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Ndrek Gjini – The Death of Night

The Death of Night

Poetry Collection

NDREK GJINI

_________________________________________________________________

Introduction

The Death of Night. Selected poems by Ndrek Gjini. Pbck. 89pp. Emal Publishers. ISBN 9928-04-026-5

Ndrek Gjini’s poems are those of a true poet. He can, as William Blake wrote, ‘see infinity in a grain of sand.’ Very brief moments of awareness lead to quick metaphysical insights. Through his poems, one becomes aware of the wisdom of the generations, as tales of his parents and grandparents resound through the decades. He is vitally aware, and makes the reader aware, of humans’ place in the world, amid the passing seasons, alongside great trees, by oceans filled with sentient fishes—one form of life amid many. The role of politics in the bloody history of the Balkans is sporadically manifest in the poems. One gets a strong sense that the poet is more humble than, but also bigger than, the heroes and the commissars; his insight is a necessary stay against terror. The poet is also a passage through which the divine makes itself known, and Ndrek Gjini is certainly a spiritual, even a religious poet—but never a doctrinaire one. Most of all, it is remarkable how far Ndrek Gjini has come in mastering the infinite complexities of a second language, so that his poems in English enrich the language culture of the non-Albanian world with some of the essentials of Albania.

Prof.Adrian Frazier
English Department
Director, MA in Writing Programme
National University of Ireland, Galway

____________________________________________

 

A Government Office

The carpet here is tired and worn
as my neighbor’s old winter coat.
The dead legs of the officer’s desk
like four exclamation marks (!!!!)
In the middle of them his two legs
as two capital ( L) letters.
Above them his two furtive hands
move over and under that desk, constantly.

Over the desk;
the mask is never lifted.

________________

Epitaphs

The weight of misfortune has stooped my shoulders
But I don’t intend to stop for a good while yet;
I afflict my own destiny
And don’t want anyone to mourn for my fate.

I’ve made peace with God on my losses
And agreed with him on the epitaphs
That should be written about my senseless wars.

________________

Steps

My son,
I forgave you
For not remembering the moments,
When you walked your first steps,
Clinging to my hand,
Smiling and crying at the same time.
After those moments
All your life was not a normal walk,
It was a sprint.
And my hand, a speed restriction sign it was
In front of your eyes,
Every moment.

I forgave you my son.
…Because you will forgive me too,
For not remembering
Making my last steps,
Clinging to your hand,
Smiling and crying at the same time.

________________

Senile Game

Once I saw my father
wrapping up two big mirrors
and hiding them in the attic

Why are you doing this?
I asked him politely.
Because
I want to hide these ugly wrinkles
he said,
as two little tears he shed.

_________________

The Death of Night

The day is dawning.
My insomnia and I
are gazing at this night’s body and eyes
waking its last moments of life .

Lamps glow inside and outside houses,
and neon lights on the roads and squares
are like bandages on its injured body.

The sun starts opening
the gates of light, bit by bit,
and the night’s last breathing
ends as a blissful spirit.

The night just died.
Let its soul rest in peace.
Amen.

_________________
The Balkan View

I have just passed
the old city of Dubrovnik.
The beautiful hill of Cilipi
like a green hand waves at me.
Then a small river near Gruda
guides me towards Herceg-Novi.
A checkpoint appears here,
like a mouth of a gigantic bear.
then, after just 50 metres
another checkpoint
and then, another one.
After that, sheep grazing in peace,
like small white flags,
moving on the stunning lawns of Bijela.
On the roads of Radovici
drunken soldiers and police officers
chew up war with their nonsense talk.
Near Kotorr, a wonderful waterfall
stretches its hands towards the sea.
In Mjastori, a cloud of gunpowder
swims slowly in the sky.
Then, while passing through Budva,
the blue face of sea appears and hides
and then appears again, as in child’s play.
On the roadsides of Ulcinj
shadows of murdered loves emerge,
walking slowly, in silence.

These rare beauties of nature
can make not only the humans
of every race, nation and religion,
but also birds, flowers, rivers and lawns
feel like flying towards eternity;
all together, in peace.
Yet, the war is the most ruthless
and powerful King
of this beautiful land.
The killings and the death
are the air, the drinking water,
and the daily bread and butter
of the inhabitants.
The only resident of the Balkans
enjoying full freedom is THE HATE.
It’s rich, powerful, and immortal.
It is the only citizen
living here with no fear.

_________________
The Parents Do Not Die

Mainly the parents do not die.
They just feel lonely
when their children leave the nest,
and they start to miss their own parents.
They go to meet them
and forget to come back.
That’s all.

_________________
Closed Doors

It happened years ago.
I left.
After I walked just two or three steps,
I heard the door
anxiously being closed.
I don’t know why
but ever since that moment
the sound that the door made
echoes in my ears
like the clatter of a handful of pebbles
on a coffin.
I started to hate the closure of doors.
To me they sound like coffin lids.

_________________
Winter Eve

Cherry branches in my yard
swept by sea breeze,
swaying in the wind
like a drunkard’s arms.
Leaves attempt to fly like birds,
realise their error, then fall.
Horse-clouds run in a sky race
towards the horizon.
The sea squirms and turns
like a wounded tiger,
its mouth spewing masses of foam.
Trying to escape this violent cold
I begin to dream of summer heat.

_________________
Words and Waves

Words and waves
are the most heartless migrants.
The only things they know
is the path of their escape.
They flee, just flee,
and never come back.
leaving behind memories
and debris.

_________________
Why I Write

My little town
is a world of its own,
set apart from the wider world.

It is a town with no heroes,
but a town that never fell in love with fear.

The extent of its history is limited to
two or three poets,
an architect,
three blacksmiths,
and six stone-carvers.

I am a citizen
of this hero-less town,
not strong enough to fight—
that’s why I write.

_________________
Calendar

My grandmother had a true calendar,
a meaningful, eventful one.
“You were born four moons
after the heavy flooding
which killed half of the town,
twelve moons before
the communists dynamited the church.
It was just two moons after
the grapes were ripened,”
she used to say to me.

As a child, until I began school,
I knew nothing of the fact
that I was born on 1st October, 1963.

If I tell you my birthday
with the current calendar,
I tell you nothing about myself.
But, what if I use
my grandmother’s calendar?

