This past June 11, Jim performed at Kenosha Fusion’s “Stories for a Summer’s Night.”
He told his story, “Babcox Justice Center.”
You can watch the 13 minute performance by clicking this link, or the photo above.
She’s from the Baltic seaside
Where the green waves
Come from the west, from Sweden
The waves roll in, white-capped
Taller than everyone there
And crash onto the smooth, flat beach
On the wet sand, if you look,
She says you’ll find grains
Of golden amber
She lives here now
Flew here years ago
In search of something
She tells me
She found it
When she found me
Here near the Great Lakefront
Where the gray waves
Come from the east, from Michigan
The swells move in, gray
Taller than no one (usually)
And whoosh onto the pebbly, rough beach
Just under the wet sand, don’t look
You’ll find particles, I say,
Of black coal ash
But on sunny, calm days the Great Lake
Is turquoise-blue and jade-green
And beautiful enough
To remind her
Of Palanga and Sventoji
And her visits with her mom and sisters
Beautiful enough to get her through
The next couple years
Until she takes me with her
Back to the seaside
To be with everyone she loves
At the same time
Saturday morning in the village, the visitors appear from wooden cottages and sit at tables on porches or in yards to nibble on cold meats and last night’s bread, sip hot tea, and choose from soft pastries the wives just bought at the nearby stands.
The voices are quieter and deeper as they retell what made them laugh not too many hours before, when each sat on moveable stumps–tree trunks recently cut and arranged around the fire–and ate and drank and sang.
After breakfast the visitors go inside, to put on bathing suits and fill their backpacks. They come out again and walk in groups along the main street that leads them to the pines, and the narrow path that winds through them.
The scent of the green needles above and dry needles below confirms that the sea is very close. Conversation becomes excited as the visitors reach the boardwalk which takes them to the top of the dunes and the open, far-reaching sky. And then down to the sea, and to the wide, flat beach, bright in the sun, but cool and smooth on the sole, the rising waves coming at an angle, from the southwest, from Stockholm.
I don’t go anymore to the sea, like I did when I was a boy. Now a man I spend mid-days in the village, sitting with my back to it. But in late afternoon when many visitors are napping, the sound of the waves makes it here, and cool air touches my neck.
I sometimes sit across from the weathered garage where I used to work, and I peer over at the worn cars. Visitors drove them here, three hundred kilometers from Vilnius and Kaunas, and they need repairs before the return trip can be possible. Years ago, few of the villagers had the skill to replace a belt, or a radiator, or a wheel. Now, men from other countries move here. They work on the cars for less.
The owner kept me. Each morning I would go there and sit. I would watch the others arrive and begin on the cars. They acted kind to me, let me deliver this or that. They didn’t tell me to go. I left without saying. Stood from the bench and walked away. Past their backs, their heads disappeared between open hoods and lifeless engines.
Each day I stop by the churchyard. The nun there washes my clothes along with the rags she uses for cleaning. I like to clip the grass around the wooden carvings of the saints. Sometimes there a visitor will give me a coin. Most days I accept enough to buy bread, or a piece of fresh meat, or a piece of smoked fish from a cart.
Yesterday while walking along the road in the direction of the bus station, a woman asked me if I had enough to eat, if I needed newer clothes. She said I reminded her of her grandfather, my blue eyes and light hair. She gave me these coins saying I might want to go to the city.
Tomorrow I will use them–to sleep one night here, in the smallest cottage by the sea.