More poetry from Malta




Immanuel Mifsud



2. Biel
Standing on the sand, a Catalan poet
opened his arms wide to embrace the sea.
He spoke in waves, and sang in sand.
He meant to say: this is the Mediterranean,
from which the mountains that reach the sky
were born. This sea spawns poetry. This
is the sea which scribbles its blue ink
on the rocks in poetry so dark the sea alone
can understand its meaning.

3. Untitled
The sea is a big and virile man
waiting for the first woman to love.
The sea is a beautiful fleshly woman
waiting for the first man so that together
they can change into a poem full of blood
spilling onto the whiteness of a sheet.

4. Untitled 2
The sea approaches you slowly. Calmly.
with the hushed tones of the sad. With sorrow.
With the slow pace of those who age and wait.
It approaches you to wet you, to love you,
to hold you close, to lull you, to lay you down
                                   to sleep.

The sea approaches you slowly. Calmly.

5. Laia
You play with the water like a little girl;
You roll up your trousers and pull up your hair;
And laugh while you make the pebble skim
over the silent sea of Formentor.

Your eyes are the colour of my overwhelming
when I consider that this is only yet another trip
like all the other trips which I've collected
and you're another tale without an end.


In front of an old patio in Valldemossa
To Jana

In this old patio in Valldemossa
white roses grow which make one pause
to listen to them playing that same waltz
which grew from the sick fingers of Chopin,
striving to sow small tears on the keyboard.

In front of this old patio in Valldemossa
I paused to take a photo of a white rose,
heard it remind me under its breath
that life's not here but elsewhere.


During the Writers' Reunion, June 2003

A calm wind ripples the lake at Múkkula,
and the white gull glides silent and calm
The clouds have stopped their drifting to look down.
Woman whom I've never seen, I think of you.


Next to me perches a small white-breasted bird:
This place belongs to neither you nor me.
This place belongs to silence, and the lake to the wind.


A whole platoon of trees guards against poets
Who try to overcome this place with words


And suddenly, the seagull shrieks.


Children skirt the border of the piazza
driving little cars run by battery.
Their high-pitched voices also circle:
blown ahead of them by the breeze
which gently ruffles the leaves of these high trees.

Here too I somehow expected you to appear
in a little car run by battery,
your hair all tangled, shouting for joy.

This time as well I slept and woke without you.

Poem from Hrvatski Trg, Ljubljana

This morning Nina told me: Each night,
inside the pages of my book, I write a dream;
I write it in every colour and every form.

Now, that it's past midday, sitting
on a grey bench inside this little square,
Nina stares at the silent leaves — maybe
this evening she'll write another dream,
and so go on this way until the book is full.


In the dark, the station dozes.
I smoke a cigarette by the entrance.
I look at faces hardly visible
which glance at faces almost hidden
looking like mysterious lights.

Another train arrives, another will soon leave.

And then I realise there's a full moon tonight.


Behind you, love, a beautiful sun rises,
and your hair grows longer with each new hour,
with every gust which blows out of the blue
the hills are full of grapes about to burst.
I wished I could have grabbed this dawn,
changed it into a keepsake,
to carry with me wherever I may go.
For sometimes appearances can be deceiving.

The rain falls heavily and the sky is dark.


He waited for a voice to break the silence,
contemplating the darkness which had suddenly spread.
He tried to count the steps among the vines
and understand the messages of crickets.

He waited for someone to address him.
There was no one around.

Cruel Steel
(new pictures from Poland)


The train goes by, swiftly, to catch the cry
Of the old crow which watches over Florianska.
      Beware, crow! I have returned to rob you
      Of this old city which refuses to age.


Then sorrow overcomes you, holds you close
Laughing the laugh you've heard so often now
right at the point when the ground starts to shudder
beneath the ruthless steel of an incoming train
which comes to take you back from where you came.

Then sorrow overcomes you, makes you his own
With the same fervour he reserves for you.
In the same way the stall—girl glances,
Her eyes expressionless upon you
Despite the black strips of her make—up

Sorrow overcomes with kisses
As treacherous as it has always been.


It seems it takes you some time to learn.
We told you this place is not for you.
It seems you like what's grey, what's brown,
You like to read Death turning round corners,
And you like shooting your digital photos
Of a sorrow which only we can understand.
We thought you'd learned, that you had learned the lesson.
But look, you've caught Tram No Four again,
You've climbed again up to the city of scorching steel
You've walked here again with eyes wide open
Just to record the history of others
Raped by the Party's mortal faith.

And what did you get out of it then, stranger?
Go back to those who wait on the moon's moods
And write a poem about the sea,
Write about rocks, write of the sand.
After all not even Spring visits this place —
It's April— but the sleet is falling still.

