Snow muffled sounds are crisp,
snap like delicate wafers, each word suspended
for a crystalline moment, each sentence a fleeting glimpse
of a miniature chandelier, then a cloud, them gone.
We are lost in the winding medieval lanes
of Vilnius, whose twisted paths and corners
are as sharp and plentiful as Lithuanian consonants.
For every three fair faces picture an absent, darker, fourth.
“The first Vilnius telephone directory contained
only two Lithuanians names”
Rolandas tells us. “The rest were…
An imagined distance away all across the city
phantom phones ring and ring. The sky is so still,
still, no one’s answering.
History is inescapable. It falls with the snow,
freezes forests into fleeting dreams.
Half-forgotten memories, pagan gods,
the slaughtered citizens of Vilnius,
are all buried under a sturdy shroud of ice, of prayer;
prayers whispered by stooped old women,
sieved through teeth as variegated as Baltic amber,
their backs bent double by the weight of dreary Soviet decades,
when hope was nourished only with tinned fish and good, hard bread.
The monk offers benediction in the monastery
resplendent in his habit
a strong soft linen woven from belief,
while the drunken poets lounge
in the darkened atelier knocking back the three nines
like it was inspiration: the muse, 40% proof.
Snow muffled silence is soft
yet snaps like bone underfoot.
The frozen forest keeps its secrets.
The phantom phones keep ringing
they wake you up in the still night,
no one is answering.