Ani Gjika

Used Books

On one of those mornings
when all the clocks’ hands point Nadir
and the graying snow neutralizes heart burn,
the only thing that can happen is the ring of the door bell:
a book ordered weeks ago left on the front steps.
The postman doesn’t need confirmation.


Geography III, a used book by Elizabeth Bishop.
Carefully packaged. The address clearly printed on the box
and the portrait of a stern politician on three stamps.


The previous owner or someone even earlier
has marked several lines and annotated margins
placing his own geography above hers,
what Bishop called my poor old island
still un-rediscovered, un-renameable.
None of the books has ever got it right.


Who was this reader? Male or female?
Might have been lying in bed, without anyone near
when underlining heavily, several times in red
or waiting at an airport through a plane’s delay
when commenting in blue.
But the loops that circle words are isobars;
one needs to have reached rock-bottom to understand these.


And now it’s my turn to place my own geography
above theirs. There’s no space left, not even for shadows.
The black ring of a coffee cup and the careless ashes of a cigarette
are my only traces – the fear of clarity.


A future reader might be my daughter, or a niece
who prefers darkness and the scent of printing lead.
She’s left to dog-ear the pages, tear the corners with her lips
or, without knowing, drop a blonde strand of hair.


And yet another,
will write no words but simply sell the book
as an atlas to a collector perhaps
creating this way his own geography
of an apostle.


Inside used books we’re accidentally contained
as inside a house emptied by evacuation where everything is left suspended:
the cat scratching the cabinets for food, an abandoned shoe,
the faucet’s thin stream, beds still warm,
the TV screen broadcasting a regularly scheduled film,
and time which needs an audience to exist. 



By Luljeta Lleshanaku

Translated by Ani Gjika