold water and I thought it was you

I went to bed leaving a candle next to my head and I thought it was you

I heard somebody’s steps approaching me and I thought it was you

Somebody undressed me and layed next to me and I thought it was you

Somebody kissed my sternum and breasts and I thought it was you

Somebody touched my hip-bone with a big hunger and I thought it was you

Somebody came into me and got lost and I thought it was you

Somebody grew inside me, painful and pleasant and I thought it was you

I wrote you a message: Whatever I do, I always think that it’s you.
You answered me: It wasn’t me. So, it wasn’t you.

Red Silk Evil



When I met you, a red silk evil obsessed me.
He told me: it’s nice, but paradise apples gonna melt
As soon, as you taste it.
He told me, it’s too nice – this beauty will cost you
Pulsing insomnia.
He told me, kick her, bite her, run away from her, beat her, smash her,
Provoke, pretend, don’t give up, offence is defence.
He told me, play, enjoy, the goal is the process.
He told me, even if you fall down, all wounds will be healed.
He told me, I am the red silk, everyone will slide down me,
I’ll stay untouched.

When I got angry at you, thinking that you wanted to run away earlier,
Evil put a red lipstick into one hand, that you wouldn’t be touching my lips
And into another hand he put a toothbrush – just in case, if I would like
To stab you next morning.
When you have left, red evil lighted a chocolate cigarillo with his one hand and
poured wine into the glass with another.

Oh, this red silk evil!
Oh, this red silk evil, who obsessed me after I’ve met you.
Oh, this red silk evil, who obsessed me before I’ve met you!

The Real Mafia



The real mafia meets in


as the organ plays

they kiss-

fingers ringed with gold


Real killers like


soft furs

and a tear of blood
streaming down

a sleeve.


[The realest ones
don’t like reality].




I live in an aquarium

Among the other piranhas

I learn to swim

To feel the small fish

To swim up near to him

And to astonish

I live and live and live

Among sharp corals and reefs

The glass walls are there

Only to prevent the sleep


when you break through

to the other side of the mirror

When you break through to the other side of the mirror


You will see another aquarium

Where piranha devours piranha

Where piranha devours piranha

Where piranha devours piranha


There is nothing but water

In the aquarium

No Wolves



The wolves are the wolves are the wolves and a rose.
The rose is the rose is the rose and a fire.
The fire is the fire is the fire and a body.
The body is the body is the body and a shame.
The shame is the shame is the shame and a house.
The house is the house is the house and an end.
The end is the end is the end and a choice.

The choice is the choice is the choice and a female.
The female is the female is the female and the drums.
The drums are the drums are the drums and a wolf.
The wolf is the wolf is the wolf and a vulva.
The vulva is the vulva is the vulva and a poetess.
The poetess is a poetess is a poetess is a poetess and has no gender.

No gender is no gender is no gender and no body.
No body is no body is no body and no shame.
No shame is no shame and no shame and no drums.
No drums are no drums are no drums and no fire.
No fire is no fire is no fire and no rose.

No rose is no poetry.
No poetry is no wolf.
No wolf is no end.
No end is no.