Maria's Introduction to Maltese poetry


More poetry from Malta



Maria Grech Ganado

Maria Grech Ganado

BLUE FIELD (Ghalqa Blu)

There's this woman sleeping alone in a blue field.
The pillow between her thighs is plump with feathers
of birds which have flown far, and taken with them
all the leaves from a tree which grew out of a man
and had three branches.
                                        In her head is a man
she has grafted in her dreams. If he closes
his eyes, she'll vanish.

Translated by Maria Grech Ganado

GRAPE (Ghenba)

You are a grape which bursts
in the pupils of my eyes

every morning
when they open.

Your velvet skin
veils my look

so that my soul can swim
drunken throughout the day

till it drowns at night
in your juice.

JOLT                 25.01.05

Sometimes your heart goes 'ouch'.
Nothing has happened between its regular beat
and sudden jolt. ECGs can't detect it.

Sometimes your room tilts unexpectedly.
Your books, your DVDs, the odds and ends
everyone says you should get rid of — they
only gather dust
— jerk with a life of their own.

What's happened to the coziness you kept
wrapped tight around you? What's happening
to what you chose yourself? Are you still I?

Sometimes you feel the dust pile up inside you.
Your heart goes 'ouch', you look outside for signs.
A swirl of wind raising the air reminds you
dust isn't meant to settle, but to fly.


Trees stretch by the street's edge, endearingly
flexing fingers, sprouting leaves, delicately.

Yesterday they swayed, they moaned, sensually
flung their tribal bodies down, hungrily

claimed the man upon the road, greedily
crushed his rushing home to me like the wind.

LINE AND SPHERE                May 2006

I had booked my internal in the same hour
as my daughter's weekly check.
Your uterus is very small,
our gynae said,
dispensed with me, then turned
to check the pulsing world of hers.

And so timelessness sucked us
into a vortex in my mind
whirling into my mother,
who was dead, and yet
had dropped me into the future
as I had dropped my daughter,
and this new birth might drop
when I'd dropped dead.

Both line and sphere,
earth and heaven are
in Leonardo's St Anne's family
with its pyramid of generations
on each other's knee, the tactile link
of limbs, circle of spirit ...

But it is time to thank the doctor,
pay our dues and leave.
For a split second I turn in
to my mother, to Leonardo's vision
and then my daughter smiles
as my first grandchild heaves.

MIND MAP                2.4.04

I have forgotten everything real about you —
your smile, your voice, the map in which your eyes drift,
your moving face. I remember how you chuckled
untidily, in small eruptions, but not your laughter.

Another man who also looks like you, walks away
on TV. Like yours, his hair is long, but fair,
and if your walk were anything like his, a loping
of the shoulder, hip, how could I have forgotten?

Reality stripped of detail never changes.
Our memories do. I journey over new terrain,
eschew what's flat, and plant your name in fragments
I construe. Columbus did it with a Spanish flag
when he thought he'd found India — small wonder
then, if common features shift my bearings too.

OVER THE EDGE                1.10.05

Sometimes I see you glide right out
and away, and over the edge of the world.

If we try to reach each other, our voices are
like the wind in your sails, like my wails in the wind.

Columbus never set sail,
Galileo was justly condemned,
Copernicus proved Ptolemy's greatest fan. . .

. . .and because we created words which were flat
and burst the spheres we might have had

I see you sail right out to sea
and over the edge of the world.


Between this blanket of soil
and the wheeling bed-rock —
sometime, we must have met;
your hand like a knot of roots
must have found my kernel of breast,
and your mouth, a bubble of air,
sucked its tightness —

till there were shoots, and leaves
and petals that came and came
in prisms like waves, leaping up
beyond skies away from the earth.
Under the soil we must
have generated planets.

Today, your hand lies gnarled
and withered on the laundered sheet
of a human room. My nipples are shrunk
and hard like nuts, my body a parchment
nobody writes new poems on. But
Nature's rhythms cannot be
just rotting succulence, wasted rain.

This is the human season of drawn curtains,
of windows shut on disinfected rooms,
of tiptoeing to bedheads, of silence,
withheld breath, of trying to pretend
we will not stir in the darkness
between blanket and bed yet again.

