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Kornelijus Platelis


Poet, essayist and translator, born on 22 Jan.1951 in Šiauliai, Lithuania, graduated from Vilnius Engineering Building Institute in 1973 and worked as a construction engineer until 1988. Since 1980 he has published over ten selections of poetry and two of essays. He has translated many poets’ works including books by T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Czesław Miłosz, Seamus Heaney, and Robert Bringhurst, and developed commentary for a new Lithuanian edition of the Old Testament. His poems have been translated into many languages and published at home and abroad including books in Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, and USA. He is a member of Lithuanian P.E.N. Centre since 1989 and President in 1991-1995 and 2003-2007. He is the initiator and Chairman of the Board of the annual international literary festival Druskininkai Poetic Fall. After the liberation of Lithuania in 1990 he served as deputy Minister of Culture and Education of Lithuania, deputy mayor of Druskininkai, director of VAGA Publishers in Vilnius, Minister of Education and Science of Lithuania, editor-in-chief of the literary weekly Literature & Art, and he currently serves as president of the Lithuanian Association of Artists, board member of the National Radio and Television, board member of the Fund for Press, Radio and Television. Among his many honors and awards is the Lithuanian National Award for Culture and Arts (2002).




Milk and Tomatoes


she left a note: dearest

buy two bottles of milk and two

tomatoes he thought for a long time

having read the note sitting on the kitchen

stool how white milk is in a glass

creamy and white

as the skin of her face

it will flow past lips into the belly

then she will wipe herself with a white

napkin while tomatoes

are red as lips their juice

flows down the marble chin

until a white hand wipes it away

(tomatoes are so juicy!)

her eyes will shine with desire

she will be wearing a white dress

or a checked skirt

he will definitely buy

two bottles of milk and two



September 1978




An Encounter at Dusk


While looking out the library window

At the dusk of winter,

The shelves suddenly open and a boy enters

Carrying a basket of apples and roses.

And the darkness thickens, thoughts tangle.

Today – he says –

A very strange thing happened to me:

I was walking down the orchard path and found myself

In a gloomy room with shelves,

Filled with rectangular slabs.

A sad man stood there looking out the window

At the dusk of winter.


November 1983







In trolley number 5 on the last seat

Next to a dozing old man from Gerontion,

A bag of red apples on my lap.  Not for Paris,

Not for Alexander, but for my children, my family.

Unwittingly the apples of my breasts pulsate with juices.

The young man near the door across from me on the step,

Fixing his gaze on the apples, the juices, the reward,

Gathers, it seems, something from the shadows of his soul.

Between his legs the root of life begins to grow,

The uncontrollable horn stiffens, and he reddens in shame.

The old man, seeing that, wakes and begins to chuckle.

The young man, flustered, gets off at the first stop.

The old man continues chuckling, my body grows numb,

His juices begin to rage.  I try to get out

At the next stop but my forgotten bag

Falls off my lap and the red apples spill out.

Undelivered reward.  The old man laughs

And begins picking up the apples.  Not for Alexander,

Not for Paris, but for my children, my family.  I get off.

Back past the old voices, past the faces of Achivi.

May the gods send him his soul’s most beautiful woman.


January 2001








Where does it end, where does it begin?

Ventilation pipes on the flat roof drone

Like eternity.  The landing force,

As they are called, climbs

On a metal truss that holds silos of sawdust,

To the chimney extending

From the varnishing shop, reach the top

And smell the terrifying mix of odors

That the ventilator vomits into the darkened sky,

Holding on to the metal beam

With arms and legs.

They hang that way until they shake off

This world and fall in

To the zone.


The physician’s assistant, cursing,

Puts casts on arms and legs,

Wipes blistered lips

And noses with stinking ointment.

The landing force, as they are called,

One by one return in

To the zone.


January 1987





Fifty-Year-Old Women


You have to wait a long time to know them,

lurk in the thickets of experience, senses tensed,

clenching the heart’s fading heat in your chest.

Their souls are cautious and fearful as ermine,

breakable, even though they have shells,

in their hearts more indulgent benevolence

than fire, which could be extinguished

by an accidental wind, and in their movements        

less passion than skill.  They are the first to see

the one who lies in wait.  On their lips the simplest words

ring more luxuriously than these lines.

They spend more on cosmetics

and keep longer company with mirrors.        

They press close so gently, so cautiously,
boldly and timidly, as if hoping for something

and expecting nothing, that the soul stirs.

You have to wait a long time to know them,

but there are no more elegant creatures in the world.


November 2000





St. Elizabeth’s Hospital                                            


                                    for Craig Czury

                                    Our dynasty came because of a great sensibility.

                                                                            Ezra Pound, Canto 85


Across the Anacostia River, among the trees,

St. Elizabeth slices a round cake

with a long shining knife and politely serves it

to the students of the poetry t-group waiting in line.

Their arms are bound along their bodies to the elbow,

their eyes are as round as a cake sun,

they stretch oddly as they eat: it is the destiny

of poetry to repair consciousnesses and worlds. Suddenly

a telephone rings, calling for St. Elizabeth,

she hands over the knife and asks me to continue slicing.

As the long blade travels from one hand to the other

the sun bounces off and flashes in their eyes                         

chopping up their roundness like the knife                            

the cake. The world splinters

into myriad fragments and for a moment

congeals before crumbling. I 


                        Our dynasty came

                                    because of a great sensibility.

                        After all the pavilions of our palaces

                                    I now look through John Howard’s window

                        In the shadow of leafless trees

                                    into the new age across the river.

                        Our minds were somewhere else

                                    when the gates opened.

                        Our dynasty rested upon a strict hierarchy

                                    contemplating beauty.

                        The walls dissolved years ago

                                    as I listened to forbidden places.

                        Our dynasty established order in poetry

                                    and gushed through the edges of form.

                        Inner voice?  Each of us got many

                                    inner voices. Which would you like to hear?

                        Our dynasty was hospitalised

                                    because of its great faith.

                        The new world injected us with tranquilizers

                                    and our consciousnesses turned to wood.

                        St. Elizabeth took us into her care

                                    and love dissolved our will.

                        The founders of the world of equal values

                                    took to healing us with our own poetry.

                        The inexhaustible milk in St. Elizabeth’s pitcher

                                    undermined the hierarchies’ foundations.


stick the blade into the cake, splintered

reality holds together, an odd hope that already shined

through the cracks seals over. The poetry

t-group students meekly lower their eyes.

The balsam of words oozes through the cell walls –

glue of things and consciousnesses with bandaged arms –

the metal taste in my mouth is changed by the sweetness of cake,

returning us to harmonies, opening up

memory’s roads to nowhere.


Parts of a poetry fusion made by Craig Czury from the works of current patients at St. E’s Hospital are used in this text.


August 1999



Translated into English by Jonas Zdanys