Poetry - Issue 22 | April 2015

Two poems by Rimas Uzgiris


Between the Lines

There was no map
for the trip my parents took.
Soldiers crossed the continent
with flags, changing
all the names. You can’t
step into the same river twice.
And yet, Heraclitus, I stepped
into that river all the same.

From the airplane: endless pines,
fields of rape and rye. Firs
like elders with green beards.
I could barely draw breath, the air
was so full of meaning,
the language hardly known.
My mother’s uncle met me
in a run-down Soviet car.

He drove us to where the Neris
flows into the Nemunas, talking
all the way, his words rolling
over me like a rill splashing
off the rocks of my ignorance.
We passed a horse-drawn carriage
full of hay. On TV, three women
in peasant garb sang a dirge.

My father was born on the Neris
near where I now live. I don’t know
where I now live: Vilnius. Vilna. Wilno.
People ran like water. In the lecture hall
where I teach, our colleague
screened a map of North America
and all I could see was the Mohawk
meeting the Hudson and my youth.

I could barely draw breath, the air
was so full of meaning. This
was my home. There. Here. Now.
Then. Like a hermit crab in the sea,
or carried like a louse, Odysseus
with no Ithaca, I live in between
the lines. Maps cannot contain me.
Son of refugees. English is my house.

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About the author

Rimas Uzgiris is Lithuanian-American with dual citizenship who enjoys exploring his new home in the Old World as well as returning to his old home in the New. As a Fulbright Scholar with a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, he left Brooklyn to teach at Vilnius University, in Lithuania. A poet, translator, editor and critic, his work has appeared in AGNI, Barrow Street, Hudson Review, The Iowa Review, Quiddity, and other journals.

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