Six poems by Alisa Velaj

Poetic Credo

I have always known where I come from, and I have always wanted the path on which I must go. I am not talking about visible paths, on which we travel every day, but those paths where the winds rattle and go crazy. I want to apprehend the language of those winds, their unknown tongues. Then, when I lie to myself that I have translated something from them, even a little bit of that rattle, I sit and throw it down on paper. There are other kinds of visible winds, the tangible and inglorious ones, though these cannot be compared to my original inspirations. They are faint but revolutionary; they incorporate the air of the cities and my breath. In them, they translate me and throw me down on paper as poetry. Yes, oh yes, I am their poetry. But as inglorious as they are themselves…


The wind foundations
Are to be found in Odysseus’ migrations.
The unwoven cloth
Is the building…


Translation from Albanian Ukë Zenel Buçpapaj
I fear the oblivion of a stone
At the dusk of a nameless city
My grandmother had told me that the stone
Has breathed sadness since immemorial times
For it carries the city in its bone…

Translation from Albanian Ukë Zenel Buçpapaj

Taking shape after shape,
Matter translates into different selves
At the speed of light.
Paralysis shines in human eyes.
Translation from Albanian Ukë Zenel Buçpapaj
Shadow ravens
Preach by the river
Of the white lilies


Translation from Albanian Ukë Zenel Buçpapaj

A ring with a black ribbon
Running through it
Flies in the air
As if it were a flag at half mast
No cherub
Is raising toasts at the wedding party…
Translation from Albanian Ukë Zenel Buçpapaj

Five poems by Alisa Velaj


It’s so cold that breaths are freezing up,
pigeons are numb under roofs,
the mist o’er the snow mums in unbroken silence…

One bygone February, in Prague,
Hrabal had a vision of the most peaceful season,
while trying to feed the poor pigeons…
Then…cherubim simphonies blasted from heavens!

Hrabal     Hrabal     Hrabal
The 5th floor of the hospital echoed the knell
for the least fulfilling journey of the Man,
who melted frost away from guitar strings!

February 2019


* Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) – distinguished dissident Czech writer.


Translated from Albanian by Arben P. Latifi



– 1-

A diaphanous dawn stretches lazily over trees.
A blackbird, here and there, atop leafless branches.
The sky, on its part, pours on us bleaching light…

-2 –

Oh, long must we have slept under the red roof!
What the stars didn’t say, still reached us as hushed gossip.
– I’m all a magnolia flower, the girl whispers to her lover.
He scans her in thoughtful silence, a snowy silence.

– 3 –

– What’s that bird looking for while hovering on and on?
– The sunflower hidden somewhere unknown, my fir tree.
He then eyes the tree trunks and his beloved,
lets a flammea flower shoot out of his chest,
and marvels at her till the next sunset…

– 4 –

A sunflower, perhaps, in every blackbird’s mind.
A flammea, not only where it sprouts…
A dream that red roofs dearly miss. A flame blazing in a corporal cloud!


Translated from Albanian by Arben P. Latifi




It’s no surprise their eyes are startled. Snow flakes mingle with their manes. They look down for an instant and then throw a fixed, prolonged gaze at some pointless direction. Suddenly, one of them snorts and turns his eyes toward me. There is so much innocence deep inside them! Like the babies’ eyes trying to get accustomed to the light. The longer they look at you, the more peaceful those pupils grow! And I feel so ungrateful, when I think of the fire awaiting me at home, on the mountain peak. For I do have a holy fire that eternally waits for me. These creatures, instead, will remain lonely by the barren trees, subject to the empathetic sighting by travelers like me, which, after all, remains just casual sighting…



Translated from Albanian by Arben P. Latifi




The broad-shouldered man is indifferent to the snow.
He rules abandonment out by way of tunes.
Leaning onto him, his wife enjoys the organ music and winks.
They lull the woods and thaw the snow away…
Friends with the blackbird, afore and after her migration,
Migrant nomads of Dionysian blood they remain! 



Translated from Albanian by Arben P. Latifi





I never waited for love at sundown.
Pilgrims arrive, bulging with sorrows,
or nomads, often wandering purely at random…

Never did I wait for love at sundown.
Dusks and nights, one shouldn’t be allured
by bodies earlier unknown on the full map of light
(if it so happens, they’re merely fake lures).

On a narrow path, from a cliff behind firs,
I’ve watched for love like a blind man craves eyesight.
Ah, I know love’s whims!
It tends to steer away from flowery build-ups…


Translated from Albanian by Arben P. Latifi


Alisa Velaj was born in 1982 in Albania. She has been shortlisted for the Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in 2014. Her poetry have been published or are forthcoming in CultureCult Magazine, Stag Hill Literary Journal , The Quarterly Review, Orbis, The Linnet’s Wings, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Poetry Space Showcase, The Seventh Quarry, among other publications. Her poetry collection, With No Sweat At All, will be published by Cervana Barva Press in 2019.