Translations Are Below Poems


Dementia (6)


Trumpeting tiger lilies stain

their legacy with lemony breath.

Lawn mower makes the air vibrate.

A fly traversing a knee, pulsing ink blots

            beneath eyelids…

Where are the horses

 that once grazed here?


            When a cloud passes,

the manes of horses that once

grazed here meld into earth,

their hooves trample sky.

Numbers scatter among the weeds,

a jet spikes overhead. The war is over

but it rages on. In my hearts

it rages. You hold

a hushed tiger lily.

That roars its madness into honey.




Psalm.  Hammer.  Water.


Play with me, pleads my daughter.

Her little hand fits into mine

like a plug into a socket.

She lines dolls up on the roof

of a dollhouse and knocks them

to the ground one by one.

As always, I play the father—

little, smiling man.

I stand him up. I play again.




A List of Things to Do

by Luljeta Lleshanaku


I always promise to come see you

but I never keep my promises

when they have anything to do with you,


when you are just a name

on my list of things to do,

always something more pressing, 

because you will always wait…


There’s always a winter not far behind…

How difficult it must have been for you,

without a glass of warm tea in the evening,

tortured between cold walls

like quicksilver in mortar

now used to fill teeth.


There’s always an early summer…

with the sound of your neighbor and his son

who always come home quarrelling,

at the strike of midnight,

while you hold a photo of a girl, cut out of the newspaper,

the atrophied song of grasshoppers in the background

chirping away until noon the next day.


Sometimes when you were no longer here

I would draw a long line across

your name on my list,

beginning from the left, straight through to the right,

like the holy commandments written in the Koran,

no possibility

of turning back,



Translated by Shpresa Qatipi & Henry Israeli



In the Absence of Water

by Luljeta Lleshanaku



It’s Sunday. On the soles of shoes

walking in the hallway

snow turns to plasma, and the memories of roads disappear.


A 150 watt lamp in the middle of the room

looks like a piece of yellow cheese caught in a trap of boredom.

My mother knits, quietly counting stitches—

she always knows how many are needed, even when swapping rows.

She is stuck to her seat like putty in the corner of a window,

becoming more and more clearly defined over the years.

She is a pin cushion.

She knows the art of submission instinctively,

and tries to teach it to me

and my sister.

Three Matrioshka dolls are we, lined up according to our sizes.

I am the last one,

the one that doesn’t fit.



Translated by Shpresa Qatipi & Henry Israeli









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Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas

Dementia (6), Psalm. Hammer. Water. by Henry Israeli and A List of Things to Do and In the Absence of Water by Luljeta Lleshanaku, Translated by Shpresa Qatipi & Henry Israeli