I heard you’re adding up my years in work for my old-age pension: 1 year a labourer for a drainage company, 2 years a soldier with former convicts, 3 years an accountant in the farming industry, 3 years a labourer & field guard on a tomato farm, 9 months as a book warehouse man, 2 years a lang&lit teacher in a high school, 7 years as a hand labourer in the Ciociarìa, 2 years on the black market, 3 years with stamps & the rest back on the black market. Amen.
For you men of Europe who scrape by each day, for you women of the East who scrub floors or walk the old people of the West around the block for fresh air, for you immigrants who sleep on benches & wake up immeasurably homesick, for you dossers who’ll have no bosses & live in peace with the universe, for you prostitutes who offer your sex to black men white men yellow men up to blood-point, for you blind people forsaken in deepest eternal dark, for you sick & out of work as solidarity & mercy, for you missionaries comforting the weak before death, for you peasants who graze your herds & plough the fields from north to south, for you mad people who give us free tuition in madness, for you who are alone & fugitive like me I write these verses in Italian & torment myself in Albanian.
By Gëzim Hajdari
Translated by Cristina Viti
Published by Shearsman Books (2016)
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Gëzim Hajdari was born in 1957 in Hajdaraj, Albania, and is an honorary citizen of the Italian town of Frosinone, where he was exiled in 1992. Today he lives in Britain. He writes and translates in Albanian and Italian, and has published a number of award-winning collections and performed at many international festivals.
Cristina Viti is a translator and poet working with Italian, English and French. Her most recent publication was a co-translation of poems by Anna Gréki (The Streets of Algiers and Other Poems, Smokestack Books, 2020). Her translation of Elsa Morante’s The World Saved by Kids and Other Epics (Seagull Books, 2016) was shortlisted for the John Florio Prize.