Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Issue 103, Jan – Mar 2017
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
Rimas Uzgiris 

followed by Q&A

A Potato on a Mine


Ravens wrangle like they wrangled countless times
over space the size of a poem on a computer drive.
Lithuania is a potato sitting on a mine.

History’s heroics are an ancient account of crimes
in the pockets of peoples living where ravens connive
to wrangle like they wrangled countless times.

They must see something worthwhile that shines
within these bogs and pines, in order to deprive
Lithuania of itself: a potato sitting on a mine.

Perhaps there is a scrap in this midden of the divine
waiting for a prophet or messiah to arrive, to drive
the wrangling ravens from this land for all time.

It may suit some to see their country as a shrine, 
but whatever song, slogan or lore they may contrive, 
Lithuania is a potato sitting on a mine.

Is it any wonder that Lithuanians turned to rhyme
in order for their ancient language to survive,
when ravens wrangled (cutting, burning) countless times?
Still, we eat our potatoes while sitting on a mine. 

Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, editor and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow StreetAGNIAtlanta ReviewIowa ReviewQuiddityHudson Review and other journals. He is translation editor and primary translator of How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets, translator of Caravan Lullabies by Ilzė Butkutė, and Crystal by Judita Vaičiūnaitė (forthcoming). He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, he teaches translation at Vilnius University.


Contributor Note:
Some years ago, I translated a poem by Arnas Ališauskas called “Lithuania Carved out of a Potato”. This was for an anthology I helped put out called How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets. The image of Lithuania as a potato wouldn’t leave me alone. There was something both funny and true about it. Also fragile. This country has long been the plaything of its neighbors, and with Putin’s increasing militarism the threat has taken on greater urgency. So that’s where the main image came from, and it was such an insistent image that it seemed to call for a repetitive form, hence the villanelle. 

Q&A
1. If you could spend a day doing anything (besides writing), what would you do?
I would like to calmly kick back, read a book, go for a long, leisurely stroll, and then go to a nice dinner followed by the opera with my wife. Why? We have a toddler and a baby and no time, no energy, nothing but work and children, children and work. Yes, it’s wonderful, but…

2. Where is your favorite place to write?
Anyplace I find time to relax and let my thoughts roam (see above).

3. You’ve been informed you will be reincarnated as an animal and you can choose, so which animal will you choose to become? 
A dolphin. So graceful through the water… And they have more fun.