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.”
It’s snowing in a way that reminds me
of people who rarely complain.
I imagine the oldest woman eating bread: silent,
half asleep, softly chewing mngna and mngna.
I am thankful for snow
and the black stillness of evergreens
the way they line up on the street
here in my New England.
I have made it mine, the way
a young girl finds someone’s lipstick
and makes it hers.
It doesn’t matter that it’s half used
it matters that it’s lipstick and she wears it
down to her chin.
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…Read the full bio