Tuesday, November 17, 2009



Waking is an obligation:
three generations open their eyes every morning
inside me.

The first is an old child — my father;
he always chooses his luck and clothes one size too small for him.

Next comes grandfather...In his day, the word "diagnosis" did not exist.
He simply died of misery six months after his wife.
No time was wasted. Above their corpses
rose a factory to make uniforms for dock workers.

And great=grandfather, if he ever existed,
I don't even know his name. Here my memory goes on hiatus
my peasant origins cut like the thick and yellow nails
of field workers.

Three shadows loom like a forest over me
telling me what to do
and what not to do.

You listened to me say "good morning"
bit it was either an elephant pounding on a piano
or the seams coming apart in my father's little jacket.

Indeed, my father, his father. and his father before that
are not trying to change anything
nor do they refuse to change anything; the soap of ephemerality
leaves them feeling fresh and clean.

They only wish to gently touch the world again
through me, the way latex gloves
lovingly touch the evidence
of a crime scene.

translated from the Albanian by Henry Israeli and Shpresa Oatipi

From the second book of poems in English by this Albanian native. To be published by New Directions in February 2010.



Put out my eyes, and I can see you still;

slam my ears to, and I can hear you yet;

and without any feet can go to you;

and tongueless, I can conjure you at will.

Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you

and grasp you with my heart as with a hand;

arrest my heart, my brain will beat as true;

and if you set this brain of mine afire,

upon my blood I then will carry you.

translated by Babette Deutsch
from the original bilingual edition published by
New Directions in 1941, now with an introduction by
Ursula K. Le Guin — we haven't yet found quite the
perfect stocking-stuffer that beats this one.



And yet, we must have a word with happiness,
Build the house to catch the sun's light,
Open our windows on the valley;
So, be seated under the tree and listen to it,
Exchange pleasantries, talk to it.

Give up all hating, see the fir growing, and the rose
How it flowers there, by the field,

Before the lake freezes over you hear the horsemen
On their way to the forest, before the mountains grow
----dark in Bohemia,
The Bohemia mountains, the Bohemian forests,
Deep down to the forests of the Balkan,
Deep down into Balkan dust
Where pine, fir and wallow rise out of the sand, a white
----bird perches
On the far side of the Danube, utters a pitiful cry.

translated from the Finnish by Anselm Hollo

I love these three poets of the heart and the home, be-it home wherever you may be at this very moment.

photograph of Luljeta Lleshanaku courtesy New Directions
photograph of Paavo Haavikko by Pekka Tynell