_________________
Unfair World 

A man and a tree died yesterday.
The man was killed by the tree
when a wild wind knocked it down.

Evening News:
Millions of people heard
about the death of this man.
Not a word was mentioned
about the death of the tree
or the millions of trees being killed by men.

_________________
War Against Doubt

Every time we believe,
we extend our lives a little bit.
Whenever we doubt, gravewards we go.
In this, belief/disbelief game
Old Age waits at our door,
while Death lies like a fox in ambush,
ready to lead us to the grave’s gate.

Not in vain an old man said:
“Do not open the door to doubt
in order that Death you may keep out.”

_________________
Game

There is a forest with lots of birds.
Somewhere,
down at the foot of this forest,
is my home.
In the distance lies a railroad, not far,
and then the sea.

Some birds migrate from the forest each autumn
and come back in the spring.
I leave my house every morning
and return in the evening.
A train passes by at the break of day,
returns at noon,
only to leave again just before midnight.

The sea recedes from the shore
whenever the moon is full
and comes back with wild waves
once the new moon begins.

In this come-and-go game,
life revolves around itself perpetually.

The first to tire out
is going to be me,
and one day
I am going to take
an endless break.

_________________
On Holidays

I was looking through a recipe book
trying to find out how to cook a fish.
I started to wonder…
what if a fish was looking up
a good recipe
on how to cook a man.

I left the kitchen
and my feet brought me to the sea.
I splashed into the world of fishes
and forgot to eat; I felt no hunger at all.

_________________
Wires

I was fourteen
when our literature teacher said:
‘For today’s homework
you have to write a poem about your arms’.
The next day I stood up before the class and recited:
‘My arms are like very, very long wires
with which I can embrace the whole world.’
The teacher said: ‘Very good, great metaphor’.
He died peacefully,
just a few years before the Wireless Era.
Lucky for him, he escaped the struggle
of all these wireless things,
even wireless loves.
Meanwhile, I mourn the death
of my first metaphor.

_________________
GM Products

(and maybe GM verse)

It must have been night, definitely,
when some mad scientists,
like crude thieves, broke into God’s garden
and hastily began to make
fruits, vegetables, butter, even meat,
out of chemical substances.

Afterwards, other crooks
filled up all the shops with these
hermaphroditic products.

When all is said and done,
one thing still bothers me:
are we eating this food
or is this food eating us?

_________________
Lesson 1

Acrostic

Try at least to go
right, not be right, since no one is
always right. While
value can be found in the everyday, in
every village, city, meadow, mountain or sky,
leaving behind empty bottles and full memories.

Drink clears the smog inside your head;
repeat this saying like you’re praying it. Drink
in pubs and wine bars as though they were temples,
newly built by the religion of joy, to please and
keep us closer to our souls.

Eat not just food, but good recollections too
at your travel trips and drink sessions, by grabbing
time before time grabs you.

_________________
Lucky Dogs

I witnessed love moving
from a man to a dog.

Some months ago,
our neighbours got married.
Happiness, kisses,
flying in and out.
It seemed like endless love.
Last week my neighbour’s scratches,
and the blood dripping down his face
like tears,
killed my sleep.
His screams and mad exit,
were ‘THE END’ sign
of this Love Story.

Yesterday his ex-wife
stopped her BMW in haste.
She came out of her car
passionately kissing
her big dog.

_________________
The Train of My Life

It departed at 8:32pm on 1st October, 1963
from a maternity hospital
in a small town in North Albania,
stopped at a crèche to collect some cries,
toys,
ink spilt on shirts and trousers,
a broken pencil.
Other stops included
dull classes with mountains of books,
copies, fights, loves, hates, mistakes,
first kisses, white dust from the chalk,
lost shoes on  football pitches.
Then it stopped again
at different workplaces
where the head was not needed at all, just the arms,
because the bosses were the ones
who were always right.
This train passed through many
strange countries and cities,
regretful, unable to enjoy
the thrills and luxury that those places held.
During a long stop on a rainy island,
everything—feelings, memories, the body—
began to rust away beneath an endless rainfall.
The train will move on soon,
scheduled to arrive
on an uncertain day of an uncertain month
during the 21st  century,
but I hope not soon,
at a not yet decided graveyard.

_________________
Zero

I was with her.
Together we harvested the joy of life.
I do not know if it was Satan or God
that planted the thorn of hate in her soul.
However, when it became dark she left.
She locked herself into her dark house.
She rang.
‘Very quiet here,’ she said,
‘only me and solitude.’
I replied, ‘You are one, the solitude is zero,
So tell me what result you get
when you multiply yourself with solitude.’

While answering her I was lightening the night,
and my head too, with some drinks,
celebrating with five of my friends.

_________________
How To Read The Wind

My mother did not die of old age,
nor did any illness lay her low in bed.
Her worries for us, the fugitives,
broke her heart,
and one day she decided
to not breathe anymore.

Her last breath became wind,
and it’s blowing wild
on this November day,
whistling and singing to my ears,
sometimes as a lullaby,
other times a lament.
And very often the wind
says to me:
‘Why so late my son?’

_________________
The Smell of My Thoughts

My thoughts wear the smell of sunlight
every time it rains.
They wear rain’s smell
whenever the sun shines.
They wear the ice’s smell
whenever it’s hot,
and warmth’s smell they wear
during the days with frost.
The smell of flowers they wear in winter
in the summer they wear snow’s smell.
My thoughts are the only things that keep
my world and me in balance.
Without them I would fall down
like a rotten tree.

_________________
Dark Feelings

Into the bog of bad habits,
I am swimming every day.
Mosquitoes, marsh plants and mud,
are pestering me, from my feet to my eyes.
From here, I can see only some slaves
building a statue for the devil.

An old bull-cart filled up
with all my broken years
stands on the shore of this bog
waiting for me to pull it.

Sleepwalking, I leave the bog,
and towards the bull-cart I  go.
Pulling it through the mire
alongside of this bog land
its wheels begin to write
some very boring lines
on the mud’s umber paper.

While the night falls
the voices of frogs begin to be
the only cradle-song of my hopes.

_________________
Challenge

If you live locked up
in the prison of hate
and feed your days
with the milk of love,
this means that you
have emerged victorious
from your great battle
against Satan’s spirit,
and can collapse
the walls of malice.

