My flag

My flag has fading colours
frills bleached with time
and silly ventures
freed from enslaving poles
and ravaging invaders
claiming the infinite territories
unoccupied land
and annihilated colonies
unholy earth of mass graves,
wiping out walking dead men
and their following wives
pushing ugly offspring
always in a hurry
always attracted to some decrepit wall
or idolatrous directions.

My flag is clear
despite my colour blindness
its red carries all shades of human blood
the traces left in love and war
the pieces coming out of childbirth
and what remains after napalm 
the inappropriately pink and the sombre death crimson
the corporate expropriated colours
from radical realms rarely realised
rewritten graffiti
and second hand manifestos.

And there is whiteness
in fifty shades
the veiled and the exposed
the unsaid and the sensational
the smugness of whoreish virgins
the shyness of sluts
a pussy riot in corrupted cathedrals
delusional linen on beds of arranged marriages
on wedding night
orgasmic orgies mimicking the nativity
the allegedly sacred 
and the clearly desecrated
the fantastic never-ending torture of phosphorous
the void and the carte blanche
the tabula rasa and the frantic scribblings
on white boards and coffee-stained napkins
the smoke-roller's paper
the melancholic landscape of your skin.

You’ll see

You'll see

On moving out of my family home forever

Everything packed
waiting to leave
like the last droplets of blood
of a decaying corpse.
Boxes of books read, reread or unread
clothes long out of fashion
thanks to time's contempt
folded chess boards
remnants of half-baked home work on rickety copy books
rickety vases
strong evidence of adolescence
traces of confusion -- Che Guevara and La Pietà are in the same box
hope and degeneration
uncared for silverware
the emotional labyrinth of photo albums.
I'd like to think they are ants hibernating
waiting to take life elsewhere 
when the spring sun will warm us again.
Will we survive, then, in a new skeleton?

Let’s be strangers

Let's be strangers
let's cross continents, war-torn countries
touch the famished, the infected, the downtrodden
walk through cyclones, floods, earthquakes
let's get lost on windswept islands
travel through cruel and merciful seasons
let's be strangers with false maps
and faulty compasses
crossing through landmined checkpoints,
haunted outposts, unsettled colonies
so that we can find each other again
behind the wall and its barbed wire
in the noisy city or in the deserted landscapes
in our little enclave or on some sprawling train
at the zoo watching seals play
so that we can retell each other
our stories of wonder
so that we can stand in awe of ourselves
rediscover ourselves wearing blindfolds
so that we can turn off the lights
embraced once again
as if love never happened
as if it's been secretly waiting
as if everything has yet to be said and done
and nothing mattered.

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

You entered my enclave


Domestic unrest

Domestic unrest

The butcher

The butcher

Flight MH370

Flight MH370

Every revolution is messy

Egypt celebrated world press freedom day last week with one of the highest number of journalists under arrest, ever, and many more silenced through the on-going frenzy to clamp down on everyone.

One of Egypt’s most respected journalists, Hani Shukrallah, expects things to go on in the current chaotic fashion for a few more years. The Egyptian revolution is a messy one, he believes, because all revolutions are that way by definition.

Shukrallah was speaking to author Karl Schembri during the first edition of the Book Festival on Campus, which was organised by the National Book Council and l-Għaqda tal-Malti (Università).

The journalist explained why the ouster of “the dictator loved by the west”, Hosni Mubarak, from the presidential palace three years ago, was not followed by a new political movement made by the very same people who rallied in the streets to get rid of him.

“The young revolutionaries were incredible; impressive in their determination to bring change,” Shukrallah said. “They would be shot at by the police and instead of running away as we used to do, they would charge back with even more determination. Yet, they made awful politicians as they had no programme, no vision of what to do after getting rid of Mubarak.”

Young revolutionaries, Shukrallah believes, need time to learn strategy, to be able to navigate through the pragmatic world of politics. Yet, it is thanks to them that a completely decades-old debilitating paradigm has been shattered – what Shukrallah called “the period of ugly choices” for the Arabs.
“We had to either side with Saddam or with George Bush; with Islamists or with brutal dictators. Thanks to the Arab revolutions, this has been shattered and we are now exploring alternatives,” Shukrallah said.

With the Muslim Brotherhood now driven underground, just like in Mubarak’s time, there is a clear attempt to instal the worst form of police state ever inside Egypt.

Shukrallah compares the current climate to “a cartoon impression of the US after September 11”, where the media was blindly and willingly spreading the “war on terror propaganda by the Bush administration, while liberties were thrown out of the window”.

The journalist has himself experienced firs-thand the implications of unchecked and unfettered power. In 2005 he was sacked from chief editor of Al Ahram Weekly after a series of critical articles aimed at the political class and his vociferous scepticism about the then promised reforms.

He was again forced out of Al Ahram Online, Egypt’s largest English-language news website, which he had founded himself. His forcible removal last year by allies of the Muslim Brotherhood prompted him to publicly denounce the rapidly deteriorating Islamist regime led by Morsi.

“I have something immeasurably more precious: my dignity and self-respect. What do you have?” Shukrallah wrote on his Facebook page in a message that would be picked up by some of the world’s leading media.

Now he’s back to writing for Al Ahram, although one never knows for how long.

“We have to work through the cracks; that’s how we claim our freedom of expression,” he said.

Born in Cairo in 1950, Shukrallah was a Marxist student activist during the time of Anwar Sadat, but he was also critical of the dogmatic leftist thinking. Throughout his career as journalist and author, he built a reputation for stand-ing up to speak the truth to those in power.

Besides the session with Shukrallah, the book festival saw a large tent erected in the Campus Quadrangle, with several local publishers exhibiting and selling their latest titles.

The week-long festival brought with it a number of literary events, including debates on sexuality in Maltese literature, readings by seminal contemporary authors such as Immanuel Mifsud and lectures about literary translation and the preservation and restoration of historical documents. Young, aspiring authors were also allotted evening slots where they could share their writings as part of the Taħżiż2 initiative. The festival closed with Leħen il-Malti poetry readings set to music by Danjeli and friends.

Post Navigation