By Luljeta Lleshanaku, Albania (Published in Issue 7)
My deskmate in elementary school
had blue nails, blue lips, and a big irreparable hole in his heart.
He was marked by death. He was invisible.
He used to sit on a stone
guarding our coats
as we played in the playground, that alchemy of sweat and dust.
The one marked to be king
is cold, ready for a free fall
born prematurely from a sad womb.
And the redheaded woman waiting for her drunk husband to return
will go on waiting for one hundred years.
It isn’t the alcohol; she is marked by ‘waiting.’
And he only as guilty as an onlooker
pushed indoors by rain.
What’s more, it isn’t the war
that took the life of the young boy
with melancholy eyes. He was marked as well, born to be on the recruiter’s
Melancholy is the standard arsenal of war.
And then there is one marked for survival
who will continue to eat his offspring like a polar bear
that never notices the warming climate.
All of them are as closed as theorems, their sky
a rental home
where hammering even a single nail of change is forbidden.
They are waiting for their next command, which they will ignore anyway
like the Argonauts who filled their ears with wax
and rowed on through the sirens’ path.
Luljeta Lleshanaku was born in Albania, in 1968, and came of age during the Albanian Cultural Revolution. She was only 22 when the dictatorship collapsed, relaxing the brutal censorship of the previous several decades, and resulting in a flowering of contemporary Albanian culture. These poems come from her latest collection "Haywire" which will be available in the UK from Bloodaxe Books from next September.
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
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.