Alaska Shorts: Visiting with AQR, Eva Saulitis featured

Throughout the next few months, we’ll be featuring excerpts of writing by Alaskans who’ve been published in Alaska Quarterly Review. AQR is published by the University Alaska Anchorage and is without a doubt one of the nation’s best literary magazines, as noted by The Washington Post Book World. Each issue of AQR is rich with fine writing and social consequence. We hope by featuring this work on the 49 Writers blog, you’ll be enticed to look further into this fine publication.

From Volume 31, No. 3 & 4

by Eva Saulitis

for Ieva

Opening Scene

She enters from the right, stops to survey her surroundings. In the far distance, a figure in a yellow trench coat bends to pick something up from the line of sea-wrack.

She walks directly toward the Baltic’s mud-blue pastiche. Out there, a ship plies toward the industrial canal, another lurks on the horizon. Small waves churn, churn, worrying the same ribbon of sand. The sun works also, ceaselessly, to clear the morning sky. And the ever-present wind off the Baltic sweeps the dune grasses of detritus. These constants, like old men hired to collect trash with their long pokers, persevere, all day, every day, back and forth, forth and back.

Decorated down its length the beach sports empty swings, monkey bars, and other children’s whirl-a-gigs, which she considers, for a time, as resting spots.

Instead, she sits on the cold sand. What am I doing here, she asks herself, meaning not this beach, but this place, Ventspils, Latvia. Her parents left Latvia in 1944, two of the war’s displaced millions. That’s what they called them, Displaced Persons. They never returned. Now, on another continent, an ocean away, her father is dying.

She feels displaced – and also carefully – placed. Deliberately. Like a stone someone pocketed, carried, then added to an evolving arrangement on a window sill. She’s anonymous. An old Russian woman doesn’t recognize her as displaced, foreign, asks her the directions to Olas Iela, Egg Street. She’s halfway struck dumb, her Latvian a shattered, bastard tongue.

Now here’s the sun – just in time. New figures enter the scene, suddenly. An old couple in long coats, one black, one brown, they stoop, add something to their white plastic sacks. Stones. Or amber. Who’s to say?

She is a piece of amber in which tiny human figures are trapped. Her mother and father walking arm in arm away from the Baltic.

The camera pans right to ugly Soviet-era structures near the industrial canal. Fish-plants. Office buildings. History enters, as fog tendrils blow in off the Baltic.

Read the rest of this wonderful piece of creative nonfiction on the AQR website.

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