_________________
The House of My Verses

Somewhere, inside my chest,
in the valleys of my heart
there is a house
decaying every day.
The worms of nuisance
are gnawing its roof joists
and the chilly wind is kissing
its glassless windows.

The stones of its walls
are falling like rotten teeth
from an old man’s mouth.
Yet bashful it stands there
in its solitude, as a cherished nest
of my yet unborn stanzas.

_________________
I Vowed to be my Childhoods’ Soldier

Last night, my sleep
slammed the door shut
and ran out in haste,
leaving my memories
and me in a desperate state.
The yearning of my youth
entered in calm,
and dragged me by hand
towards an abandoned house.
The morning came
and caught me there,
bewildered, shuffling through
some dark and bright files
of my childhood days.

I worshipped that journey
to this vanished house
because I miss its guilt,
and its pride,
I love going there
neither drunk nor sober,
as I vowed to be
my childhood’s soldier.

_________________
February

The frost under our feet
doesn’t cough that loudly,
yet it sounds more like
an old man’s mumbling.

The wind is not breathing
fast and chilly like last month.

Undressed trees
do not look that pretty
yet they seem shy, hiding within
thousands of pregnant buds.

It’s February,
the daylight
has emerged victorious
from its great battle
against dark.

_________________
The Stone is my Father

Do you not know me?
I am the son of the stone.
Stone is the father and my vertebrae.
He raised me,
and taught me the art of patience.
Seasons come and go
as storks,
but the stone and my patience
like an ancient oath stand here.
The fortitude is our God,
and the fatherland our faith.

_________________
Letter from Prison

My dear friend!
This letter for you
I’ve written down
here in this green jail
Where my word smells like grass.
And my dreams are getting wet in the rain.

Here, where the life and death
have no demarcation line.

Here, where the grass, the rain and flowers
die in front of your eyes
and are born again into a day
as if by magic.

_________________
The Field and I

The field and I had cut our hair
last afternoon.
We had a shower by rain
last night.

Today, the field was woken up
by a kiss of the rainbow
Me, by my mother’s
phone call.

_________________
Confession

I am not the one who killed the wolf.
Believe me.

Do you remember, long ago,
when some strangers came?
They were many.

With their axes and saws,
rushing toward the forest
and they cut all trees,
took them and fled.
And the wolf slinked
in a meadow covered with fog.

When the fog went away,
the wolf gazed at the murdered forest.
and died of anguish.

I’m not the one who killed the wolf.
Believe me.

_________________
Prison

Get your day,
put it in an office,
sit it down on a chair.
Say to it, obey the boss,
and your food is paid for,
Your rent is paid as well.
The drinks
at your dinners are paid too.
This is the prison.
The prison of soul
this kind of structural design has.

_________________
The Rain

And the rain came,
no one can remember when.
Here, with us,
in us,
no one knows how long it’s going to stay.
Making our nights starless,
our days grey.
and us walking fish,
in this soggy space which is rotting
everything.

_________________
I Am a Tree

I am a tree,
a walking tree.
The leaves of my thoughts and feelings
have their date of birth called ‘Spring’
and their date of death called ‘Autumn’.
I am a tree.
My green heartstrings
die and rise again within me,
again and again
until the wind of time
will knock me down.

_________________
The Refrain of a Pensioner

Sitting on a bench, lonesome
in a corner of a park
he fills his lungs with green air
and idly he drinks the milk of light.

He rises slowly, and he puts the path,
as a fiction book, in his pocket
walking towards the gate of twilight
where his white-dream night lies ahead.

Every day he repeats this journey
without betraying the day, air or wind
until the twilight runs away from him
or the night locks him in forever.

_________________
My Road’s Death

I am laying my road to rest into the grave, today.
With it, I am laying to rest the mud, and the sun.
There are no howls, no sighs.
There is neither tears nor sadness,
the silence, like an opened grave,
is having coffee with me,
after this funeral.

_________________
Walking by the Seaside

While walking by the seaside ,
sounds coming out of the waves’ mouth
enable me, in less than half an hour’s journey,
to meet myself when crying for a broken toy,
to talk to my mother who died years ago,
to hug my nephew who will be born next decade.
to wait in agony before my death
until my daughter will come back to me
to say goodbye,
to see my niece’s tear-filled eyes
while she lays a bouquet of flowers on my grave.
The waves’ tunes are not like our bodies
They are eternal,
like our souls,
like our dreams,
like our love.
We do have a sea inside
with great waves
which create incredible, eternal tunes.

That’s why
we do not die,
we just pass by from earth to sky.

_________________
I’m Not the Black Cat.

I am not the black cat.
There were four of us;
my grandmother,
a black cat,
a myth,
and I.
My grandmother often
told us a myth.
When you are ill, she said,
if a black cat
comes and sits on your bed
it means that you
will die soon.
I was only six,
seriously ill.
Our black cat
came and sat on my bed.
I just remember
some crashes and screams
and a handle of the brush
hitting that poor cat.
Years passed.
My grandmother,
and the black cat,
died.

I,
and the myth,
not yet .
But, I am not the black cat.

_________________
Fugitive

Yes, I can go. I can leave right now.
An aeroplane or train ticket
for 10 or 15 pounds of flesh and bones,
including some clothes
and some necessary domestic things,
and ….goodbye.

However, I’m not gone,
as my memories and feelings
are disobedient. They never leave,
and I can’t dictate anything to them.

So, when you see me leaving
don’t even think I’m gone.
It’s not me.
It’s just a heft of myself
escaping from fighting with me.

_________________
‘Stop’ Signs

‘Stop’ signs horrify me.
Every time I look at them
I start thinking about a great disaster
which could happen, if those cold metal signs
with just four letters applied
to our thoughts, our feelings and our dreams.
All the roads within the world of our souls
would be trapped in big traffic jams.
Warning sirens, crashes, fires,
would appear everywhere
in this endless fast-moving network.
The world of our souls would go crazy,
and within a few days time
a sign with ten letters would appear,
‘Extinction’.

_________________
Walking Not Permitted

I know that,
when death will knock
at the door of my house
I will be in bed, in agony.

