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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

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Ali PODRIMJA

Ali PODRIMJA

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Ali PODRIMJA

 

Take this stone

Take this stone and cast it
Wherever you wish
             If you wish

Beyond my thread and tribe
Beyond the nine wounds
             of Gjergj Elez Alia

Nail it if you wish
             wall it in

            Take this stone

Baptize it or leave it nameless
I have changed the time, the climate

Leave it without land, without sky

Take this stone and cast it
Wherever you wish

Its strength makes us immortal

[Merreni këtë guri, from the volume Credo, Prishtina: Rilindja 1976, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 69]

 

Song of freedom

Everything about you, your birth
And your step Lumi
My security in life

Listen to the ancient flute
An eerie beast is sniffing about
In Europe

Many a song is sung
But only one song never ends
The song of freedom

[Kënga e lirisë, from the volume Lum Lumi, Prishtina: Rilindja 1982, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 111]

 

Paris, native land

We'll go to Paris
There we shall lay our stone
Teuta, Genti will not be expecting us
The savage Roman hordes will not be expecting us
No one will be expecting us
To Paris we shall go
We shall hang our dreams on stork wings
At a fountain we shall wash our eyes, our wart-covered hands
We shall leave the Balkan nights behind us
             the dances, the songs, the ballads, the tales
The flute alone we shall take with us
To play whenever we are homesick
             when we get lost in the crowds of drunks
             in the shadows
             amongst the rats
Late at night in the streets of Paris in the frantic metro
We shall smell the fragrance of the quince from our native land
With our fingers we will talk of vile times
We shall not step on any ants
We shall not frighten any birds
We shall vent neither hellfire nor spleen
             upon the head of man
We shall not bow to a torpid Europe
             nor to any deranged gods
Promise me Lum Lumi
That we will not forget our native land

(Paris 1981)

[Parisi, vendlindja, from the volume Lum Lumi, Prishtina: Rilindja 1982, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 125]

 

And you dead

It was summer
Overhead the sun
Shadows, you around Europe

From that horrible journey
You returned one day with eyes wide open
You entered your father's poem without knocking

There you are in safety Lumi
I swear no harm
Will come to you

It was summer
The sun in the west
And you dead, earth

[E ti i vdekur, from the volume Lum Lumi, Prishtina: Rilindja 1982, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 135]

 

Agony

I don't know why I long for Skopje
Now that Lumi is no longer there
And Baci Bajram no longer descends the Kaçaniku Gorge

I don't know why
I plunge my hands deep into the waters of the Vardar
And black out

I don't know why I stumble and fall
With the rain battering down upon me
Until I lock myself in my room

I don't know why
I really don't know why
Skopje causes me such anguish

[Rektime, from the volume Fund i gezuar, Prishtina: Rilindja 1988, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 181]

 

It is the Albanian's fault

It is the Albanian's fault
That he breathes
And walks on two legs

That I take tranquillizers
And swat flies all day
In the Toilet

It is the Albanian's fault
That he besmirches your wife
And frightens my family

That my hand cannot reach the apple
On the highest branch
That he has filled the Well with dead words

It is the Albanian's fault
That not more of Turkey exists,
More of America of Norway

            That the Gulag is so far away

That they chose me and sent me
To sniff him out
Does death smell

It is all the more the Albanian's fault
That he does not eat
Or close his eyes and sleep

That our sewers are broken
And the Catacombs of the Balkans
Have fallen into ruins

It is the Albanian's fault
That he whiles away the time under the moon
And breaks windows and stirs up muddy water

That he speaks Albanian that he eats Albanian
             that he shits Albanian

It is the Albanian's fault
The Albanian is the one at fault
For all my undoings

Both for my broken tooth
And for my frozen smile
So therefore: BULLET

Ha ha ha
Ha ha
Ha

May God have mercy!

[Fajtor është shqiptari, from the volume Fund i gezuar, Prishtina: Rilindja 1988, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 193]

 

If

If a people
Have no poets
And no poetry of their own
For a National Anthology
Then treachery and barking
Will do the trick

[Nëse, from the volume Fund i gezuar, Prishtina: Rilindja 1988, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 197]

 

Who will slay the wolf

            for F. Altimari

And the gentleman said

Should you happen to come upon
An Albanian and a wolf
Slay the Albanian

When the Albanian heard the saying
He smiled
And rolled himself a cigarette

If you slay me
             my poor friend
Who will slay
The wolf

Poor herds

(Cosenza 1988)

[Kush do ta vrasë ujkin, from the volume Zari, Prishtina: Rilindja 1990, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 211]

 

When will you speak out, Ali Podrimja

The star goes out with a bang
You look us in the eye and gulp
Never do you turn your back on us, Ali Podrimja

You sit out there in the cold and remain silent for years
             you still believe
             in mankind

They counterfeit your name
             your family name signature date of birth
             mother's name father's name place of birth
                         of your ancestors
             childhood tales dances games
             heroes songs laments celebrations

They make fun
             of your ancient language your people
             and spew torrents of abuse

And you remain silent, Ali Podrimja
             you still believe
             in mankind

In sombre vaults in mediaeval cellars
             strange concoctions appellations ruins curses
             barking pursuits arrests
             the savage hunt

Candles and incense are lit are quenched the words the bodies
                         the reservations drop away
             the children take flight under the wings of fate
             a Woman weaves and tears up the fabric
             in a paper Tower

In the sky overhead loom shadows crows ravens
             you comb golden locks
             with a handful of earth in your lap
             you set off for distant lands

In the fashionable part of Europe you are an Albanais
In Italy an Arbëresh in Greece an Arvanitas
In Turkey elhamdulillah an Arnaut
In America canned meat
             and nothing else
             nothing else

Who knows how many languages your God speaks

And you remain silent Ali Podrimja
             you still believe
             in mankind

But but
When will you speak out good man
Or must you first be born

Why does the moss cover your roof

[Kur do të flasesh o Ali Podrimja, from the volume Zari, Prishtina: Rilindja 1990, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 229]

 

Or, or

Should you long
             to see Albanians
Go down to the train station in a big city

Worn-out shoes they wear
And white socks

Or or

On Marienplatz or at the Eiffel Tower
             just whistle a heroic tune
Into a circle you go
             there you have them all those rigid faces

But do not be frightened off
For solitude can make you sick
That awesome brutality of cement

(Munich, 18 April 1992)

[Ose,ose, from the volume Buzëqeshje në kafaz, Tirana, Lidhja e Shkrimtarëve 1993, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 243]

 

Wandering with wolves

Wandering with wolves is more than interesting
When you set off for the Forest
You discover your real face

The journey may take longer than you have years
             it can happen
             that you gallop right through it

He who has not made the journey with them
Knows not what freedom is
Or the shirt of the stars

You must be aware
Without losing an arm or an eye
You cannot open the door easily

Nothing
Falls
From heaven

(Feldafing, 6 June 1992)

[Udhëtimi me ujq, from the volume Buzëqeshje në kafaz, Tirana, Lidhja e Shkrimtarëve 1993, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in Who will slay the wolf. Selected poetry by Ali Podrimja, New York, Gjonlekaj Publishing 2000, p. 255]