Mondays, way before dawn,
before even the first hint of blue in the windows,
we'd hear it start, off the road past our place,
over on the highway nearby,
in a clatter of market-bound traffic.
Riding the rigs packed with fruit and crated live fowl,
or on foot, with cattle hitched to tailgates slowing the pace,
or sitting up high, on raised seats
(the women all wore their garish kerchiefs,
the knot under each chin carefully tied)
so jolting along, lurching in their seats,
in and out of woods, fields, scrub barrens,
with dogs out barking from every yard along the way,
in a cloud of dust.
And on, by narrow alleyways,
rattling across the cobbles,
up to the well in the market square.
With a crowd already there,
the wagons pull up by a stone wall
and people wave across to each other,
a bright noisy swarm.
And from there, first tossing our horse a tuft of clover,
father would go to look the livestock over.
Strolling past fruitwagons loaded with apples and pears,
past village women seated on wheelframes
and traders laid out along the base of the well,
he'd make his way to one large fenced-in yard
filled with bleating sheep, with horses and cows,
the air full of dung-stench and neighing,
hen squalls, non-stop bawling,
the farmers squabbling.
And mother, mindful of salt she needed to get,
as well as knitting needles, rushed right off;
and we'd be looking on to help our sister pick her thread,
dizzy from this endless spread of bright burning colors in front of us,
till mother pulled us back from the booths,
had us go past wagonloads of fruit and grain
to skirt the crowding square,
then head up that narrow, dusty side street
to see our aunt Kastune;
later, we'd still be talking away, when she hurried us back
past the tiny houses shoved up next to each other, along the river
and down to the mill, where with the last
of the rye-flour sacks stacked up in the wagon
and his shoes flour-white, his whole outfit pale flour-dust,
father would be waiting.
And on past nightfall, farmwagons keep clattering
back past scattered homesteads,
then on through the woods; while up ahead
cowherds perch impatient on top of the gateposts,
their caps pulled down on their eyes,
still waiting for us to get back.
Translated by Vyt Bakaitis