Oh, how much I would like
to be standing up,
when I will hear this unexpected  knock.
Perhaps searching on my bookshelf
for a book to read,
or making a coffee for myself.

I would love be able to open the door
to this rare guest and invite it in.

However, God made us
unable to walk when we were born
and that’s why he wants us lame
when we are dying.

Death is indeed like birth,
a world full of mystery,
where walking is not permitted.

_________________
Swimming in Blood and Tears

It’s raining.
They are not raindrops there,
they are bullets.
Bullets from pistols, kalashnikovs, mitrailleuses
fired toward no one. (Sorry,
they are fired skyward.)
The gunners want to kill the sky.
Not God, no.
(At least they say so).

However, God owns the sky.
He doesn’t like the bullets.
Therefore, he turns those bullets
down here,
as if they were raindrops.
It’s not the Universe
that is gone crazy,
no, no.
It’s the humans. I mean the gunners.

There are no clouds in the sky
but still the rain is falling daily,
a rain of bullets.
My body, my soul and the sky
are swimming in blood and tears,
and again …. and again….
we still believe in God,
because we hate war.

_________________
Memories From the War in Winter

Kosove 1999

Some powerful bombs exploded.
Black out.
The power is cut off.
There is no moonlight tonight.
Inside and out, dark.
There are neither candles
nor lighters here in my house.
My memory is shaking from the frost
and, like an abandoned pensioner,
is sitting on the bench of this night
talking to itself.
My dreams, are grinning with no reason
like my handicapped neighbour.
While this frozen night,
overloaded with dead bodies,
of murdered hopes, is moving slowly
on the streets of this darkness
towards the new century.

_________________
The Frost of Oblivion

The frost of oblivion
has iced up all the tears in my eyes.
My words are shaking as willows’ twigs
on the surface of a river flow.
My smile, bereaved, is dying within me
. ……….
While my body is converted to a statue
where behind it, after midnight, drunkards vomit.

_________________
A Shadow of a Frightened Man

Did you ever think
how weak are the valiant men?
The heroes, as we like to call them.
They rule brutally,
they shout and scream, they kill
because they are afraid.
They do not believe in themselves
and their ability to compete fairly
in the battle of  this life.

In my hometown a proverb says:
‘To kill is not bravery;
he who forgives is twice brave.”
This was repeated very often.
Maybe that is why
whenever I hear the word ‘hero’,
in my mind’s eyes I see
the shadow of a frightened man
suffering from paranoia.

_________________
Walking the Streets

This evening I walk the streets
hand in hand with my grief.
I have left, locked in my house,
my disabled memories
and my crazy dreams.
So, the streets, my grief, and I
are ruling the world tonight.
Oh, you cannot imagine
how relaxed this walk is,
without those foolish memories
and those mad dreams.

_________________
My Last Breathe

… And my last breathe is ending slowly
blowing and blowing on some cinders
which have been burnt out for quite some time.
With the hope that there remains a burning ember,
I persevere and strain in vain.

_________________
Learning Difficulties

There were two years,
only two years
that I needed to learn
how to speak.
However,
now another forty-five years have passed
and I am not able to learn
how to keep my mouth shut.

_________________
My Ashes

My ashes
you are the faithful guard
of my dreams and my songs
which burn inside me like a sigh
My ashes
you are the silent witness
of my loves and my hopes
which die inside me, hugging solitude
My ashes
I light a candle and pray for you every day.

_________________
Our Cruelty

We never thought, not for one moment,
that our earth felt, dreamt, loved like us
We rape its surface non-stop,
with our cruelty, like no one did in the past.

Our earth is upset; its heart is a banging saga.
Earthquake’s hammers are beating at her chest.
Its feelings are blowing up in volcanic lava.
and its dreams are fading as the icebergs melt.

_________________
Death And Rebirth Of Word

Teenage I was when I saw
violent creatures
with human faces
nailing the word
on a big cross.
I saw it dying
nailed there,
like Jesus.
Now I pray every day
for its rebirth,
Forgetting the crimes
of those violators and  the sneering
of that heartless crowd.

_________________
Letterbox

While millions of doors’ mouths
are starving for a bite of  a letter
from the fugitives, even once a year,
our doors’ mouths  are always full.
They can hardly breathe
because of  the junk that they eat,
hysterically, every single day.

_________________
In the Pockets of My Memory

There is such a big mess
in the pockets of my memory.
A stanza here, a line there,
scratched rhymes,
misshaped metaphors,
broken assonances,
sunken carelessly above each other
within those pockets,
as if they were seeds
waiting to be sown
on the white fields of paper
on each Friday night
or at least on the mornings
of each Saturday.

_________________
The Most Beautiful Lady

There was just one key in our house.
This key was neither for the front door
nor for any money safe.
It was the key to a small cupboard,
where my mother kept her wedding clothes.
I remember her
opening that small cupboard every week,
cleaning those clothes,
putting quinces on them for a good smell,
talking with them as if they were her friends.
No one can remember when it was said
that brides’ clothes from their wedding day
should be preserved to be worn
on their day of death.

I do not know how many centuries
had travelled this feeling, this lesson
until it comes to my childhood’s home.

However, when my mother died,
we dressed her in those clothes.
With no doubt, she looked
Like the most beautiful lady in the world.

________________

Looking Through Aeroplane’s Window

An endless blue field down there,
sowed with immeasurable white fumes.
Some aeroplanes like silver worms
moving in and out this sowed field.

Above, the sun,
like a soldier’s chopped off head,
fired up and thrown away.

_________________
Graveyard

If by chance you come
to visit the town of my verses
don’t go just to its pubs
to be drunk with rhymes, rhythms
alliterations and happy onomatopoeias.
Stall even for a short visit in its graveyard,
where are laid to rest hundreds of dead metaphors.
Some of them committed suicide because of fear,
and some other ones lay there with cut off oesophagi
from some bloody scissors
in the hands of several heartless-communist editors.
Please read in silence the epitaphs
on these gravestones,
and pray for their souls.

_________________
A Ruthless Rebel is my Yearning

My eyes are not like doors
to just close and sleep.
A ruthless rebel is my yearning.
It desperately keeps fighting with my past.
I close my eyes to welcome sleep,
yet unconsciously
the pale face of the moon
and that of my mothers
in the agony of her death,
walk the alleys of my memory.
Slowly. In silence. Keeping me awake.

