Ruta’s favourite word is ‘maybe’.
The dictionary on her lap
is heavy as another passenger
as she strokes and cossets it, dropping
the juicy apple crystals of Lithuanian
and hauling back the slow
chewing gum of English.
Even what it offers up, she doubts.
what Vylode said . . .
means this And ‘maybe’
this is the road to Panev?žys . . . There are no maps,
the ones the Russians left were spored
with roads you could never find,
fantasies of freedom which made sure
you would be lost if you looked for them.
‘Maybe’ tonight we will have roast reindeer.
‘Maybe’ her daughter will study art.
‘Maybe’ all Lithuania will embrace
the plumbing supplies her American cousin
is planning to employ her to sell . . .
In the meantime she shows us
landmarks she can be sure of: the schoolroom-
turned jail, where her mother was kept
before she was sent to Siberia
the prison where her father was taken
the graves of grandparents who never met
her Australian cousin, this twin of her brother
recording it all on trigger-happy film.
It’s 1994. The country’s independent.
In her Russian uncle’s bumpy Opel
we rush round corners with her
toward this new place she hopes to plumb
where there are no secrets in the sewers
and happiness is a switched-on tap —
maybe maybe maybe
(from Travelling with the Wrong Phrasebooks 2012)