Poetry - Issue 11 | January 2011

Two Poems by Ani Gjika


Chilies

This time of year snow fills the long, white porcelain pots
on a balcony in Albania where grandma Garufala grew red chilies
for her husband. She learned Albanian from the radio, danced
in cobblestone streets as her cousins played guitar. The night
they crossed the border, she danced one last time for them
as they sang Garufala me mallia varya*. They never met again.
Last year I married you. You left Orissa to live with me.
This time of year, snow falls in my grandparents’ little town.
You, like my grandfather, love chilies. I slice them into thin rings
and throw them in a round, white porcelain cup filled with Kikkoman.
We have basil chicken for supper and you let me take your last bite,
like a promise for me to outlive you. I spy black caterpillars
crawling all over our windows. In a few days, they will turn
to dozens of yellow-lime butterflies and fly off
to who knows where. They will not come back.

* from Greek, “Garufala with the heavy hair.”

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About the author

Born and raised in Albania and married to an Indian poet, Ani Gjika transfered to the U.S. at 18 and is currently a teaching fellow at Boston University, pursuing an MFA in poetry. She is the recipient of a 2010 Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship and a 2010 Robert Fitzgerald Translation Prize for her translations from the Albanian of poems by Luljeta Lleshanaku. Gjika’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in MIPOesias, Salamander, Seneca Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection and elsewhere.

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