_________________
A Cherry Tree

Spring.
The yearning and the birds are those
which showed me the path to my hometown.
The old house where I was born
is still here as an ancient oath.

My mother is dead.
My father has gone to live in the city.
The cherry tree in the yard has grown old
due to loneliness.

My childhood’s soul
has missed me deeply
and as revenge for my absence
has broken
with its fists
the windows of the house.

A branch of blossoming flowers
of this cherry tree
start to tell me a story
from my youth.

The story is about my father being upset
whenever I used to take flowers from the tree:
‘Flowers are dreams of trees.
They are the only children that trees have.
Breaking flowers from trees
is the same as if you steal
a child from a mother,’
my father used to say.
I stand before the front door of the house
gazing at the cherry tree,
speechless, and motionless.

My soul and body are bound
by my childhood memory chains .
My eyes are wet.
I do not understand,
if I am crying or if it is raining.

_________________
Freedom

I was a small child
when a bird flew into our house –
I caught it.
It was tweeting and tweeting
trying to flee.
‘Free it’, my grandfather said.
‘No’, I replied, ‘it is singing.
Let’s keep it in a cage’.
‘It is crying’, he said.
‘Birds sing only in the forest;
in the cage they just cry.’
He opened the window.
I let the bird go.

_________________
Wet paint
 
3:40 PM
A man got some paint, a brush,
and he painted the doors of the pub.
He got a “Wet Paint” sign,
stapled it to the pub’s door,
and left.

10:40 PM
There are dozens of ladies
entering carelessly through the doors of the pub.
Their faces are wet painted also,
though no ‘Wet Paint’ signs appear on them.

1:40 AM
The paint on the pub’s doors dried out,
while that on the ladies’ faces vanished.
Having my last drink, I wonder
how the ‘Wet Paint’ signs
and the beauty of face-painted ladies
are just for temporary use.

_________________
Grandfather and Child

When the day took me for a walk
towards the twilight,
I saw my son sowing a kiss on a young lady’s lips.
I felt old.
As if by magic, a grandfather grew within me.
After two minutes walk, my mother phoned,
‘How are you my son’, she asked;
and I felt young again,  like a child.

_________________
My Homeland

My homeland,
You and I
although far away from each other
have the same pain,
the same dream,
the same destiny,
because the distance between us
doesn’t measure in miles
but with love.

_________________
The Death of the Book

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God,
John the Apostle had said.
But, then, the book appeared
and the word was with us
and the word was Us.
… And after that
a disease of greed emerged
and the book became bizarre
and the word became crooked.
Now my soul feels pain
while watching the death of the book.

_________________
The Snow

Lately, my home
is missing me deeply.
I received many greetings from it
by the wind’s post.
I saw it in a dream last night
dressed as a bride.
‘Bride’s veil in your dreams
foretells snow’,
my grandmother use to say.
In the morning,
my father phoned.
‘Much snow has fallen
in our area’, he said.
Though very far from there
I started to feel cold.

_________________
Celebration

The past is memory,
dream is the future.
Only our imagination
can travel to their lawns.
So, there is only the present
where the body, feelings and dreams
can enjoy each other’s worship.
Thus, to live means to celebrate
every moment, which the present gives us.

_________________
Coffinless

Once, the father had planted a tree.
The son told a coffin maker to cut it
to make a coffin for his father,
without planting any tree before
to replace it.
He is unaware that,
his funeral is going to be
coffinless,
and, maybe the funeral of his nephew
peopleless too.

_________________
The Symphony of the Eyes

The symphony of the forest
with sounds of leaves and bird song,
the symphony of the river flowing,
and that of the wind blowing
all through the snowy winters amaze me.

But the most splendid
and stunning symphony
is the symphony of the smiling eyes,
of my baby daughter.

_________________
Mothers are Immortal

Mothers are immortal.
Their wishes for us become flowers
we meet with them every spring.
Their love for us becomes sun
we gather with them every summer.
Their worries for us become rain
we convene with them every autumn.
Their dreams for us become snow
we rally with them every winter.

Mothers are immortal.

_________________
Poets

This world is fucked up.
Up there the rich,
acting.
Down here the poor,
suffering.
Poets in the middle
trying to fix this mayhem
with their verses,
while at one another’s throats.

_________________
Running Around the Sun

I run toward the day.
The night runs towards me.
To remain fit
together we keep running
around the sun,
until I become tired
and lay off for a long sleep.

_________________
Looking at Some Grey Clouds

From one hill to another extended
some grey clouds like clothes hanging on wire.
They hide the sun in their pockets and sleeves
making the day feel sad and depressed.

The birds with their beaks are pecking at them
in search of illumination and unfettered horizons
Their love for light and for the clean blue-sky,
has earned them wings and blessed their flight.

_________________
I Don’t Like Birthday Celebrations

I don’t like birthday celebrations.
Many people, clutter, lighting candles
Just like a funeral.
This day indeed marks
just another step closer to our death..
What are these mysterious forces
pushing us to celebrate
the approach of our death
which doubtless will come,
even without a party?

_________________
Autumn

Leaves are dying
on the wind’s arms.
Clouds are crying
and mourning for them.
The sadness of their death
is making the days fall early
and the sun sleep longer
into night’s bed.

_________________
It is Growing Light

The sun, like inquisitive child,
raises its head to observe;
in the beginning, the tops of mountains
then tablelands, plateaus …
and after that, fields, houses, rivers,
people’s faces ….

Its shined gaze
wakes up the day
like a impish child wakes up
a sleeping mom…

It is growing light

_________________
Two Cemeteries

I have two cemeteries
within my house.

One on the ground floor,
in a very small room,
under the stairs,
where my shoes,
sole wounded from their run
through many rough roads
rest in peace.

The other one is in the attic
where dozens of my notebooks,
badly scratched
with my handwritings,
are buried.

I know nothing about where
this mysterious power comes from,
yet it ties me so close
with these dead things
and thoughts.

However, on the first floor I sleep,
and the cemetery under the stairs
is my feather bed,
and that in the attic
is my eiderdown.