RITUALS                17.05.05

On the roof opposite, a man and a woman fold sheets,
white as in some ad touched by technology.
His back to me, her face laughing, they dance up to each other
holding corners like ribbons, their steps seemingly tutored
by mediaeval mores, towards away towards away towards
and ever closer, their pace quickened, her hair blown back,
their meeting, a favour's bestowing—receiving, folding.

Still at last, knuckles to knuckles, they kiss,
between them the night's banner waiting to be unfurled
to be smeared again by tussle and surrender and double—
victory, prepared for by the rituals of the day.

SLEEPING TOGETHER                5.10.05.

I sleep with your hands on my breasts,
my back to you, your arms enfolding, crossing
my chest, and your hands on my breasts.

They are big hands, mine are small breasts.
Between your fingers, my nipples quicken,
contract, crave to be sucked.

But we are tired tonight, and as you answer
stirring against my thighs, I drift smilingly
into sleep, knowing you will not wake me.

STRICTLY BETWEEN US                10.05.07

between the sheets
the meaning
we can't express

in ink
in flesh

amongst the sheets
wealth carried
in empty pockets

between bodies
between words

writing or writhing
we lie and search
between the sheets

. . . . . . . . . .tale

The hard blue sky's been trying to tell her something

for some weeks now. She has held her lips
pressed dry together. At the corner of her mouth
Spring's tongue darts like a lizard.
                                                When she was young
the boys used to make loops of grasses to catch lizards,
the tails of which swished unattached for moments after
their bodies flashed away.
                                          She'd heard they re-grew
tails more resilient than those they'd had before.

She cannot chew on tails, they twitch alive inside her mouth.
Her lips are cracked too tight to spit. In Spring, the ends
of things slide faintly down her throat to flicker in her chest.

The shrink coughs softly as he takes note. The girl before
had told of worms. And though the one last week had vomited
the rope which hanged her, he moves inside his crisp white coat
as one who doesn't know that just outside the window

the hard blue sky is trying to tell him something.

THE WOMAN YOU LOVE (Il—Mara li Thobb Int)

the face of the woman you love is made of paper,
her eyes are black as ink and her mouth's hyphenated —
the wind blows through it

every time the woman you love speaks
her nostrils overwhelm you with their power
you drown in the pools of her eyes

her hands are two white birds
at their touch you turn velvet

when her hair is dishevelled
your fingers become a rake
your fingers run down her face clawing

you sign your name in blood

Translated by Maria Grech Ganado

WAVE STATE                20.11.03

For years I've stalked you.

Not consistently.

There were times I lost the trail —
or else some other tore my eyes away, because
I've always had a curious mind, preferring
to be the seeker than the prey.

It was your spores of light which sometimes played
in thickets or in clearings, on stone, through trees
which still distracted me, slipping from night to night
flitting in space, as if place and momentum
could be measured simultaneously
no matter what Heisenberg had claimed.

And yet, about uncertainty — well, he was right —
for even when I catch you moving, I'm moved too
to find out where I am, or who. My principles
grow watery, unsure. I become prey.

I wish you'd let me stalk you as before, controlling
my own time from spot to spot, stopping
to watch you sport as particle or wave — by turns,
not both at once, at once both wild and tame.

This tension is immense. Immeasurable.

I do not need it fathomed, or explained.

'A' IS FOR. . .

The polished one
held at the window
almost reflects the garden

and you reflect on paradise —
how it was lost
how princesses slept

and even innocence
grew a tree, eventually,
to lay its foe prostrate —

red tempting fruit
with, at its core,
first sin, first exile,

first letter of the Alphabet
worming winding binding
both world and word

engendered every time 'A'
is for Apple, and your mouth
waters to taste the flesh.


Its face, like a word I can't remember,
twirls with the breeze
dust that's gathered in the latest house
we've built —
I sweep the tiles laid on the green
we used to breathe
before we all moved in.

Its face is the breeze
which blew away the colours
of trees and grass, of plants and flowers —
                              and I remember nothing
but its dark eyes of fruit which rolled
from the plain and skies when the vine
was snapped in the wind and rain and ripped
and blown from our stone domain.

And I remember nothing except that there's a word
which was once free but has now been interred.

Translated by Maria Grech Ganado

NB: Malta's diminishing countryside is greedily being devoured by entrepreneurs to build build build.