Title: Pothuajse Dje (Almost Yesterday)
Author: Luljeta Lleshanaku
Place of publication: Tirana
Year of publication: 2013
Publisher: Ombra GVG
© all rights reserved to the author and “Ombra GVG” Publishing House
“…We feel blessed that Ms. Lleshanaku has invited us to “the takeoffs and landings/on the runway of her soul.” Dana Jennings, New York Times, July 22, 2010
“Hers are certainly poems about history, politics and power…But Lleshanaku is also original. When she turns her attention to love, the sense of human fate is unsparing. The tyrant’s insistence that there is no private realm has the unintended effect of making it necessary to write powerful and durable poems which suffer all the constraints imposed by confinement and yet have something ungovernable in reserve, namely their accuracy.” Sean O’Brien, The Guardian, 23 September 2011
“The Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku’s first British collection is a revelation. The poems are peculiar and sonorous in these translations, full of objects and souls, transformed and given wings in Chagall-like metaphor. Her grand and melancholic opening poem ‘Memory’ sets the tone for this remarkable collection. Lleshanaku’s poetry essentially describes Albanian rural life. Albania, remote and for so long an outcast in Europe, has in Lleshanaku’s poetry a static, timeless quality.” Sasha Dugdale, Poetry Nation Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May – June 2012
In the village nestled between two mountains
the news always arrives one month late,
cleansed in transit, glorified, mentioning only the dead who made
it to paradise,
and a coup d‘état referred to as ‘God‘s will‘.
Spring kills solitude with solitude, imagination
the sap that shields you from your body. Chestnut trees
awaken, drunken men
lean their cold shoulders against a wall.
The girls here always marry outsiders and move away
leaving untouched statues of their fifteen-year-old
selves behind. But the boys bring in wives from distant villages,
wives who go into labor on heaps of grass and straw in a barn
and bear prophets.
Forgive me, I‘d meant to say ‘only one will be a prophet‘.
The others will spend their lives throwing stones
(that is part of the prophecy, too).
At noon on an autumn day like today
they will bolt out of school like a murder of crows stirred by the
smell of blood and chase the postman‘s skeleton of a car
as it disappears around a corner, leaving only dust.
Then they will steal wild pears from the ‘bitch‘s yard‘
and nobody will stop them. After all, she deserves it. She‘s sleeping
with two men. Between the pears in one boy‘s schoolbag
lies a copy of Anna Karenina.
It will be skimmed over, impatiently, starting on the last page
cleansed and glorified, like old news.
Human existence is like a dead language
of which only an expression, a quotation, or a single word remains.
But a man without sons is a mutation.
His name will move from one ear to another by a clean female whisper
voiced like a dream without conflict
difficult to remember after night‘s end.
Six daughters, each birth a failure
like the gold prospector
who brings home only silk and medicinal herbs.
Without a son in the family,
there is no river to carry the toxic remains
of his black and white anger,
no one to foresee war in the bones of the ram
sacrificed for dinner;
no wars, no births or deaths
when life gets lazy in peacetime.
His cell is a cave
sketched with naive carbon drawings:
the hunter against the beast, the hunter against nature,
until the moment a woman appears around the fire.
Then strength moves from his muscles
to his eyes.
and the angle of the arrow‘s aim shifts.
This is the end of the ice age
the end of clarity.
There is a secret that extinguishes men from the inside
like Dwarf Stars
changing from yellow to white
and then… to black, a smudge across the cosmos.
There is no son to inherit the father‘s secret.…
not the secret itself
but the art of solitude.
The extract is translated from the Albanian by Henry Israeli