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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors

 

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Stefan ÇAPALIKU

Stefan ÇAPALIKU

Webdesign J. Groß

Stefan ÇAPALIKU

 

Winter and Summer

Now you hear nothing
But the cicadas' loud drone
That makes you impatient
For winter.

And in winter
You see nothing
But naked branches
Like scalded fingers
That make you thirsty
For summer.

[Dimër dhe verë, from the volume Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1993, p. 1. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

No More Than That Took Place

No more than that took place,
Outside the window
Weary people
Nudged unknowingly their tragic fate.
Inside the window
A virus has destroyed
The code of words.

On this side and that
Desires hunching
(like the handles of coffee cups
we slouch over)
Strive to stand erect.

Only silence
Can speak now
Before the word mushrooms
In our midst start to grow.

[Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, from the volume Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1993, p. 2. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

My Coat

My weary old coat
Hangs on a nail,
Shoulders slumped and empty...

It's the only thing that obeys me
Early in the morning.

[Palltoja ime, from the volume Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1993, p. 4. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Don't Worry

A lot of things will happen in this world
You know,
The tragedy of it all
Is that we are so young.

[Mos u mërzit, from the volume Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1993, p. 5. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

For my Friend, Zef Zorba

You were great,
Greater than the courtyard walls
That surrounded you,
Than the winding alleys
That played circus games
With you.

The poor wretches, they thought
They could besiege you from all sides
And force you to your knees
For an Ave Maria,
They didn't know that you could go
Beyond their perspectives
All tied up in elastic knots.

[Mikut tim, Zef Zorba, from the volume Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1993, p. 8. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Time

I am growing old strolling
In my grandfather's streets.
Tefë Çapaliku - the old man,
Cobbler - dead now,
With shoe soles under his arms.
Stef Çapaliku - the young man,
With Latin proverbs
And yellowed books in his head.
We walk with the same awkward gait,
And trip over the sill of the same door
Gnawed at by the dogs for years.
I read his soles,
He tacks my verse to his brain,
On the tip of a shoe we do our best
To keep our balance.

[Kohë, from the volume Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1993, p. 9. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Without Words

I shall touch your left shoulder,
And warm your breast with my breath,
I shall be silent in the depths of your thighs.

I will not be who I am,
You will not be who you are,
Without words, only without words
Shall I touch you,
Shall I warm you,
Shall I be silent.

[Pa fjalë, from the volume Asgjë më shumë se kaq s'ka ndodhë, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1993, p. 12. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Shkodra, Late Evening

Roisterously
Do veined hands slam the shutters,
And do squeaks and squeals
Fall into a heap on the street,
Dim electric torchlights sneeze and mutter,
Eyes sparkle and tease, and at the bend in the alley
You bump into your ancestors
Returning
From a party in an age sealed in time.

[Shkodër, mbramje vonë, from the volume Kohë e ndalur, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1994, p. 5. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Coffeehouse at Night

The chairs are resting their legs
On the table tops
And all is in its proper place,
Except for a few water drops on the cups
That continue their downward path.

[Kafeneja natën, from the volume Kohë e ndalur, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1994, p. 14. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Now and at the Time

My childhood
Returns to me anew,
Beside the well,
The fig tree, the stone staircase,
The cypress trunk, and the roots of the ivy.
I trail behind
My little girlfriend,
Intimidated by the size of my body,
Frightened by the form of my head,
And by my size forty-three shoes.
In the old shed
Are my toys of old:
Wooden shoe trees,
Hatchets
Planted in chestnut beams,
Empty bottles, porcelain plugs
And black oil lamps.
I try to slide into the
One-hundred litre barrel
And sense that my shoulders won't go through.
It's all over, I say to myself,
You can't get back into those old things,
They won't hold you anymore; you mustn't touch
The cobwebs, the heavy drapes
That cover it all.
You can't yet escape the present-day chaos
Neither in the shed, nor in the yard.
Hide your head like an ostrich
And carry on...

[Tash e më parë, from the volume Kohë e ndalur, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1994, p. 42. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Oh, So Many Things...

For my daughter Sara

Oh, there are so many things you need to know!

Firstly you must learn that the wolf, the cat, the chicken,
The squirrel, the turtle, the birds, and the mole
Are more than fairytale beings,
That they live separate and quite particular lives,
And judge us for the way we live.

You must learn that one, two and three
Have nothing to do with your fingers
Nor with pencils or apples on the table,
That they only wreak havoc
In the accounts we make of our lives.

You must learn that red and green words
Can also be written with a pencil of yellow or black
So colours don't tell you anything,
That they are simply there to show us
How things change in our lives.

Then you will grow up.

Oh, there are so many things you need to forget!

Firstly you must learn forget that the wolf, the cat, the chicken
The squirrel, the turtle, the birds, the mole,
Are more than fairytale beings,
That they live separate and quite particular lives,
And judge us for the way we live.

You must forget that one, two and three
Have nothing to do with your fingers
Nor with pencils or apples on the table,
That they only wreak havoc
In the accounts we make of our lives.

You must forget that red and green words
Can also be written with a pencil of yellow or black
So colours don't tell you anything,
That they are simply there to show us
How things change in our lives.

Then you will grow old.

[Ah, sa gjëra, from the volume Kohë e ndalur, Shkodra: At Gjergj Fishta, 1994, p. 48. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]