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English  Albanian Literature in Translation

Robert Elsie

Modern Authors 2

Flora BROVINA

Flora BROVINA

Webdesign J. Groß

Flora BROVINA

 

The year 1981

The stench and clank of metal spread,
The music of the streets has taken refuge in the suburbs,
The little girl has scraped her knee, off with you now and don’t cry,
Wide-eyed he emerges from the crowd,
Entering the race,
The unseen arena, toreador and bull,
Olé olé olé,
The weight of the tank leaves tracks in the asphalt,
Olé olé olé,
He rushes forth
And grasps it
By the head,
Covering it
With a red cloth,
The machine, now blinded by the eagle,
Is dazed
And disoriented,
What black beauty,
Empty flowerpots
Cascade down from balconies,
Rakatak, rakatak,
Rakatak, rakatak,
Flowerpots hurtling through the air
Know nothing of the curfew,
Rakatak, rakatak,
You in the midst
Plant artificial flowers,
The policeman screams and takes down your address
While guarding the shattered flowerpots
And tank tracks in the asphalt.

[Viti 1981, from the volume Mat e çmat, Prishtina: Rilindja 1995, p. 22, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in English in Flora Brovina, Call me by my name, Poetry from Kosova in a bilingual Albanian-English edition, New York: Gjonlekaj 2001]

 

The first lesson

Jusuf,
Jusuf the yellow stork,
Jusuf Gërvalla... is missing.
Teuta, Ilir, Agron, Yll
And Fadil, Fadil Talla... is missing,
And Ylfete, Ylfete Humolli... is missing,
And Shukrije, Shukrije Obërtinca... is missing,
Kimetja, Arsim, Kujtim
And Halim, Halim... is missing,
Shpresa, Besa, Kastriot,
And Fatmir, Fatmir Kërleshi... is missing,
And Afrim, Afrim Zhitia... is missing,
And on it goes,
Valbona, Shkurta, Gjon,
And Xhevat, Xhevat... is missing,
Nesimi’s son Bekim is missing, too,
And Afrim, Afrim Prebreza... is missing.

Bring me
No medical certificate,
No paper from parents, police or state,
Say only missing,
We will heal your wounds with flowers
And wait for you,
And wait for you,
Say only missing,
Blood-red flowers will bloom
The lesson continues...

(9 May 1990)

[Ora e parë, from the volume Mat e çmat, Prishtina: Rilindja 1995, p. 23, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in English in Flora Brovina, Call me by my name, Poetry from Kosova in a bilingual Albanian-English edition, New York: Gjonlekaj 2001]

 

Skënderaj

Do not think back, do not dream
Of the fragrance of the quince,
Said my mother.

Every time I mentioned you,
My teeth grew numb,

Open the window,
Take a deep breath
Every time you are pregnant,

Can you better smell
The fragrance of the quince,
Of our homeland,
Said my mother.

[Skënderaj, from the volume Mat e çmat, Prishtina: Rilindja 1995, p. 67, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in English in Flora Brovina, Call me by my name, Poetry from Kosova in a bilingual Albanian-English edition, New York: Gjonlekaj 2001]

 

Gu gu gu

Gu-gu-gu Isuf,
Gu-gu-gu Istref,
Mother, why did you teach me the language of the cuckoos,
Of my sister, oh,
Gu-gu-gu Isuf,
Gu-gu-gu Istref,
Under my eavestrough
Gu-gu-gu in the trees in the courtyard
Gu-gu-gu on the roof,
I look for
Gu-gu-gu my brothers, oh,
Gu-gu-gu they were beaten,
Gu-gu-gu they were murdered,
Gu-gu-gu they are gone, where are they?
Gu-gu-gu Isuf,
Gu-gu-gu Istref,
Gu-gu-gu on the house,
Gu-gu-gu I’m waiting for them,
I’m waiting for them
To come back,
To return,
They will return,
I’m waiting for them,
Gu-gu-gu
Gu-gu-gu.

