The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

June 9th, 2016

2 poems

Apples and Oranges

I was peeling an orange and
the department secretary said
you should eat an apple instead
because it’s local,
and our bodies have evolved to eat local food.

So the apple belongs,
while the orange does not.

Well, I thought, since Jesus spoke in parables,
and we walk here under crosses: who is who?
There is Selmas: working the land,
growing his gnarly apple trees,
trunks painted white against disease…
And Ahasuerus: the wandering Jew,
a foreign fruit lacking local roots…

Thus, her nutritional advice
may be boiled down to this:
“Let us cast aside all oranges
so that the body of our people
should grow strong.”

Well, I told her. I don’t think that’s true.
Vitamins are vitamins and oranges have quite a lot.
Besides, whence these apple trees?
And the potato, our national food,
is something hoary national heroes never ate.
It comes from dark-skinned, Inca roots.

I come from the new world too,
despite my gentile Lithuanian stock.
And I suspect this grafted apple tree
has some foreign strains.

Orange I am, then, (eating with glee)
wandering Europe, wandering the world,
a wandering Jew
who imagines in his folly
that the Great Synagogue of Vilnius,
(rising from its roots like an ancient oak)
still stands.

*

There is this life

The first gaze
Broken
I rolled out of the crib
And stood at the marriage altar
Handed in the papers
Died
It was ordinary
And inane
People
Caught in the web
Crows in a tree, cawing
Starlings warbling
Wind rustling hands
Branches like a map of nerves
Open
To inroads of smoke
And concrete fields of will
With glimpses of a silent well
Along the way
What was gained?
Pleasure – but
So easy to say
The sudden injection of a two-note song
The slow drip of honey between mouths
The grip of a hand like gravity
Holding us to the ground
The fingers of a child
In a dream
In which someone else awakens
And breathes

*

Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Atlanta Review, Iowa Review, Quiddity, Per Contra, Hudson Review and other journals. He is translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets (Vilnius, 2015). His translations of Ilzė Butkutė and Judita Vaičiūnaitė are forthcoming from US publishers. 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 and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, he teaches literature, translation and creative writing at Vilnius University.

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