Ani Gjika

Small-Town Stations

Trains approach them like ghosts,
the way a husband returning after midnight slips under the covers,
keeping his cold feet at a distance.  


A post office. A ticket booth. The slow clock hung on a nail.
Some of the passengers have been sitting on the same chairs for a while now.
They know you’re the one who must wait for the moment.
The moment will not wait for you.


Only a few get on; even fewer the ones who get off. 
The man sitting on a bench at the platform
kills time over a local newspaper opened at the center.


Train stops are a routine,
except for the boy hiding behind the pole,
the collar of his school uniform askew.
He is not the firstborn, but the prodigal son,
the chosen one for adventure and the parable of return. 


Fried dough, candy, minty sodas . . . ! 
The boy sells through the window,
taking money with one hand, delivering goods with the other.
It’s his dark pigment that saves him from his shyness.
His pockets are empty though deep.
Against his saccharine fingers 
dust clings easily—a strand of hair
and in the evening, sometimes, an entire city. 


You don’t forget small stations easily,
the short stops with enormous pockets.
Paying attention to each detail,
they will become our alibi for not arriving on time
or for never arriving at all
where we had set out to go.



By Luljeta Lleshanaku

Translated by Ani Gjika

"Small-Town Stations" first appeared in AGNI Online, June 2014.