Arian Leka: Poems

Arian Leka (1966) belongs to the group of authors, which have come to the forefront after the opening of the Albanian borders and are considered to be avant-garde. By origin from the port city of Durres, this author, except modernity, weaves a whole mythology around his homeland, making the principle maritime symbols regards in his work as a poet, short story writer, novelist and essayist too, and transforms also them in a new living aesthetic and urban language, signing the multicultural life of this city. He studied music at the Jan Kukuzeli’s Music Academy. He is the author of 15 books.
For his creativity work Arian Leka received numerous literary awards for his poetry in his country and abroad.


Autumn in Durrës


The September wind

Has thrust its arrows into the trees,

Freezing the blood of the foliage,

And this is a sign

For the fruit that they must die in their sleep.


No one drowns in the sea but the Çamian widows

Who wash their bloomers in autumn's sorrows.


The waters must be fed on sifting sand and the rust of ships

By the one brought to the plains by last year's wind

Like the feathered bed of a beloved corpse

Where no one comes to sleep anymore,

Not even the waves madly chanting in their low roar.


I cover myself in leaves as I painfully bury with bird feathers,

Azure sea lilies and seaweed,

The Çamian widows unwinding their white braids over a well.



The Spine of the Sea


My people turned their spines to the sea.


And I have the same inclination,

I sink ships,

Bore holes in their sides

And flee afar

To where clouds seem like fish,

Every grave is a barge with a white sail,

Where every tree grows fruit in its belly,

And the ships...

The ships depart

Because my people turned their spines to the sea

And reaped

But the sweet food of the land

And the drink.





Profound is solitude in two glasses of wine,

A ruddy horse and a white horse.

Nothing is as it seems to be

When you have it all and no one to share it with.


Soon it will rain and the doors will be shut,

Those inside are in, no others will make it,

Two glasses of wine, a black horse in the jug,

I now have it all, but no one to share it with.



More Than the Moon


You ask for no more than the moon

As you rest your head in the dusk

And enter the window

To me


You come shrouded in white clouds,

Scarves like wings, parted your lips

A little,

Not with words

But with a fragrance that reminds me

Of the lilacs

That morning which our eyes devoured,

Thus I cannot sleep

In this lifeless bower

Where the covers go berserk, are swollen

Without you.





I placed my finger on your name

And feel the pain,

Memory has claws,

Makes noise

On the beach where we kissed with our feet

The flowers that did not blossom that winter without you,

The flame that we devoured till our teeth melted.


The rivers are leaving to confess for me in the sea

For it is mass,

It was a Sunday, that day

When I placed my finger on your name.


My finger, Its nails cut.





You threw your white clothes into the air

For the sky was bereft of its clouds,

For the apples were sour and I was alone

When the signs said: rise,

Move, and you did not understand

That a new season, a new age was dawning,

When something was wriggling in your being

And you had a lust and desire

To betray:

Your eyes,

             your wife,


             your sons,

Your friends

             your life

For another,

Since a day will come with an empty soul

When you are left with a desire

To betray:




Life given as alms.



Easter on the Island of Hvar


The sea eats stone eggs

And breaks its teeth on the banks:

Salty islands, poison cactus,

Rosemary and the oils of lamps

That departed to return no more,

Brides kidnapped by the wind,

Maidens bitten by pirates.


My soul walks over these waters

That saw me in an Easter dream.

Six bell towers - halleluiah!

The sea breaks stone eggs - ouch!

I break a milk tooth

On a glass of dry wine.


Six o'clock. Humanity at church. The sea and me outside.



Background Chant


How can you sing over a grave,

Oh cuckoo,

Where the earth thrusts cypress trees

Like knives into its sides and flanks,

Where the sky dies insane

Of an overdose of solitude?


Could you not,

Could you not,

Little bird,

Have revived with your song

One single man?


Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie





Whatever has happened to my homeland

to me has happened too.

In the eyes of orphan old men

like  mucus are stuck

a few mountains, named plains,

and a blue briny desolation,

where I hunt with a hook birds

that peck the brain barrels,

and wherein we pickle the Gods,

whose time to revive has not yet come,

neither the day of worship,

nor the hour, Albanian

to speak.

Homeland – mother’s gift upon birth.

But today,

my  country’s apples

are a bunch full of crap.

My country,

my  homeland so puny as the pupil

that contrives hoary inventions,

and gets you grey, and makes you bald

and that shares with children the love

scattered like crumbs on the ground,

in the dark.


Homeland is remains,

the only remains that smell of perfume.

Sleeping Illyria…[1]

Feeble Arberia…

The corpse we inter day to day in the heart,

in stomach, under tongue and deep in the pocket,

and anoint it with tea, bay leaf and resin,

that name

that begs for nothing but only gives.









God who takes and God who gives

Is the finger

Of God who unbraids and God who weaves

Is the hand

Of God who slays and God who forgives

Is the foot

Of God who waits and God who leaves

Are the same

Just the same

As God who speaks and the dumb God

As the blind God, or God who keeps guard

For the perfect God and He who gives me a prod

Is the heart

Of God who scorns and He who enthuses

Of God of Art and Him without Muses

Is the eye

Of God from the Sky who enters through a door

And the mind

Of  Field God who leaves room for others no more

Are the same

As well

As God who appeared and He who was never seen

As the praised God and Him full of sin

As God with an altar and He who is mean

Is the ear

Of God with a son and Him without one

And the mouth

Of God who came on ass and Him who fought on a stallion

Are the same

All the same

They just go to point out

That blind faith is but doubt

Without ear

And finger

Or mouth.


[1] Illyria is the ancient name of the country inhabited by the eponymous people who are claimed by both Albanians and foreign historians alike to be the predecessors of modern Albanians. Arberia  is the medieval ethnonym of Albania.  

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