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A Moist Shoulder in Cabaret

Petraq Risto

Petraq Risto

The poet and novelist Petraq Risto is one of the most important and prolific voices in Albania.

Petraq has authored twenty books of poetry, novels and short stories, and has been the recipient of many prestigious awards in poetry.

Risto’s poetry has been praised by literary critics nationally and internationally for their individuality, sincerity, spontaneity, and universal themes. The literary world in France, Mexico, Romania and USA has recently recognized Risto’s poetic genius. In February 2009, the renown French publishing house L’Harmattanprinted a collection of a hundred poems by Petraq Risto entitled Amer Est le Miel des Tombes. In Mexico, Geiser & Toshkaprinted the poetry collection El guardián de las Golondrinas. Many of Risto’s poems have appeared in prestigious literary journals in the United States.

Risto is recognized for the unique treatment of his subjects and the rich and metaphorical language in the likeness of the magic realism school, which suits the agitated Peninsula of the Balkans. The most valued of Risto’s poetry editions are:

Wake Up my Princess

AppleDeflowered by Thunderbolts

Chess Match in the XXI Century


The Reader of Lips: Ar + Sy + Eja

Petraq Risto was born in Durrës, Albania, on June 9th1952. He graduated from the University of Political-Juridical Sciences for Journalism, and from the Academy of Beautiful Arts for Theater Criticism.

Currently he is the president of the Globus R.publishing house in Tirana.

Song of Songs 1: Return the Pawn

No, I am not mistaken: there, at dusk

gods secretly

melt their gold

to dress with it goddesses and prostitutes

and if some gold remains they think about seas and mountains.

The gods of dusk seduce the poppies to shamelessly rub

against the ear-wheat,

they sprinkle a little gold a little silver on your body

on your crimson lips, your nose – a hill that separates two lakes of light.

No, I am not mistaken.

But you, return the pawn before sunset!

Do not pawn the gold, nor the millstone,

Do not pawn the well, quench the thirst of the world!

I am not mistaken, of course I am not mistaken.

Love is a breeze, it does not esteem the shackles that

the rose hides in its golden buds.

I am not mistaken, by no means am I mistaken

each one is punished for his own sin

the scale is like the eyes on a face:

weigh the dusk of the immoral gods,

the poppies shamelessly rubbing against the ear-wheat

weigh me also as I come, as I gently sway

although an hour has passed since I left my ship

and earth, strangely enough, has no waves.

New York Without Swallows

No swallows in New York

how come there are no swallows!?

New York’s sky is cold

swallows have built no nests

under the armpits of sky-scrapers…

I open the dictionary to find the word swallow

I find somewhere a tiny nest with little mud and grass.

Next time on an airplane I will bring swallows

to Manhattan in my pockets I will carry them

even if I may seem crazy

even if I may seem strange

just so New York can get used

to the surprise of swallows.

* * *

A ripe blackberry:

Othello facing Desdemona

in the hand scene bleeds.

The Hunt of the Sea Horses

Sea horses do not know:

when turned to medicine they cost millions.

The sick are cured with them,

they often feel the sound of waves

kindle their veins like a muffled trot.

When night falls, they moan:

“the moon pulls us like seas in high tide

and we fear death…”

Compelled through their radiology,

doctors discover hearts transformed into coral islands

where tired sea horses rest.

Oratorio to Bees

The queen bee fed with the milk of a queen

lives five times longer than the other bees

and its giant sting is a cosmic rocket in the bee galaxies.

Flowers bow their heads even when they are not visited by her

and in the absence of sex they paint petals

in sunlit orgasms.

Very festive the bees at the time of reproduction

people imitate them.

This nature that dies daily inhaling the hate of dust – the bees say

and this queen with the yellow of autumn on her Hiroshima wings – the bees say

these tragic flowers in the game with roots – I say

and these weary people that try to laugh in exchange of defeat – I say

this round world, a breast just incised by the atomic scalpel – I and the bees say

everything is a honeyed hope – I and the bees say.

To the bees’ small eyes

the honeycombs are pentagons – I say

but sadly we don’t know the angles of lies – the bees say.

The bee came from Baghdad1

sipped nectar from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The queens lecture in the evenings

when tired bees drowse inside their honeycombs.

Step lightly on the blue-bells,

their sound will awaken the hungry bears

The bee came from Baghdad

Be cautious with the red roses for you will injure the dead

The bee came from Baghdad

Be cautious with the yellow roses for you will drive jealous the mad

Never injure the white roses!

Ah, the white roses!

When you pass by the chrysanthemums, whisper words of love

and leave behind a drop of milk for the glorious dead.

If someone touches you, turn into kamikazes,

then pray that death finds you at peace.

The bee came from Baghdad

Before closing your eyes,

take a white rose petal as a shroud

I will come read you the Bible of Honey

written with letters of Poison…

Ah, the white roses!

A MoistShoulder in Cabaret

A moist shoulder in Cabaret, a step of magic:

it sends you down the underground

it sends you up above the ground.

a moist shoulder in Cabaret us in purgatory inebriates.

this wooden Cabaret at dusk – what a strange musical instrument!

A moist shoulder in Cabaret...ah, the eye can’t hide the light

and wine becomes a flame – that heats up

the burning hell, and kindles the drunk Paradise.

Oh, wooden Cabaret at dusk, if not a guitar, what the devil are you...

in purgatory the pitiful men cannot be lied to.

only a moist shoulder in Cabaret...

sends us down the underground

sends us up above the ground.

© Petraq Risto

Translated by Sidorela Risto

1verse from the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet

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