poetry by Lilija Valis

There is a poet, Lilija Valis, who is originally from Lithuania. She has a forthcoming book of her poetry, Freedom on the Fault Line, from which the following will appear. Wonderful stuff.


Politics is not politics.

It’s what you think of me
and how I see you;

it’s family and the stranger;
it’s who will do the work
and who will get the reward;

it’s how we decide
who owns what and
who the thieves are;

it’s how we act when
we see a child broken
from a beating or a dog
chained and starved;

it’s marriage and divorce
and what we teach our children;

it’s what we do when floods
carry away our lives,
when fire surrounds us.

No, politics is not politics;
it’s you and me
and how we decide
to live together;

it’s love and hate
and everything in between.


If they throw acid in your face
for going to school,
it means the school
can give you something
to free you from the acid throwers.


Equality is reassurance your neighbor
will not get too far ahead of you.

The promise is we’re all one
but someone else decides which one.

Force is used to take from you
to give to others not of your choosing.

Equality invites not doing more
than others, until nothing works.

Plymouth Pilgrims lived it
into discord and starvation.

It continues to inspire. Unmarked
mass graves testify to its appeal.

Inequality is an open road.
A safe journey is not guaranteed.

No assurance is motivation
for hard work and invention.

Want and envy are harnessed
to produce what others desire.

Choice is virtue’s tool:
You cannot escape responsibility.

Equality is theft.
Inequality is insecurity.

Fairness and equality
are forever estranged.

Equality or freedom. The more
you have of one, the less of the other.


Yes, me too, when I was young.
I worked to change the world,
I mean – other people.
I signed, demonstrated, marched,
chanted and sang.
I accused and forced.
I changed laws.
I gave away money others earned.
I secretly admired
those who posed with rifles
and even a few who bombed.
Yes, I’m the university type.

Though things changed,
they remained the same.
New faces took over old roles.
A different color got the knife in the back.
Someone else always pays.
I stepped back, confused.
The more you force
the worse things become.
You have to be careful
when you open the gate
to someone seeking shelter
when behind her stand armed intruders.


Choosing is rejecting
– that’s bullying now
definitely verboten.

You can go to jail
for not liking
people who dislike you.

No more saying No
to a stranger
demanding your share.

You can tell jokes
but only the ones
everyone finds funny.

To offend is to cause
rioting in the streets.
Lawyers will file briefs.

If you report a fire
the hoses will be turned
on the real trouble – you.

You are to follow
directions to a gray place
where no one will know you.


What I don’t have enough
but others have too much

what comes attached to things
everyone wants to avoid

what draws those who lack it
to seize too much and wreck it

what is rejected when possessed
and sought after when lost

what looks promising on paper
but gets bloodied in the streets

what songs are made of
and jails filled with

what requires laws for others
but only advice for me.


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