The second time

The grass at Auschwitz is soft and green
Inviting you to kneel and kiss it.
It no longer smells of gas and neither
is it flecked with grey by chimneys...
It is as green as breath emerging through the soil.


Nina Czerkies sings like a wounded bird.
Her hands too: as soon as they alight on her guitar
Turn into wings dripping blood.
Or it might be the vodka scribbling pictures
I gathered at the corners of Varsavja
Which have nothing in common with this night
In this apartment overflowing with the music
Which only solitude can register.

Dakinar tal—Ġimgħa l—Kbira f'Varsavja

Good Friday in Varsavja
They're gahered peacefully together in the square
Holding small candles smoking grief
Under a crucifix solemnely carried.
Jolanta tells her beads remembering
The words of Pope John Paul, remembering
The country's horrendous night.

Her hair hangs more than halfway down her back,
Her legs move to the pace of Christ's calvary.
She still dreams of the sickle and the hammer.

At every dark stage of the fourteen stations
The age—old memory starts to sprout –
History doesn't need books to be recorded,
History lives on even in the sagging
Of Jesus' body, eternally naked

Of Jesus' body, eternally dead.

Translated by Maria Grech Ganado



I wished to meet you here
next to this window
with the sun setting not far away
in this room lingering with the songs
of Jacques Breil filling with darkness
which will soon fall
into the silence of Versailles
on yet another day tagged on to many.

I wished to meet you here,
close to this bouquet of white roses withering
next to this piano ready to love
next to this image that's fallen from my face
next to this emptiness which sits beside me.

I wished to meet you here —
for you to meet me as a foreign wanderer
without a face turned to the future
for you to find me lost in a sea of people
walking with maps in hand
for you to find me listening
to all the tongues which have addressed me
for you to find me living this fairy tale again.

I wished to meet you here: but
you have lost the ticket meant to bring you
and I've forgotten how to make out your face. .


Here, under this great arch of triumph,
while the smartly—dressed cleaner
sweeps the grave of the unknown soldier,
I am suddenly overcome by the hot smell of the
I'd rather smell your odour
As you lie beside me with your mouth full of
With your eyes as sad as the black of the metro.

Here, under this great arch of triumph,
while I search for the sound of violins
playing the most poignant of love-songs,
I feel a compelling urge to cry.
I prefer the smile
you gave me before you died,
while water oozed down your legs.

Here, under this great arch of triumph,
I want you next to me
I want you to come back
I want you to hold my hands
So that I will not be afraid of all this greatness.


The red wine served in this Parisian tavern
tastes of an ancient poem
written before the clock began to tick.

So, mister, each time you come in for a glass
watch your hair turning white, your skin begin to
even if the jazz is loud enough to deafen.

And when you stagger into the streets
feel the silence weighing on your back —
hurry — hide yourself in the dark.


Horrible ghosts scream in your ears:
you still cannot believe your mother's died,
you still cannot taste the red wine
you drank in Parisian taverns
hoping to silence the din that no one hears.

In your arms you carry flowers which have begun to
no one can understand what's in your eyes,
the big steps which you take in narrow streets
have dazed you like a derailed train
still searching for the end of the last station.


Sometimes I dream of you waking suddenly, crying,
reaching out for your mother in the dark.. Sometimes
I dream of you in a field of flowers, laughing;
in a blue sea from which your father emerged.
Sometimes I dream of your hands at the piano,
your black hair pulled back, your face sorrowful.

Sometimes I dream of you lost in those streets
which I've been through before, searching for you.
I dream of you standing at corners, alone,
crying a long poem which I would wish you
never to write — perhaps you've started writing it already:
the story of a little girl who wasn't born.


Am I to blame if we have never met
despite the long long journeys of my life?
I looked for you. I really did. I called for you
in every airport I went through, in every train
I caught to cross the invisible frontiers
of dates which separate us from each other.

Am I to blame if I am losing heart?
You see, after all this distance travelled,
I wish to take a long look back
to maybe chart the routes which I have taken,
mistaken roads in which I've lost myself,
to perhaps stop at last, a little while, and rest.


Each time I look at you,
your eyes
as on that day I saw you cross
the garden of the dead,
with your golden hair pulled up,
your grey hem at your knees —
your scattered poems behind you
rising to embrace tomb-stones
which sprouted from the soil.


with each warm beer you serve
your eyes drip bombs force—fed
by your ex-brothers in passport and in blood.

With each cheap cigarette you smoke
you glance at the Miljacka ugliness,
the library which died of burns.

The hills now full of mines still hide
Your honeyed dreams of once upon a time
emitted from this café which smells only of death.

Translated by Maria Grech Ganado