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K. B.: I am the Suspect

by Marcelijus Martinaitis

translated from the Lithuanian by Laima Sruoginis

The woman sitting beside me
sidles away, another shifts her back toward me.
A passerby on the street is startled when I ask for directions.
A cat scampers across the street, horses in pasture
fret, a bee buzzes away, so does a butterfly,
a mouse scurries off.
A squirrel from up high looks down at me
as though I were an interloper.

My documents are in order; I haven’t been tried;
I’m without my gun and almost without any thoughts.

Only parasites, all manner of insects—
flies, worms—crawl across my face,
finding their way into my mouth, my nose,
they suck my blood.

Whichever way I turn someone is hiding, fleeing,
staring, suspicious, cowering, play-acting, holding back:
I could catch them all, crush them under my feet—end it.

I am suspected as a murderer,
a rapist, a lepidopterist,
a drunk, a neurotic, a maniac, a pickpocket,
a poacher, a dogcatcher, a pervert,
a former agent
escaped from prison.

I don’t know how to explain to all of them
that they needn’t run, that they ought to allow me
to tame them, to pet them,
talk to them, feed them, love them.

It doesn’t mean anything to those creatures, those women,
those bees, that my documents are in order,
that I haven’t been tried, that I read the Holy Bible,
that I meditate in verse, that I return my debts,
that I pay my bills on time,
that I love my neighbor no less than I love myself.

Only I carry a vague sense of guilt around with me
for everything that lives, for everything that is born and dies,
for everything that sings, is sad, suffers:
whichever way I turn there is emptiness,
like a pasture gnawed away by the devil himself.

Note: K. B. is a persona who represents the psychology of the typical post-Soviet individual. While aware of the mechanisms of terror operating in everyday life, fear has forced him to not only submit to, but also aid in, the forces of such terror. After the fall of the regime, K. B. pursues his true interests in poetry and art, yet cannot understand why his fellow countrymen shun him.


Marcelijus Martinaitis is the author of fifteen collections of poetry, five collections of essays, and the recipient of the 1998 Lithuanian National Award. His major series of poems is told through the persona of Kukutis, a trickster fool, an archaic pagan farmer-messenger, who cannot comprehend and does not adjust to the dictates of the Soviet regime. These texts, specifically, helped influence the Lithuanian national consciousness. His work has been translated into at least seven languages, including French, Norwegian, Russian, and Swedish. He was also one of the first members of the Lithuanian grassroots political movement.

Laima Sruoginis is a poet, writer, and translator, and directs the Stonecoast Summer Writers’ Conference. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literary Translation and a PEN International Translation Fund grant, in addition to other honors. She is also the editor and translator of three anthologies of contemporary Lithuanian literature. (8/2006)

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