On the step of a fucked up van,
we sit and think,
sip coffee from tin cans
and call to Kadare,
(writing something, somewhere,
beneath a walnut tree.)
His left hand idly strokes a lynx,
his right loops letters across
a sun-bleached page.
You ask in English (You want coffee?)
He answers in French (Mai, oui.)
I whisper the words hesitantly,
(Do të donit një kafe?)
He is writing a new book
about you and me
in which we start a revolution,
dig up the severed head of Ali Pasha
and hide inside a tower of refuge
until time (with its ravaging unkindness)
finds us and drives us into Tirana
– a central square, a coffee (Turkish black)
served with a wink and a nod by playwrights
(eternally young) – eyes gory wide and fixed upon
their distant Traitor’s Niche.
Later, somewhere in Chapter 10,
he writes a mighty galloping through the night –
a horse (sent by Doruntine)
with rough whispers of a brother’s glee:
‘They have no power to hold the dead,
Come ride with me,’ is all he said.
We try to close our minds
but up they open anyway,
dangerous, exposed and free –
a plundered tomb,
a pasha’s skull,
an ancient cursed disease.
‘Come ride with me!’
In the cold arms of Konstandin,
hurtling past the Palace of Dreams,
tearing at borders,
Macedonia, Serbia –
to dismount (dead-dazed) into the drizzly dull
of a morning in Belgrade.
Perhaps an accident. Or an exile.
Kadare puts down his pen and takes a break.
He stands, stretches, looks up towards The Stone City –
some bread, some cheese, some grapes.
Later, at Nënë Tereza airport,
we, with open eager arms, will greet our girls.
Later, Kadare will make copies of his Nobel Prize,
stick on stamps
and post them to his family.
But now, in this moment,
we tramp across his land
where armies of lost bones
fret at the fraying nerves
of some dead general’s dreams.
Kadare – old, old but bony strong,
is far ahead and muttering
the last laments of epic verse:
an ancient mountain song.
A bear watches from the shadow of the trees.
And a wolf.
Beside our rusty van, beside a stone where serpents sleep,
Kadare’s lynx still lies –
soaking up the dying light –
tracing, with half-opened eyes,
an eagle’s arc,
stretch-winged and free in flight.