Above so much traditional stone housing
squatting into the mountainside,
the football stadium and a hexagonal blank
like a heliport (the emptied plinth
of a statue which surveyed far more
than it would ever command),
we are stepping over shed fuel tanks
to photograph the captured plane.
Downed in the Cold War,
by whatever means, it sits now
on a lawn on the edge of a rampart,
its turbine an empty mouth,
its stripped-out cockpit open.
We take turns to stand
with kids on the wing
while tourists from elsewhere
count medieval cannon.
Not far west of Gjirokaster
lies Hamara, Saranda, the Adriatic,
beyond that the Mediterranean,
and, beyond that, the Atlantic.
Sometime in the 1950s,
a Lockheed strayed off course.
Driving down white marbled streets
where celebratory excuses are enough
for men who shouldered state relics
all the way up to the citadel,
we’re turning out onto the plain,
disputed territory not that long ago,
where old simplicities ended.