Visar Zhiti – Three Poems

visar-zhitiVisar Zhiti (b. 1952) is the Albanian writer whose life and works perhaps best mirror the history of his nation. He was one of the many to have suffered appalling persecution for no apparent reason. But Visar Zhiti survived – physically, intellectually and emotionally, and he is now among the most popular poets of present-day Albania. Despite the paucity of literary translations from the Albanian, Visar Zhiti’s verse has been appreciated abroad and he has received notable international recognition. In 1991, he was awarded the Italian “Leopardi d’oro” prize for poetry and in 1997 the prestigious “Ada Negri” prize. He is a member of the Alfonso Grassi International Academy of Art and has taken part in many international poetry festivals in recent years. After a long career as a cultural attaché ,  in April 2013  he was appointed Minister of Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports.

 

 

ELEGY OF THE FOREST

The forests have shrunk
And fear has expanded,
The forests have dwindled,
There are less animals now,
less courage and less lightning,
less beauty
and the moon lies bare,
deflowered by force and
then abandoned.

The forests have shrunk,
Poetry, sighs have diminished,
There are less words for leaves
and more rumours.

The forests have shrunk,
The rivers have lost their magic,
The rivers are bewildered,
They observe us like zebras in a zoo.

The forests have shrunk,
And shame has shrivelled,
How little shame we now have,
We regret nothing at all,
We have so little time to regret.
The roads have grown,
e maisur plage.
so have billboards and dilemmas,
warehouses, cinemas and praise.
The cities have grown,
And shame has expanded,
All that shame the newspapers cannot contain,
To be continued in the next issue
and in next year’s subscription of folly.

The forests have shrunk
and the forest protection units have grown.
Love has recoiled
and the birds have less room
for their lovemaking,
For they cannot make love in office buildings.
Faces have receded.

A little boy draws trees on the walls,
Draws trees in my eyes,
Tattooing a tree
on his slender arm,
like the end of the twentieth century,
Piercing it so often with his burning needle adrip with ink
That the forest is in a frenzy of blood,
the festering sore of suffering.

 

THE ARRIVAL OF PEGASUS IN MY CELL

During the day –
Morning, afternoon,
During the night –
Evening, midnight, after midnight
Every clank caused me to shudder,
Reminded me of the shackles,
As if the guards were coming to take me away
And fling me into a cavern
where even fear itself is horror-stricken.
All the clanking…
But what clanking?…
What did it all mean,
the clanking?…
Petrified, I put my eye
To the loop-hole.
On the small patch of grass – horseshoes.
A stallion was grazing
As it once did
In my dreams.
Its shining body
Like dawn washed by rain and moonlight.
What good fortune has brought you here?
Are you not Pegasus?!
I, too, had verdant dreams,
as fresh as grass.
Some they trampled,
Others I kept.
Let me throw you some of them –
eat!
And with parched lips,
I whispered slowly,
As lovers might have whispered:
-Stallion, oh stallion…

It raised its head,
We looked one another in the eye.
I had not seen myself in a mirror for some time,
Had almost forgotten what my face looked like.
I saw myself in the stallion’s eyes,
Such human eyes
shining as if in pain.
I was shorn bald,
Bearded and filthy…
and turned away
So as not to startle it with my wild appearance.

 

THE EPILOGUE (OF WHICH TIME MAKES A PREFACE)

Life is less than hope.

And, still, I write poems
Though no one reads them.
Perhaps the wind does not read the stars at night,
Maybe the cliffs at the seaside
Feel nothing of the fury of the waves.

And, still, I write poems,
Which have destroyed my life. For seven years
They shrouded my body in barbed wire.
They shredded my skin and torrents of life flowed
like torrents of blood
down to the tips of my toes.
But I did not lose my soul, not all of my soul,
Bits and pieces I pulled out
Of the fissures of my body
and sent them back
to love,
to poetry.

With little, tiny bits of soul,
Like bees who have lost their way,
I now live on.
…………………………………….
And when you consider
that even inscriptions on gravestones
have readers,

You come to realize that poetry is greater than hope.

 

 

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