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More poetry from Malta

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Norbert Bugeja

Norbert Bugeja



BALLADE FOR A REDHEAD


Where does this wind hail from?
Where from this darkness?
Why are these ripe words falling from the trees?


From the street's end a voice was heard announcing:
“the city's lost itself in the poet's hair!”
Deep in the green bone-marrow of time-worn doors,
accents which slept through centuries crack open,
sentences invade the narrow alleys,
words ride the rain like earrings,
each syllable woven into a red mane
which screams its way amongst the curling streets.
In rue de l'union at five a.m.
the elderly Arab gazes at the sky:
“Somewhere a slightly alien phrase
must have been uttered,
and the city's lost control of her own body.”

On the city's outskirts, a little girl emerges,
her eyes dancing together with the roadsigns:
“why all this wind, mama, why all this darkness?”
And then she gets up on her bike without another word
and disappears in the anarchy of cadence.



LAS RAMBLAS, 15.45 p.m.


The Sailor sits beneath the bastions of El Corte Ingles,
a scrawny cat, gnawing at the sun with his vile oaths
and unknotting the yarns that prod him in his sleep.
The very shape of him, like waves of vintage radios
stinks in between one country and another,
snatches words uttered, and those slain,
and then transmits the moral of the story —
an olive-skinned giggle, a filterless cigarette
and two italians trailing a one-nighter.

Ola mujer, que pasa? Ostia puta.

If you come into the complex and start climbing
one floor after another,you can look down
and see him curse from every point of view:
trussardi, zegna, fnac and valentino
regard you with a slightly bizarre beard
downing the sun beneath a scorching beer. . .

And if you get to the top floor and gaze,
down at this city that loves you by the rate
you may be late — by then the Sailor will have picked
the pick of tales to date.



PHOTO NO. 7


From me to you there's a second, a laugh,
there's a full clothesline looking out to sea.
After the larking at It-Toqba z-Zghira*
I tried to reach you. And maybe because
there are no lights in this house,
in its still-echoing hallway,
in the rooms upstairs and down, at the bottom of this well
that moans and mumbles your barren words,
I found no one. By myself in your kitchen,
my starving intestines grumble about the boy
who wanted to be born and found himself hanging
on the parched breast that sprouted in the wasteland;
almost like a city which everyone has fled.

And it is useless to hide behind ancient walls,
and to walk barefoot along your mothers' roads,
inhabiting the ruins of your beauty with pride;
since you were never a mother, you will never be.


From your neighbour's door a girl exploded,
her eyes, two cannonballs crossed
on the cornetto at the small door of her mouth.
She gazes at you, she does not try to reach you.
Like a mine on the port sea bed which never blasted
she regards you, the peeling paint, and laughs
for a second, at you, lying that you are beautiful.

*It-Toqba z-Zghira is an inlet beneath the bastions of the historic maritime city of Vittoriosa in Malta.



Bonjour tristesse
(some hours after Sagan)


Between this city's legs a young woman weeps,
yesterday's worries staining her uniform,
on her face the green of the white registers
and the sadness recycled in the office.
A young man wears a laugh and a black blasphemy,
the sleepless night engraved upon his tie:
he recalls how often he almost slipped
on the uncertain words lounging against the pavements.
For what he'd heard was right, this city of faceless looks
and white staircases had never come into its own.
In the morning she hurries by without a nod,
at night there's not a soul with whom to talk. . .

This morning I rubbed my eyes, wiped off the jam
and thought of you. Offering me the first one
of the day, and that forced smile.

It's the boss. She wouldn't give in to him last night.
Good morning.



Via fori imperiali, after the concert
(bookends theme)


Some 30 metres away,
a pit of couples kissing in the darkness of acacias
which divides us, in the mischievous city
dusting scooters from its face
to clear her vision,
we gazed at each other's silence
and decided to break it
with the same bundle of smoke-filled breaths ...

Time it was,
and what a time it was, it was:


And even the moon, damn it, which loves to take the piss
pretending its a new foetus huddling in the night,
has stripped naked tonight
and chased the darkness with its moonie,

a time of innocence,
a time of confidences —


We raised our palms and were stunned
because they chanced to be of the same hue
and like the bodies of the ruins all lit up,
like Garfunkel's hair weaving through the crowd
searching for the muse who has escaped.

long ago it must be, I have a photograph

We gazed upon the silence of each other,
and since silence had fallen on the ruins
we realized
that we had better do with our memories
what adults do — discard them
before we got to the first corner

and then tomorrow, we'll see
if in the darkness of the photo-cemetries
we will be able to discover the yellow flower
we bought to please a pakistani
and also to fool each other that one day
we'll cherish one another with the same song ...

meanwhile this street lies down, a spent guitar,
and the moon's found a shrine to hide behind,
and yet this pauper boy who loves you
still rummages
in the bongs and the green bottles for an evening
which welcomes him like home,
which strokes his hair,
which dances and sings to the same story
he found there.

(Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you)