[Gu-gu-gu, from the volume Mat e çmat, Prishtina: Rilindja 1995, p. 68, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in English in Flora Brovina, Call me by my name, Poetry from Kosova in a bilingual Albanian-English edition, New York: Gjonlekaj 2001]

 

Status habitus

Lost in a labyrinth,
No boundary, no belongings,
No white felt cap,
Status habitus,
Sitting cross-legged,
Slantwise to the planet,
No identity papers,
My countryman
Speaks not of love
From each of the telephone booths,
Hi, hi! How’s it going back home,
It was hard to get through,
How’s Mum,
Status habitus refrain,
In big cities
Where the youth wastes away
Melting like lead
Crumbling like riverbanks
Status habitus,
Hey, what about the schools,
Hey, are there any jobs,
Hey, and in the hospitals
Are there corpses, are there,
Status habitus,
They poisoned the children,
In each of the telephone booths
You can recognize my countryman
Even without his identity papers,
To the big cities of the West
The river of exile
Keeps flowing and flowing,
Status habitus,
In the labyrinths
It seeks the road of return.

(Zym, 1991)

[Status habitus, from the volume Mat e çmat, Prishtina: Rilindja 1995, p. 71, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in English in Flora Brovina, Call me by my name, Poetry from Kosova in a bilingual Albanian-English edition, New York: Gjonlekaj 2001]

 

Exodus

1.

With white scarves
At the doorstep
Waving
From behind the window curtains
Tears in our eyes
In a sombre room,
In longing
Did we wish you
A fair journey,
Pallid,
Pallid,
When you left us.

2.

Large is our home,
Large the courtyard
When I cross it barefoot,
How long the day, how long,
Shaky is my pace,
I tumble and rise like a child
When it learns to walk,
How long my hair,
How strong my breasts,
The crimson apples, how mature they are now,
What thirst for apple juice,
I stand there in the courtyard,
Where are you?

3.

The maidens cut their hair
Their games forgotten
When the boys once chased us
For our braids,
Few of you have remained
Since the exodus began.

4.

At the river
We’ll wash our hair,
We’ll wash our ruddy faces,
We’ll sprinkle our breasts with water,
We’ll drench ourselves at the river,
We’ll be like the Virgin Mary
If they do not return.

5.

Do not observe yourselves in the mirror,
Barren maidens,
Every day more wrinkles
In our eyes, on face and brow
Flow tears,
Let us abandon our longing in the stairwell
And bow our heads
Like old women.

6.

Woe upon us
If it does not rain
And the river runs dry
And they do not return,
Night has fallen
Woe upon us, woe.

7.

The maidens walk
Like flowers,

Longing, longing, longing
Wings hover in the air,
Are there dewdrops
In the early morning hours?
The wind rises,
Their heads pressed close together,
The flowers walk hand in hand,
Towards the sun
Behind them
Grows the flowerless grass.

[Ekzod, from the volume Mat e çmat, Prishtina: Rilindja 1995, p. 73, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in English in Flora Brovina, Call me by my name, Poetry from Kosova in a bilingual Albanian-English edition, New York: Gjonlekaj 2001]

 

Dimension

With the tape it measures,
And with the tape it measures
My waist and right arm,
With the tape it measures,
Crawling up my spine,
Rib for rib
As I stand erect,
And with the tape it measures
My long hair and bare shoulders,
Taking a furtive glance of toes
On naked feet,
With the tape it measures
Droplets slithering down my body,
Down my brow and down my cheeks,
I stay put
I don’t go out, I don’t go in,
I don’t go out, I don’t go in,
And with the tape it measures
My bare physique,
My stubby limbs,
No, please, not the head,
And with the tape it measures,
Overlooking nothing,
Missing not a hair,
It puts a noose around my neck
To fashion me a collar
And makes me clothes to its dimensions,
Soaking wet I shiver,
With the tape it measures,
And with the tape it measures,
Nothing can I conceal from it
Neither brow, nor curves, nor belly,
Neither fever, nor blood, nor sweat,
It sees it all,
My whole physique, oh,
But not the tears
Below the lashes, no,
For these there is no tape,
And so the clothes will not be fashioned
To its own dimensions.

[Përmasë, from the volume Mat e çmat, Prishtina: Rilindja 1995, p. 79, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in English in Flora Brovina, Call me by my name, Poetry from Kosova in a bilingual Albanian-English edition, New York: Gjonlekaj 2001]

 

Modern Authors 2

 

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