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East European criminal

by Eugenijus Alisanka (Lithuania) on June 15th, 2010

Each participant was given a festival t-shirt. It is always a pleasure – quite often a poet returns from literary events with a t-shirt, a bag or with a ballpoint at least, marked with logos of the event. Later on they recall countries, cities and people you met. Sometimes it is hard to throw out even a dried-up pen, not to mention the washed-out characters of a t-shirt. Memory is greedy and sparing.

As a rule, small presents are the same for everyone. This time I was baffled by choice. Not only XL, L or M, but the inscription on the breast as well. It is always hard to make a choice, because any choice exludes all other alternatives. I tried to choose from the catalogue, but suddenly, while I was studying the inscriptions, new t-shirts arrived on the shelf with one more inscription, missing in the catalogue. As if especially for me. I did not doubt any more. It was saying: “I am an East European criminal who dies 16 to 17 times a day”.

I’ve been walking all day long with the phrase in my mind. I do not need to put the t-shirt on any more as the phrase got engraved on the inside of my forehead. The more I think about it, the more I get envious of the phrase author’s imagination. It is like a line of a perfect poetry, a poem, if you like. It is absurd from the first glance but plumbing deeper – very rich and provocative. It says so much about the one who created it as well as the one who dare to wear it on his breast – as a good poem does about the one who wrote it and the one who reads it.

The creator of the phrase imagines an East European as a superman or even god. Not all gods die and resurrect a couple of times, some have succeeded in resurrecting just once. Even if I did not consider myself as a criminal, I could have reason to be proud.

But am I not a criminal? Have I not violated almost all of the Ten Commandments during my life? Have I not committed adultery, have I not lied, not stolen? Is it not me who constantly kills mosquitoes, ants, flies, mice and moles in my countryside home? Am I not the one who exceeds the speed limits constantly? Is it not me who violates rules of language when writing poems?

Just one thing I am not sure about – do I really die 16 or 17 times a day? I think it is a small exaggeration.

Eugenijus Alisanka (c) Michele Hutchison, Poetry International festival 2010

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