“Wreck” was previously published in Orbis

“Alchemy” was previously published in Libertine


More poetry from Malta



Abigail Zammit

Abigail Zammit


This wreck taunts us.
Its secrets
hidden pearls —
a seamless geography
that eludes maps.

We feed on oxygen —
bubbling cold air,
yesterday's currents
humming us further away,

lend me your mouthpiece
that I might draw out of you
the threads of time
where one broken albatross
binds tattered sails.

You allow me one sip of air,
fear passed on to you
through history's gauge,
pupils dilating behind thick glass.

Among mists of blue
fish dart amazed
watching me pass
into liquid space.

I dream nitrogen bubbles,
clutching the sea bed,
merging into smoke, sifting
sand rock wreck reef, till

arms tug me
back to shivering
surface, light breaks me
into fragments,
plankton rise.

I could have waded deeper,
danced on empty cylinders,
stroked the deck's belly,
kissed salt out of your mouth,
steered the wreck of time.


I had the ashes
of my lover
to perfection,
set in white gold,
in a heart shape.

It is now on my finger —
only my fourth finger
bears his weight.


August. Dead locusts in the balcony. Their bodies crackling paper. Children lift wings to spy spotted costumes.

Ripe locusts from the Sahara, migratory as birds, spreading drought. Falling like Alaskan hail. A raining chirp, hind wings brushed against forewings, tiny hairs triggering swarms.

They gather gregariously, flying miles. Their appetite larger than a field of crops. Eating ravenously. From green to yellow to brown. How they fly. To feed, to mate and then to die.

Frying a locust. Their legs tiny knives on your plate. The taste of crisp sand in your dry mouth. A mirage oasis in the distance and the voices of men on lanky camels speaking the tongue of Phoenician sailors.

There is plenty of water in this desert. Only, we can't reach it. Not today, not tomorrow, but next year, next winter, when it rains and sleets of snow kill our camels. When crocuses hide beneath the soil and the sand bears African violets.

Only then will the locusts go. Moses breaking the sea with a whip-lash. The curse lifted.

Locusts. Dead locusts. Their wings crackling like fire.

The smuggling of one second

One century's warmth smuggled into a hot-water bottle,
desire blown over the rim of a chipped wine glass,
white lint rolled between thumb and forefinger,
footsteps nestled in the cocoon of a lover's ear,
wind curving through trees in bare-backed forests,
belly stretching towards the navel of the earth —

it's the pressure of water scalding slim ankles,
the draining of liqueur in a bath tub,
thread undoing a stained wedding dress,
a man's scent frozen between today and tomorrow,
schoolgirls scraping nude branches,
water breaking inside a battered woman.

The smuggling of one second across a dried-up canyon —
the silence within the silence of the noise trapped in one heart beat.


For years I've heard that water dripping
plummeting into bucketfuls
pirouetting streams
prying into pools
the limestone cold and clammy
with the freshness of its lilt.

For years I've let the drought hold me back —
the slumber of a hundred years
waiting for drop on everlasting
drop to travel into sound waves
expecting the silent to become
articulate, the deaf to listen.

Here I am again, contemplating
those seconds of pure generosity
the pit—patting plummeting
pirouetting of droplets
from leaf to soil to earth to ear.
For years I've heard that water dripping.