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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors








They'll Invent a Substance or a Machine

Soon they'll invent a substance
Or a machine, who knows, women will succeed,
And men will, too,
In slimming magically, "butterflies of some tragic drink
That go blind inside the chalice of youth,"
In losing weight, their exact dimensions will scorn us.
The sweat of the architect physician will drip, like a compass,
On that boiled rose,
That bourgeois French revolution
Which divides the bum from the back - the panting of the girl
Whom I loved, eleven-years-old she was.
In short, the erotic erosion of fat will appear in the headlines
The tests, the reactions,
Extremely precise, no trauma, the slimming machines
In clinics will exorcize all that fellow's culinary excesses,
His belly filled with savings for a subscription or a yoga course,
And the lady, sighing, will melt her rigid breasts
And will yet return with regret to the machine,
Perhaps to put on or to lose a few more pounds,
At the same time, she will firm the calves of her weary legs.
The world will be filled with the delicate creations of Rodin,
Which do it quickly, their copulating cocks like the talons of sparrows
On the high-voltage wires.
Then, they say that other machine will be invented,
That other substances which, buried in bright-coloured phials
From the slimming labs,
Will carry off the daily
Of fat,
Cart it down to the Third World,
To the Somalis with ribs protruding from deep beneath the earth,
And inject it into their black skins, to the arid beating of drums
Under the palm trees,
All the bums and thighs and protein-filled throats,
Bequeathed on boring Swedish afternoons in Europe,
And thus all races will become brothers and equals
And all men will be happy tattoos.


[Do të shpiket një lëngë ose makinë, from the volume Poezi, Tirana 1995, p. 40-41. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



It looks like they're all turning around
To stare at me as I live
And feel and blush.
I know
I reek of olives,
They are stars,
Scribbled vertically
In a parish roster,
Sewn into my lungs
With the threads I once bit off
My grandmother's black scarf
(in which I often found her grey hairs).
On wretched nights I extract them, thorns
From my ankles, these Gothic olives, these daytime stars.
With them I adorn my room,
The commonplace Christmas trees
Of my lonely existence.
I also like to write poems.

(February 1992)

[Kushtuar, from the volume Poezi, Tirana 1995, p. 51. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Especially in August

At the beach: the sea!
Since we did not have a revolution,
Let's swim full of anger, deeper and deeper,
The farther from land, the closer to heaven,
Sea gulls paid on postcards, estranged from us,
On our backs,
Or rarely even unpaid remain,
Especially now in August,
We are all a deeply tanned people,
Made of native colonists,
Half nude, wrapped in rags of portentous colours,
We run down the beach, buying up baubles and watches,
We flirt and do crazy things,
Then in the shade we pray prostrated to the sun
And baptize ourselves in the faecal sea water
(the hairy faeces of women like dark-coloured crabs,
Millipede priests, bind us to these pagan rites).
Day after day come trains and wagons filled with young
Those who wanted to have a Revolution
Or make some grimace in public,
Beaten by the traffic police all year round,
Their journey ends at the sea.
Here they are brought to chill out, correct their ways.
(a calming full of ardour, full of shouting thighs, motor boots
Of pumice, icy like quotations),
Only the sand is limp, wears you down, reminds us
Of the expulsion
From our homes
Or from the promised land,
But we chose the beach ourselves,
Jews disrobed, in underwear
Under a crematorium sun
Which capital freed from the ozone chains,
We rape one another reciprocally for nothing
As soon as we remove our textile masks, which as I said,
Enclose other humanities beneath.
As soon as summer comes,
The temperatures rise,
Democracy will reign over the abandoned city
Under the weary coups d'état of tourism.


[Sidomos në gusht, from the volume Poezi, Tirana 1995, p. 58. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


On the Revolution

My cigarettes gave out at the bus station,
Here I stay
Waiting for the next revolution,
A bent and blackened nail
In the church's charred remains.

As if in the barrel of a pistol
All have vanished, cowering
In their homes.
Revolutions are penultimate
But my life is always ultimate, the last one,
You bought my tears cheaply,
My whole body ached in longing
For the people and the barricades.
I want to die and forget, just
Spit it out, I want to die for no good reason,
Or not to die at all if I must do so
For a cause.
I will find some little beggar, a mulatto,
Warm him and raise him in filth.
I invite you all back to my pad
To spit in my face,
But let none of you provoke me with his wounds.

Long live, hail to our new flag
And every old love!
When the day comes, we'll be back on the streets,
Out there hurling stones
At all those who come in groups
And all those who come alone.


[Përmbi revolucionin, from the volume Poezi, Tirana 1995, p. 70-71. Translated from the Albania by Robert Elsie]


Once Again on the Price of Bananas

Bananas from Rome once grew menacingly
Behind the Berlin Wall,
The year nineteen eighty something,
Jungles of concrete and steel and panic,
Men were wolves or monks for one another, surrounded
By bananas
On an island encircled
By sparkling red water,
Ich bin ein Berliner,
But in fact, I'm an American Czech who...
Post-Marxism still evolutionist reproduced
Black bananas made of rubber
For post-
Stalinists, the grandsons of dervishes, to beat
Our people with (end of quotation),
Bananaland stuffed with fried sweet potatoes,
The potato is still food, underground sustenance
Sown on the museum fields of Mauthausen, Treblinka.
With potatoes we make chips, with the other hand
In the dark we caress
The tepid belly of the television set, full of Coca Cola,
Chips, not potatoes, are related to bananas,
Chips and bananas and the Coca Cola, too,
All related by marriage
And dowry to Madonna
And first gave birth to dead
Bananas from Rome
Now manufactured together
In the same clump
With black rubber cudgels.


[Edhe një herë mbi çmimin e bananeve, from the volume Pasqyra e lëndës, Tirana 2004, p. 37. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]