by Norma Wightman
Workmen hammer the limestone chunks,
fitting them tightly into a new walkway.
Wheelbarrows of stone and sand stand
helter-skelter among workmen as they
bend to their labors. They scarcely take
notice as tourists weave around the
construction to reach shops beckoning
with carpets, crochet work, and carvings.
I watch the men sculpting the stones
to fit snugly against each other; admire
their deft handling of the weighty rocks.
I ask our guide how much these men might
earn each month—the answer comes first in
Lekes, then Euros. The amount would barely
pay for the smallest carving a nearby tourist
just decided to buy.
PHOTO: Gjirokastër, Albania. Photo by Ervin Gjata.
NOTE: Gjirokastër is a city and in southern Albania, in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino River. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.”
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I toured Albania in 2019, Gjirokastër struck me as the most picturesque of Ottoman-era cities carved from stone. Stone masonry is a major craft in the city, but the pay is poor and many masons travel to Greece to ply their skill for better pay.
PHOTO: Tourist shops and stone streets in Gjirokastër, Albania. Photo by Ervin Gjata.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Norma Wightman is a retired teacher who has lived on the California Central Coast for 30 years. She travels widely with her husband, but when at home leads interpretive walks for California State Parks. No surprise that her favorite poetry themes are related to nature. Her poems have been published in Echoes Poetry Journal, Your Daily Poem (online), and in chat books.