_________________
My House
 
The army of things,
like a horde of locusts
has occupied
up to the smallest corners
almost all the space
of my big house which I just bought.
Memories of my past,
like shy children lie wordlessly
on the angles of the sofas and armchairs.
Greed, like a hussy,
wanders around the rooms,
grinning, showing off,
shouting and cursing.
New house, big, all complete
with everything,
Yet I don’t feel comfortable at all.
I want to leave
this bogey prison-house,
which I just bought,
and go to my small hut,
to that tiny, yet huge house,
immense as my childhood’s
unlimited imagination.

_________________
Bridges

Once, there were
some humans there
with great desire
to meet more often.

They arranged a marriage.
So they got stones,
made with them a gigantic ring
on the river’s finger
and walked above it.

Since then, millions of rings
which we now call bridges
have been built
driven by the same desire.
However there are some other humans there
who blow up bridges
with their words or explosions
just because they hate each other.

Yet as long as more bridges
are being built than destroyed
love prevails over hate.

Author’s personal sense of aesthetic reveals truth, beauty and love

To the heart of hidden lives

By Maire Holmes*

Ndrek Gjini’s core is Albanian. His vision promotes peace. His book, ‘In Death’s Queue’, engages the reader to the heart of hidden lives and introduces us to other souls. His personal sense of aesthetic reveals truth, beauty and love; illuminated here with powerful insight by using the dark contradictory opposite: calumniations, distortions and indifference flourish, showing scenes of retaliation. The following harrowing stories are showered with empathy.

 death-note-notebookKnowing about the Kanun is painful, it is a practice carried out to this day. Death by the ritual of Kanun has been and remains the fate of many innocent people.  Gjini’s style of writing encourages the reader to reflect. He places each true story in location, time and situation. He draws us immediately into the conflict, both historic and personal. Shame and honour are like victorious flags, strangling each other, to make honour glorious. To feel honour, one must not be shamed; what remains uppermost in the mind of this Irish reader; is the shame of what it means to be honourable.

The loss of life and promotion of this custom brings fear to families. In the aftermath, destroyed hopes, unfinished dreams and lives are cut short. It amounts to toxic pride, particularly for those who act in revenge. Counting bodies, leave us turning pages in a book as we sink into a world of deep distrust. It is a haunting impression of an ancient shadow.

Gjini shows his own personal courage. Sharing his knowledge he delves into Albania, and tells what is not widely known. He cares for those killed in the past, is anxious about the present and paves a proposition for the future. Gjini is to be trusted. His first hand encounters fill us with dread, knowing his sensitive nature. He has met or known many of the real people in these stories. He has suffered immeasurable loss. His cries of help are full of anguish. His tears spill for humanity and for his Country. He has lived this reality and it echoes in the knell of sorrow.

His writing touches the spirit of Albania and his stories here reflect a dispirited people clinging to the bullet as revenge lies in waiting – be it near a forest, a house, a taxi or in an Irish pub. The Kanun, respected by some, disregarded by others seeks no respect from neighbouring nations. It spreads across boundaries and boarders, killing sons of Albania, wherever footfall finds a target. What may look like a random killing in a small village, is telling a story of a life for a life. The value placed on life is undermined by what is deemed honourable. To estimate is to terminate.

When Ndrek Gjini was studying for an M.A. in Writing at the National University Galway, Ireland; his fellow students were astounded by his command of English.  His interest in all things Irish and the depth of his poetic abilities impressed everyone. It occurred to me on first hearing Ndrek Gjini reading one of these stories, that he felt safe. He felt secure among those who valued his passion for honesty. He was willing to share insights to an audience who did not judge Albania on the basis of the Kanun. He was greatly encouraged to read and write more stories.

There is an immense difference between writing; recording the event and being privy to central characters during the real experience. Meeting the survivors, and in some cases the accused, Gjini has brought us as close to the situation as is possible. Gjini is able to transcend law by empowering emotion, imagery and dialogue without trespassing into a cloud of censorship.

Here as poet and writer, he uses depth to get us beneath veiled truths. His words need to be heeded to stop the spilling of blood.

Where death leads to more death, it can never annihilate the birth of new hope. Ndrek Gjini spreads wings across his vision. He lifts our level of consciousness.

Gjini is a gentle man. He hosts a gentle soul.

If he does not raise a flag of awareness, who will?

_______________________________________________

*Máire Holmes is an Irish poet and playwright. Holmes was the outreach writer for the National University of Ireland, Galway form 1998 to 2008.  She  won many literary prizes in Ireland and abroad.

A distinctive whisper is more persuasive than any shout

REVIEW: The Death of Night. Selected poems by Ndrek Gjini. Pbck. 89pp. Emal publishers. ISBN 9928-04-026-5

By Patrick Deeley *

I have read Ndrek Gjini’s book ‘The Death of Night’, and I am touched by the distinctive style and by the quiet yet forthright testament that these poems provide to nature, family and place. ‘The Balkan View’, ‘The Parents’ Do Not Die’, ‘Game’, and ‘How To Read The Wind’ strike me as particularly impressive pieces indeed. His poetry is both inhabiting and inhabited; it possesses a keen awareness of the sentience of the world and its creatures. He draws us in to muse on the subjects his poems raise. Their distinctive whisper is more persuasive than any shout. The wind is read,the folk memory given voice. The bonfire of nature, as Hopkins says burns on. He tends and attends to it with diligence and compassion.
______________________
*Patrick Deeley served on the Council of Poetry Ireland from 1984 to 1989. He has conducted lectures for post-graduate students on literary exchange programmes at Trinity College Dublin and has read at Cuirt, Galway Arts, Kilkenny Arts, Boyle, Baffle, and West Cork Festival. Seven highly praised collections of his poems have been published by Dedalus Press

The poet’s deep concern for issues such as justice, peace and ecology

REVIEW: The Death of Night. Selected poems by Ndrek Gjini. Pbck. 89pp. Emal publishers. ISBN 9928-04-026-5

By Gerard Hanberry*

Ndrek Gjini arrived in the West of Ireland from his native Albania in 2002 to begin another phase in his life which included mastering a new language, English, and eventually earning an Honours BA and later an MA in Writing from National University of Ireland, Galway. Ndrek, who has previously written and published in his native Albania, has now written a collection of poetry in English called The Death of Night and published by Emal.

