Girls. The small one


there was a small white girl,
her meager skinny body
trembled from cold and fear
when creeping under the thujas, the gooseberry bushes, or the fir tree
she’d wait for the storm to clear at home,
when with her fingers shoved in her ears
she’d try hard not to hear,
try hard to live only in the murmur of her heart,

her meager skinny body
would arrange pebbles under the thujas
wove sedge braids,
in the fall she’d use a white root to cast spells,
collecting shards, flecks, the end of the hose,
that thing her brother called a shliauka,
collected feathers and even chickenshit,
played, play-acted with dolls,
sometimes bit her lips until they bled,

afterwards she’d lie down alongside the well
eyes soaking in her palms so it wouldn’t hurt one bit more


she’d wait, until it was dark,
until it became quiet inside,
until having slunk around the garden,
she finds her brother cowering in the same way,
leads him home

then she’ll dream
how a wide-eyed boy rolls up to her
how his bicycle beams in the sun,
how they play together, how they laugh,
how happy, how loudly,
how a stream rushes by,
how stones jump up under their feet
forming castles and fortresses alongside them,

and she’ll continue to dream, that the boy will take her by the hand
and the two of them will go looking for her brother,
who will not have crawled up into the corner of the fence and bandaged himself in nettles,
who will not be in the barn hiding behind a cow,
and there will not be an axe cracking open his head,

and then the three of them will walk deeper, to the moon,
through the high gate at the well,
and the snow will crunch, and the dew will push through the door,
and there will be nothing,
only three hearts, palms grown together


her meagrer skinny body would awaken
shaken by shivers,
sharp oily nails leaving marks on the bedclothes


she’d rise from bed quickly,
nestle her clothes next to the cooling oven,
the radio bawling the noises of the morning,
she’d grasp the buckets,
at the udder, warm milk rosaries,
having finished milking she’d wash her hands,
run a brush over her head, counting her lengthening hair each day
in the shard of mirror over the stovetop,
she’d close the gate and run off,
waiting for the day it would be over


there was a small white girl,
her meager, skinny body
would shiver from happiness and luck,
when she held clay in her hands,
when she shaped words, thoughts, and works –
her stifling world,
when she listened, when she asked, when she managed to see –
forgetting her fear and her sadness


Translated by Medeinė Tribinevičius

Vitalija Pilipauskaitė-Butkienė (b. 1981) is a poet, literary scholar, doula, and mother of three children.
She completed Master’s degree in Lithuanian literature at Vilnius University and is currently a doctoral student there. Her debut book, I Am Breathing, was named one of the 12 most creative books of 2015 by the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore. In the same year she was awarded the Z. Gėlė Prize for best poetic debut.

Her work embodies the perspective of a free 21st century woman, examining ideas of identity, relationships, and societal roles. In addition, the poems put forth insights about the Soviet and post-Soviet space of the late 20th century, as often as expressed through the voice of a child. Her poetry is notable for bringing to the fore themes and topics often considered too intimate, indelicate, or best kept secret; these include breast cancer, the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of children, and the self-destruction of the individual.