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First Memory

Read by Jason Gray

I used to love dirt. I’d dig first, then bury —
candy wrappers, colored rags, pens —

things I could unearth again. One day,
a woman’s voice stopped me, her cry:

come out, come out now, but I couldn’t see her.
She came like darkness perching,

her voice circled round the neighborhood
like a windhover, hoarse and purling,

I saw a black river flood up the steps
to our deaf house. Then everything went still.

Grandma stopped me at the door
from entering your bedroom

because you were nursing my brother,
because you needed rest. I didn’t find

the woman in the house. When did she leave?
From where? I heard she snatched the baby

by the hair cursing you both. I saw you cry.
Even now, when I ask about it, you flinch

and say I misremember, meaning there’ll be things
you cannot uncover. Give up, give up

Born and raised in Albania, Ani Gjika recently completed an MFA in poetry at Boston University. She is the recipient of a 2010 Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship and a 2010 Robert Fitzgerald Translation Prize for her translation from the Albanian of poems by Luljeta Lleshanaku. Gjika’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Seneca Review, Salamander, The Literary Bohemian, Stirring: A Literary Collection, and elsewhere.