The Terror of Public Places Laima Donela Poetry

local_library The Terror of Public Places

by Laima Donela

Published in Issue No. 27 ~ August, 1999

Last summer on the stairs of the Chicago Art Institute a sculptor friend and I
Watched a madman in rags fiercely stroke the tail of a bronze lion.

“You know,” my friend commented, “only in America
Could one be killed in public, by an insane person, for no reason at all.”

He glanced at me and I saw the terror of public places.

More than once going home on the Staten Island ferry I’ve seen this man board,
Trembling at the prospect of gliding slowly past the Statue of Liberty yet again –

That bronze woman
That green woman
That fat woman with big feet in stone sandals –
Seagull and pigeon shit combined on the crown of her head.

He’d have a couple of beers, masturbate with anticipation, hang over the railing in
the freezing wind –
Beige-gray commuters gazing at him in tired contemplation, sneakers on their feet
slowly decaying.

I won’t say what happened as we passed the statue
Only that later he would brisk himself down the ramp
Along with everyone else, head towards the buses and commuter trains.

* Based on “The Statue of Liberty”
by Frederick-Auguste Bartholdi

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Laima Donela (formerly Laima Sruoginis) graduated with a MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts in 1994. Since then she received two Fulbright Lecturer's Grants in Creative Writing, has edited a 389 page anthology on contemporary Lithuanian literature ("Lithuania: In Her Own Words", Tyto Alba, 1997) and now teaches Creative Writing at the University of Southern Maine. Laima's poems and translations have appeared in several anthologies ("Child of Europe", Penguin, 1990, "Description of the Struggle", Picador 1992, "Two Worlds Walking", New Rivers Press, 1994), journals ("The Beloit Poetry Journal", "Artful Dodge", "Writ", "Modern Poetry in Translation", "Mr. Cogito" and others) as well as a national bus poster series ("Streetfare Journal" 1993). Presently Laima lives year round on Peaks Island, Maine with her husband and three children.