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Five poems.

By GËZIM HAJDARI.

Translated from the Italian by Ian Seed.

From Bitter Grass

No one knows

No one knows if I can still hold out
in this corner of the burnt earth
and drunk in the deep night
I write joyous and sad lines.

I dream of death each time
spring returns.
Moans fade so slowly
in the nakedness of rain.

How fast my youth
burns without recall!
Roses and knives smile
all around me.

So soon my body smells
of smoke and alcohol.
Who knows what hidden evil
will one day cut off my voice.

Nessuno sa se ancora resisto
in quest’angolo di terra arsa
e scrivo a notte fonda ubriaco
versi gioiosi e tristi.

Sogno la morte ogni volta
che torna la primavera.
I gemiti si perdono piano piano
nella nudità della pioggia.

Come brucia in fretta
la mia giovinezza senza richiami!
Ovunque dintorno mi sorridono
rose e coltelli.

Di fumo e alcool
odora così presto il mio corpo.
Chissà quale male oscuro un giorno
stroncherà la mia voce.

They will find me

They will find me in the threshed fields
without a breath between my lips,
laid out on the straw I adored
with the doves pecking near me.

With my mother’s white handkerchief over my face
they will carry me into the room where I was born:
‘Poor boy, how he suffered!’
people will say around my body.

After washing me
with fresh water from the well,
they will put me on the grain cart
pulled by country bulls.

For the last time I will go
along the road where I ran as a child.
If it’s dusk, the fireflies
will light my new dwelling.

Mi troveranno nei campi trebbiati
senza respiro tra le labbra,
sdraiato sulla paglia che adoravo
con i colombi che beccano accanto.

Sul volto il fazzoletto bianco di mia madre,
mi porteranno nella stanza natale:
‘Povero ragazzo, quanto ha sofferto!’
dirà la gente intorno al mio corpo.

Dopo avermi lavato
con l’aqua fresca del pozzo,
mi metteranno sul carro del grano
tirato dai buoi di campagna.

Percorrerò per l’ultima volta
la strada dove correvo nell’infanzia.
Se sarà al crepuscolo,
le lucciole illumineranno la nuova dimora.

Even in the beyond

Even in the beyond I will hear
the curse in the dawn:
‘You will never be lucky. May you die
on the road like a dog!’

I will remember with dread
my cruel god,
the pomegranate split open
under a full moon.

The duck which plunged into the lake,
the bloodied bulls.
Like a funereal sign
the call of the fox in the dark.

The starlings that dug into the rock
as if they’d gone mad,
the black thorns I took out
of my mother’s feet with a needle.

Anche nell’aldilà mi suonerà
la maledizione nell’alba:
‘Non avrai mai fortuna, che tu possa morire
per strada, come un cane!’

Ricorderò con timore
il mio dio crudele,
la melagrana spaccata
sotto la luna piena.

L’anatra che si tuffava nel lago,
i tori insanguinati.
Come un segno lugubre
il richiamo della volpe nel buio.

Gli stornelli che scavavano nella roccia
come se fossero impazziti,
le spine nere che cacciavo con l’ago
dai piedi di mia madre.

Now I wander

Now I wander tormented through the place
like a spirit which has been knifed.
Death no longer makes me afraid,
nor the cold of evening.

I know who has loved me
in the delirious hills.
An endless love:
the mud and dark of winter.

Like a shadow my destiny
follows at my shoulders.
For a sleeping pill I choose
the poison of the viper.

Two things I will take with me
into the promised paradise:
the cries of prey in spring
and the songs of gypsies.

Ora vago tormentato nel paese
come uno spirito accoltellato.
Non me fa più paura la morte
né il freddo della sera.

So chi mi ha amato
nella collina delirante.
Un amore eterno:
il fango e il buio invernale.

Dietro le spalle m’insegue
come ombra il destino.
Tra i calmanti notturni scelgo
il veleno della vipera.

Due cose porterò con me
nel paradiso promesso:
i pianti in primavera delle prede
e i canti dei gitani.

Where is the full moon

Where is the full moon
the flocks of white doves?
Only rain and mud
surround me.

The stones along the road are silent,
the bitter grass in the field trembles.
Under a sky always dark
naked, orphan trees.

No longer between the paths
far off whistles and sounds.
Dreams of youth have fled
into the abyss of years.

Nothing remains
of our homes back then.
Everything has vanished,
covered once more by dark.

Dov’è la luna piena
gli stormi dei colombi bianchi ?
Solo piogge e fango
mi circondano.

Tacciono le pietre sulla strada,
trema l’erbamara nei prati.
Sotto il cielo sempre cupo
alberi nudi, orfani.

Non più tra i sentieri
fischi lontani e suoni.
I sogni giovanili sono fuggiti
negli abissi degli anni.

Nulla è rimasto
nei luoghi natali di allora.
Tutto è svanito
e ricoperto dal buio.


HajdariGëzim Hajdari was born in 1957 in Lushnja, Albania. As well as working in a variety of jobs, he was intensely involved in journalism and political activism in his native country. In 1992 he fled to Italy. He initially occupied the ruins of an abandoned building in Frosinone near Rome, but was awarded an apartment by the town council after he won the prestigious Montale Prize. He writes in both Albanian and Italian, but is perhaps more recognised in his adopted country. His books include collections of essays and travel writing, as well as several volumes of poetry, which have been translated into several languages. Stigmata [UK], translated by Cristina Viti and published by Shearsman in 2016, was his first collection to appear in English.

From the back cover of Bitter Grass (Erbamara, Cosmo Iannone, 2013):

‘Bitter Grass was written in 1976 while I was in my last year of high school in the city of Lushnje in Albania. It was refused by N. Frashëri, the government publication house in Tirana. According to the censor, “the texts in this collection do not deal with the theme of our socialist village; the hero of the poems is a solitary person who flees from his contemporaries, from the Association of Pioneers, from reality; moreover, the transformations that socialism has brought to the countryside under the guidance of the Party are entirely absent…” At that time, the collection had the title “Diary of the Wood”. I translated the texts from Albanian into Italian in 1999. Two years later, in 2001, the work was published for the first time by Faro. This new publication has been expanded and includes new texts in respect to the first edition.

Offering these poems to readers, it’s as if I were going back many years to the icy and inhospitable winter of the Albanian dictatorship where I began my journey as a poet.’

— Gëzim Hajdari

Ian Seed’s translations of French and Italian poetry have appeared in various publications. The Thief of Talant, his translation of Pierre Reverdy’s Le Voleur de Talan, has recently been published by Wakefield Press. His new collection of prose poems, Identity Papers [UK] is published by Shearsman. His previous work in the Fortnightly is indexed here.

 

 

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