This collection shows the poet’s deep concern for issues such as justice, peace and ecology. Many of the poems in this fine collection express a desire for a better, kinder world, a place free from suffering, where humanity does not degrade itself or despoil the natural world. It reveals his desire for decency and openness in people’s dealings with each other and with the world. The poem ‘Closed Doors’ ends with the lines ‘I started to hate the closure of doors. / To me they sound like coffin lids.’

Poems such as ‘Unfair World’ and ‘War Against Doubt’ further explore these themes of ecology and humanity. ‘Every time we believe, / we extend our lives a little bit’. In this collection the poet brings his sensibilities to bear on a world he knows to be flawed but which also contains beauty and the potential to be so much better. The collection ends on an optimistic note with a poem called ‘Bridges’. The last stanza reads: ‘Yet as long as more bridges / are being built than destroyed / love prevails over hate.’

My personal favourite from this enjoyable collection is a short lyric called ‘Autumn’ , an outstanding poem in a collection I can warmly recommend. Available from Charley Byrnes Bookshop and other outlets.

________________________________

* Gerard Hanberry is an award-winning Irish poet. He lives in Galway, Ireland. Hanberry’s poetry has been published widely in many literary journals and newspapers and has been shortlisted for many of Ireland’s top poetry prizes, including a Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Award in 2000, Strokestown Prize 2003 and RTÉ’s Rattlebag Poetry Slam 2003.

Firm, sad, heart warming and unusual poems

REVIEW: The Death of Night. Selected poems by Ndrek Gjini. Pbck. 89pp. Emal publishers. ISBN 9928-04-026-5

By Michael Mullen*

I cannot recall the exact date and day upon which I met Ndrek Gjini. He was a charming man, quiet of voice and possessed an intelligent eye. I regard Ndrek’s poetry as firm, sad, heart warming and unusual. It has a definite tone and deep maturity. It looks at the world in an unusual way. He looks upon us with a novel eye. Ndrek observes things, which we take for granted. He looks upon everything freshly as if the world has been newly made for him. It was slowly and with difficulty that he has reached that position but one must remember that there have been fine writers in English who were born abroad. Tom Stoppard was born in Czechoslovakia and Conrad was Polish. Samuel Beckett wrote in French.
Ndrek Gjini’s poems are wonderful to read. Every verse is human. Every page tells you something about the man, the family and the small domestic adventures, which are part of living and always have been so. His writing is never sycophantic. He states his truth plainly. He set things down as he sees them in an easy fashion.
Such voices are wonderful to listen to. I am sure that a wide range of people will enjoy his poems.

__________________________________

*Michael Mullen  is an Irish novelist, with international reputation 
 with over 30 novels published in Ireland and abroad

Seeing infinity in a grain of sand

REVIEW: The Death of Night. Selected poems by Ndrek Gjini. Pbck. 89pp. Emal publishers. ISBN 9928-04-026-5

By Prof.Adrian Frazier*

Ndrek Gjini was born in Albania in the 1960s. From 1984 to 1988, he was a student at the University of Shkoder, “Luigj Gurakuqi” in Albania. After graduation he worked as a teacher for a few years, then became a full-time journalist. During these years he published poems, books, and many newspaper articles in the Albanian language.

In 2002, Ndrek Gjini moved to the West of Ireland. There he continued his education through English language. In 2004, he undertook a course that led to a National Certificate in Print Journalism; at GMIT in Galway, Ireland, he earned a BA Honours in Heritage Studies. At present, he is enrolled in the MA in Writing at the National University of Ireland in Galway.. Ndrek Gjini’s poems are those of a true poet. He can, as William Blake wrote, ‘see infinity in a grain of sand.’ Very brief moments of awareness lead to quick metaphysical insights. Through his poems, one becomes aware of the wisdom of the generations, as tales of his parents and grandparents resound through the decades. He is vitally aware, and makes the reader aware, of humans’ place in the world, amid the passing seasons, alongside great trees, by oceans filled with sentient fishes—one form of life amid many. The role of politics in the bloody history of the Balkans is sporadically manifest in the poems. One gets a strong sense that the poet is more humble than, but also bigger than, the heroes and the commissars; his insight is a necessary stay against terror. The poet is also a passage through which the divine makes itself known, and Ndrek Gjini is certainly a spiritual, even a religious poet—but never a doctrinaire one. Most of all, it is remarkable how far Ndrek Gjini has come in mastering the infinite complexities of a second language, so that his poems in English enrich the language culture of the non-Albanian world with some of the essentials of Albania.

____________________________________________

*Prof.Adrian Frazier
English Department
Director, MA in Writing Programme
National University of Ireland, Galway

The Death of Night: A collection full of surprising joys

The Death of Night: A collection full of surprising joys
GALWAY ADVERTISER, AUGUST 04, 2011. 
By Kevin Higgins*
 

NDREK GJINI began attending the University of Shkoder in his native Albania in 1984 when the country’s ageing ultra-Stalinist dictator, Enver Hoxha, was still organising lavish pageants in honour of himself.
Ndrek is currently completing an MA in writing in the hopefully somewhat more liberal atmosphere of NUI Galway. The title of his new book The Death Of Night (EMAL), combined with its severe, funereal cover, lead the reader to expect exactly what Ndrek Gjini delivers: poems as dark as dark can be.
‘Closed Doors’ ends abruptly with the lines “I started to hate the closure of doors./To me they sound like coffin lids.” However, Gjini is also a very playful poet. ‘Learning difficulties’ demands to be quoted in full: “There were two years,/only two years/that I needed to learn/how to speak./However,/now another forty-five years have passed/and I am not able to learn/how to keep my mouth shut.”
The satirical stab in the last line is in many ways emblematic of Gjini’s poetry. Proof positive of his seriousness as a poet is his ability to laugh at himself. This wit is also applied to the world outside himself, as in ‘GM Products’: “When all is said and done,/one thing still bothers me:/are we eating this food/or is this food eating us?”
Ndrek Gjini uses words sparingly, but his poems have a lot to say to us. A collection full of surprising joys.

_____________________

* Kevin Higgins is Poetry Workshop Facilitator at Galway Arts Centre, co-organiser at Over The Edge, poet, critic, creative writing teacher, events organiser, Book Reviewer & Poetry Critic at Galway Advertiser.

