Manjola Nasi is a Tirana-based, Albanian poet and translator, winner of “Crystal Vilenica 2019 Award”. A Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program alumna, she holds a PhD in literature from the University of Tirana, where she has been teaching for over a decade. She has translated a series of important works from English into Albanian. Besides Albanian, selections of her poems have appeared in anthologies and literary journals in English,
Italian, Slovenian, Greek, Macedonian, etc.
One day he told us about a place where
people do not want to die;
they just live on, till they’re fed up, till they’re jaded,
and when they go out,
they iron their wrinkles one by one,
they put their bones inside their clothes or in a bag
leaving out – when they still have them – the teeth only.
They carry on till they turn into
touchwood, dry and coarse,
and sometimes they forget themselves in yards,
staying too long under the sun
they get scorched.
Another day he told us
about a place where they’re terrified of
scratching their heads, cudgeling their minds,
racking their brain.
They solve their dilemmas with a coin, heads or tails
they read the cards to make decisions
and if someone suddenly gets the hint of an idea,
they start jumping and yelling to send it away.
They put scarecrows on every street corner
hang horseshoes and horns on their doorframes
and the city walls are thick and armored like scales.
But in spite of all, at times
thoughts find their way into
the skull of some ill-fated one
and she is left going to great lengths
to hide the fact
that they will stay with her
until she dies.
Another time he told us of another place
where people refuse to forget.
Thus, the bodies and genes remember
not just grandparents, but all the generations,
the olden days beyond towns, early hunting, and caves.
In that place, when children are born,
people gather around them and they say:
look, this one has transparent skin,
like we did when we lived off fishing in the fjords
and the sun was scarce, so we could not afford color;
this one reminds us of when the earth was all silt and mud
and our bodies grew shorter and stronger in the rice fields.
But how hard it is for them in cases when
the ripples of ancient evil
shake the pond water so violently
that shattered skeletons wash ashore.
In late summer we found him walking along the street,
– he’d been drinking –
and he told us of a place
where people take in all the world into their stomachs;
they know everything, and what they don’t know, they learn
and having learned it, they review it, repeat it,
again and yet again, like prayer on a rosary,
they spin it in their heads, tell it out loud to others
probably in an effort to understand
what one does when the fears take over
for example, he said, fear that you’ll die or won’t,
or fear that you can’t escape something,
or fear of confronting an irredeemable loss
which was your fault completely
only because you didn’t get it
that it was that face
(not so beautiful, but with that spark inside the eyes)
that you needed more than breath,
and now you’ll never have it.
Translated by the author