Ani Gjika

Two by Two

He grew up in a small town by the water,
where people answer questions
with another question.


Long summers, rebellious without cause,
and on the river’s edges, leaves graying like sideburns.


On Sundays, four women wash clothes
slapping their men’s shirts on the river rocks.
Four other women imitate the first,
taking revenge against husbands who don’t exist.


Lost, at the edge of the water, a confused child
listens to his mother calling and doesn’t respond.
Isolation is an artifact,
the only thing that can’t be reproduced.


His father cuts his hair in the yard, without a mirror,
on one of those days when he’s in a good mood
and the sophism of plums distills on the tongue.

His scissors make no mistakes;
they clean up carefully around the ears and eyes

(this was the whole point anyway).

Sitting on the chair, his feet hanging without touching the ground,
the boy feels safe; the future cannot find him here
the way a dog can’t pick up

someone’s traces in water.


Clepsidra, the only measurer of time,

has no favorites among her clients.


At night, the voice of the river is totalitarian

like his father’s intoxicated breath
beating against his neck after a haircut.


And this is what he did – he didn’t dare to look back.

Yet he still has a duplicate view of things like an illusion of water:

two versions of truth, two women to fall in love with,

(who’s the reflection of whom?)

or like the animal pairs in Noah’s arc

until the dove returns with an olive branch on its beak. 



By Luljeta Lleshanaku

Translated from the Albanian by Ani Gjika.

"Two by Two" first appeared in 3:AM Magazine, May 9th, 2011.