 

‘The Death of Night: Poetry as Vehicle to a New World

REVIEW: The Death of Night. Selected poems by Ndrek Gjini. Pbck. 89pp. Emal publishers. ISBN 9928-04-026-5

By Emily Cullen*

After only ten years in Ireland, Albanian-born Ndrek Gjini has produced his debut collection of poetry in English. Gjini has firmly established himself in the Galway arts community through his work with the City Arts Office and his several successful literary initiatives. His collection offers unique insight into a poet’s quest to find the Self through the heightened lyrical possibilities of poetry within a newly acquired second language. Gjini uses English and poesy as a vehicle to a new world, condensing his experiences of home at a cultural and linguistic remove. This becomes a crutch he crafts to carry the freight of his broken history. The combination of geographic dislocation, moving between traditions, and weighing words in an adopted vocabulary bestows a vibrant freshness on Gjini’s poems. We experience the world anew through his philosophical eyes and poet’s heart as he breaks free of the normative and the descriptive, giving full reign to his imagination: ‘what if a fish was looking up / a good recipe / on how to cook a man’ (from ‘On Holidays’). His subtle use of the macabre affords a glimpse into the fraught history of the Balkans, arresting the reader from the very first poem: ‘neon lights on the roads and squares/are like bandages on its injured body.’ But even in this title poem, light appears alongside darkness, ultimately overtaking it.
Simplicity of language is a strength of this book as Gjini speaks in an almost elemental tone, conjuring the idiom of a folk tale. Nature and the seasons are often personified: ‘The twilight runs away from him / or the night locks him in forever’ (from ‘The refrain of a pensioner’). A concern with the cyclical continuity of life, and a veneration for the customs and beliefs of his people pervades his work. The magic is in the brevity he achieves, collapsing an emotion and an insight into just a few potent lines. This same concision falters, however, in certain poems where imagery and ideas are truncated in ephemeral conclusions. Consequently, these sparse lyrics become like fragments that suggest there is more that might have been said.
While an affecting, poignant note resounds through the collection, especially in poems evoking the poet’s mother, Gjini is, ultimately, a celebrant who advocates belief. ‘Every time we believe / we extend our lives a little bit’, he writes in ‘War against doubt’. The manifestation of hope becomes a key concern for Gjini who closes his book with the lines: ‘Yet as long as more bridges / are being built than destroyed / love prevails over hate.’ We are reminded of Walter Benjamin who stated: ‘It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us.’ Gjini has seen, first-hand, how the ‘milk of love’ is necessary to crumble the ‘walls of malice’ and his message is an important one. Every so often we need to hear an authentic voice, such as Gjini’s, to remind ourselves that we are responsible for our own perceptions, for fostering our imaginations and, ultimately, for nurturing our own happiness.
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*Dr. Emily Cullen is a writer, academic, arts manager and musician. She holds a Ph.D. in English and works as Programme Co-ordinator with the Digital Humanities Observatory.

The Death of Night: Gjini’s notion of solitude-as-gift

55-bookTHE DEATH OF NIGHT. Selected poems by Ndrek Gjini. Pbck. 89pp. Emal publishers. ISBN 9928-04-026-5

____________________________

By Fred Johnston*

Ndrek Gjini is an Albanian-born journalist living in the city of Galway since 2002, where he studied print journalism and received, among others, a BA Honours in Heritage Studies, moving on to do an MA in writing at NUIGalway. He is best known, perhaps, for his establishment of The Galway Review and the poetry and prose page of The Galway Advertiser.

It is no small task to translate oneself from a native language into a foreign one and to accomplish literary skill in the adopted tongue. Joseph Conrad, to name a particularly notable writer, managed it, of course, though his style had its critics. As a composer myself of poetry in French, I am acutely aware of the agonies as well as the ecstasies of attempting it. But when one moves into another language one’s poetic psyche, if you like, moves house too; nothing is viewed in quite the same way. It can be a liberating experience, providing new ways of saying as well as of seeing. The poems here are testament to a sense of that liberation.

Albanian poetry, in the contemporary era, has been dominated, as have other forms of writing, by a conforming socialist realism and even poets such as the renowned Ismail Kadare has been unable fully to escape this diktat, basing so much of his work in folklore and tradition; Gjini’s poem, ‘Calendar,’ possesses something of this folkloric appeal. One might compare, for balance, the work of Kadare and that of Kasëm Trebeshina, who spent seventeen years in jail and the bulk of whose work was published after the fall of Communism.

The apparent simplicity of some of these poems belies their philosophical weight; ‘Walking the Streets’ is underpinned by a notion of solitude-as-gift, whereas there is something of the storyteller (cf Kadare) in the illusively magical, ‘The refrain of the pensioner.’

‘Every day he repeats this journey
without betraying the day, air or wind
and the twilight runs away from him . . . .’

            We who have thrown off the complex, elegant chantry of Gaelic metre and adopted the more concretised Anglo-Saxon in which to write, will not – and do not – recognise the poetic richness and verbal magicking likely to decorate some of the sentences and phrases here: we simply don’t think in the colourful metaphorics of a language such as Albanian, whose prime roots are in Greek and most evidently Latin, this last being a language we most immediately, and incorrectly, tend to associate with the sharp and direct functions of militarism and commerce and social ordering. For an Albanian poet writing in English, it must be impossible not to allow to intrude the more supra-imaginative linguistic of Albanian. Thus it is possible, reading these poems, to have an inkling as to how the Albanian language thinks.

            These are fine and profoundly lyrical poems and, whereas they are a window upon one poet’s non-Irish view of the world, they provide also universalities as posed, however unconsciously, through the prism of a language more in tune with the variables of poetic thought than, arguably, that provided by English.


*Fred Johnston, Irish poet, novelist, and literary critic. Director of the Western Writers’ Centre in Galway, Ireland

Gallery

President & Vincent+Ndrek

From left to right: Vincent Holmes, General Administrator of The Galway Review, Michael D. Higgins current President of Ireland and Ndrek Gjini Managing Editor of The Galway Review.

 

seamus-ndrek

From left to right: Ndrek Gjini Managing Editor of The Galway Review, the late Seamus Heaney,  recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Election time

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Celebrating 101 years of Albanian independence

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