Poetry at the Post: Out of the Darkness—Albania

“Perhaps the Last Encounter With the Moon” by Visar Zhiti, as translated by Robert Elsie

I fooled the guards tonight
When they were doling out supper, that sordid soup,
Because I saw the moon….

Statue of Asclepius Museum of Epidaurus Theatre. Photo by Michael F. Mehnert.
Statue of Asclepius
Museum of Epidaurus Theatre.
Photo by Michael F. Mehnert.

If Asclepius—the god of medicine— is willing, my wrist will soon be released from its splint prison. Yes, prison.

Low and grounded—hellish for a nomad—I’ve been thinking a lot these past couple months about constraints of freedom—external as well as internal yet, of course, my seven weeks of being inconvenienced by a broken wrist is microscopic compared to the seven years of harsh imprisonment experienced by the Albanian poet, Visar Zhiti—a poet I discovered yesterday at Malvern Books in Austin.

visar zhiti

Born in 1952, Zhiti was arrested on November 9, 1979, for his poetry which was seen as anticommunist and “interpreted as having blackened socialist reality.” After five months in solitary confinement, he was tried and sentenced to up to thirteen years imprisonment and sent to concentration camps in the northern mountain region of Albania.

During his time in solitary, Zhiti managed to write in his mind and commit to memory 100 poems and then he wrote more—even in the harshest conditions, such as in the “living hell of the copper mines at Spaç.”

Zhiti chose to come out the darkness through things small
—a glimpse of a moon,
a leaf, a bird,
a rainbow..

If we look, there is light.

Today there will be one more minute of daylight than yesterday.

The deep darkness of the winter solstice has ended.

Legendary darkness and light, magic luminosity
Like a little cosmos,
of hope.

Photo by John Jennings
Photo by John Jennings

Zhiti Visar. The Condemned Apple: Selected Poetry. Trans. Robert Elsie. Green Integer, 2005.

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