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First Idyll: Old is This Rushing of Rain

Old is this rushing of rain down the bush branches,
the droning of grouse in the red dawn of summer –
old is this our talking:

of the yellow fields of barley and oat,
the herdsmen fires in the wet, windy loneliness of autumn,
of potato digging time,
and of the sultry heat of summer,
the white glare of winter, the din of sleighs on endless roads.
And about the heavy timber wagons, the boulders in the                                                                                                                                 fallow,
about the red clay ovens and limestone in the fields;
and then by lamplight in the evenings, in the autumn fields;                                                                                                                      of grey –
about the wagonloads for tomorrow’s market,
about the flooded and washed-out October roads,
and the wet potato digs.

Old is this our living here − many generations
walked these fields and left imprints,
each foot of ground still speaks and breathes of forefathers.
From the same cool stone walls
they watered returning broad herds,
and when the earthen floors hollowed in the rooms
and the walls in the house started slowly to crumble −
from the same pits they dug yellow clay,
golden sand − from the same fields.
And when we too are gone,
others will sit on the blue stones on the edge of the field,
will mow the overgrown floodplains and plow the slopes;
and when, back from work, they sit at the tables −
each table will speak, each clay pitcher,
each log in the wall;
they will remember wide yellow sand pits
and rye fields billowing in the wind,
the sad songs of our women in flax fields,
and that smell, the first time in a new house! −
the smell of fresh moss.

Oh, old is the flowering of clover,
the snorting of hoses in a summer’s night −
and the rustling sound of rollers, harrows and plows,
the heavy rumbling of millstones,
the white glimmer of the scarves of women weeding gardens −
old is this rushing of rain down the bush branches,
the droning of grouse in the red dawn of summer −
old is this our talking.

Jonas Mekas was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his work in cinema. In his native Lithuania, he is best known for his poetry. This poem is the first of his classic twenty-six poem cycle, Idylls of Semeniskiai, which was first published in Lithuanian in 1948. This English translation was produced by Mekas’ brother, the filmmaker Adolfas Mekas, for Hallelujah Editions. A German bi-lingual edition has just been released by Matto Verlag under the title Alt ist dieses, unser Sprechen.

For more information on Mekas, visit his website: www.jonasmekasfilms.com.

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