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Marcelijus Martinaitis, from The Ballads of Kukutis

Spending the Night at Kukutis's Farm

Beyond the forest, beyond the wood,
there where the owl's two eyes glow
stands the owl's cottage covered in moss.
Neither alive nor dead,
there beyond the forest
lives Kukutis, the one-legged.

As the owl hooted,
as carpenter ants chewed the walls,
as the graves sank in,
as the bull let out a deep sigh —
the first news of Troy travelled the world,
and the radios announced
that the Prussians were extinct from the face of the earth.

While civilizations grew over with forest,
while Polish Lords died out,
we drank half our lives away in one night — bottoms up.
I winked across the table at his sad and dispirited
only daughter —
the lovely hunchback.

As I flirted with his daughter,
until he gave me her hand,
Berlin was destroyed,
and the children came home one-legged...
And I went grey
As we considered
what it was lighting up the sky:
maybe Skuodas burning?
or maybe they were bombing Paris?

And until we understood
that our boundary was eternity
his one daughter prayed in the corner
like an aged owl.
As the hunchback crossed herself
nations and governments collapsed
and the Swedes lay down on the ground
with their toes pointing north.

And while he made his talk
sound like German
or Russian
or Polish
the departing train bellowed
like a moose with its mouth wide open.
A burning manor provided our light
as old Mrs. Kukutis,
hunched over to
make up my bed in the spare room.

As the politics were ending
Munich played jazz.
Saxophones whinnied
like tethered Prussian horses...
We hung our heads,
seated at the table, half our lives gone —
no thanks for Warsaw,
no danke for Prussia.

In the time it took for Kukutis to attach his right leg,
in the time it took to light the lamp —
the rooster rowed an entire century away
in one single solitary night.