Before Dawn (Alfonsas Kyka-Niliunas)

November 17, 2008

Before Dawn
A narrow sickle of moon.
A smell of sweet-flag and duckweed
In the reed kingdom.
Darkness changed to whitish silence.
Night ladled up a silver treasure.
The Milky Way
Descended to earth:
On it, returning from town,
Trying to sing something,
Walks my father,
A belfry under his arms.
The contours of stands emerge
On the stage of day. Soon will be heard
The first strains of the sun’s overture.
Dreamed cities
Fade slowly in the windows
And in the well’s cool waters gleam
The shepherd boy’s sleep-filled eyes.
(trans. by Jonas Zdanys)
Alfonsas Kyka-Niliunas is one five Lithuanian poets that comprise the “Earth” group, all writing in exile, and attempting to wrestle with the spiritual and psychological challenges of such an existence in the shadows of the Soviet Union’s post-Stalin years. I’m not sure if Kyka-Niliunas’s books have been translated into English. I took this one from Emery George’s fine Contemporary East European Poetry anthology (Oxford U. Press, 1983), which I recommend highly.

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