Archive for the month “September, 2012”


Don’t ever leave me
you can’t ’cause you were never mine
but don’t
because you are
don’t walk away when I scare you
I’d be more scared than you
don’t turn off the lights
when I say it’s the end
it always is
don’t shed a tear
when it’s all over
it never is
(especially on digital)
don’t close the book
when I get grumpy
you know you’re just a page away
from serious laughter
and don’t forget to water our wee plants
in the bottle caps in the pantry
they bring the rainbow.

My next letter

My dearest,
my next letter
will carry fragile things
like the last
this time even more fragile
as we’re both wiser in handling them
dry leaves from eternal trees
just waiting for your water
our little vocabulary
and the other one written
by that pretentious linguist
who needs to get laid
so you have a good laugh
an out of print notebook
carrying fanatic verses
without any need for footnotes
a pocket watch made of time
that never expires
that doesn’t play too many funny games
a fountain that whispers
on your birthday
grateful you’re around to make the world crazier
a hand-made tale
that remains a work in slow patient progress
a toy train alarm clock
to wake you up playfully
in our vast sprawling landscapes
when I’m not around
a prayer carrying invocations of prophecies
gossipy questions
pickled in lavender oil
the stain of olives uprooted
by ungrateful self-loathing colonists
my obscure inherited family pen
to help me write my next chapters
while lovingly waiting for yours.

To my mother

On this day seven years ago, my mother passed away unexpectedly.

It came as a complete shock for me and my sister and to so many people who were close to her.

For a long time I couldn’t find words that would do her justice, and I still can’t. I find it much easier to talk to her, as I always did. I wrote this poem this week, and the other one in Maltese a few years ago and has been translated into English and French.

One day I want to write about all her beauty, her love and compassion, as only she could give, from the kitchen to the classroom, the two rooms where she would fulfil her vocation, although her heart shone wherever she went. It was in our kitchen that she taught me to read and write and where she would read my stories, putting on her reading glasses while I walked around the house just waiting to see her reaction.


They tell me to move on
They tell me to move on,
an order they keep spouting
mankind’s inevitable cliché
move on
they shout it
move on
they tell me.
To where?
To what?
To whom?
Move on
they insist
tell me I can’t give up
but it’s they who give up
let go of what once
made us beautiful children
move on to deserted pastures
preparing for sterile deaths
in dry-cleaned shrouds
let go of the cord
that gave us all happiness
move on to the coldness
of clinical chambers
parroting platitudes
insensible nonsense
that one comes out stronger
idiocies believed in lieu of despair.
Scars don’t make you stronger
they just mark the calendar
of your eventful demise.
I’m not moving anywhere
the world has all it takes
to keep moving
I’m tired
I’m not moving anywhere
I’m staying here.
Lil ommi
Qed tara ma,
kif lanqas meta jqum ir-riħ
ma jinxef dmugħi,
kif lanqas meta jmut il-jum
ma torqod ruħi,
kif lanqas meta s-sħab jitqal
u tfur ix-xita
u lanqas meta tilma x-xemx
mal-franka mnaqqra
ma jinżel qatt id-dawl
ġol-għar imdallam
li ħbejtli fih il-kotba mrakkma
bi kliem ta’ lingwa li m’għadhiex tinftiehem.


Fil-ħemda mejta kliemek jidwi ħieles
widnejja mtarrxa bl-ekijiet mudlama
il-biża’ tvenven f’rifnu f’tarf il-qabar
fuq rasi kattidral kadavri koroh
jonogħsu ma’ kull radda ta’ salib
jissemmgħu ‘l Alla
waqt li jippjana l-aħħar kolp mis-sagristija.
In-niċċa li drat tħares lejk, imbikkma,
u l-ilma li berikt b’idejk, imnixxef,
u kiesaħ wisq l-irħam li tlaqtni fuqu
imkeffen fid-damask mittiekel.

To my mother
You see, mother,
it takes more than a gust of wind
to dry my tears,
it takes more than the death of day
to quell my fears,
it takes more than the laden clouds
welling up rain
or the sudden glimpse of sunlight
against the weathered sandstone
to let some light
into the darkened cave
where lie the books you hid for me, embroidered
in a language I no longer comprehend.
Your words reverberate freely in the deathly calm
my ears are deafened by the dark echoes
and gales of fear whine at the grave’s edge
and hideous corpses teem in the cathedral
that rears above my head
dozing off with each sign of the cross
eavesdropping on God’s latest plot
to launch a coup from deep within the vestry.
The niche that stared at you so long has fallen silent,
the water that you blessed with your bare hands has dried,
and it’s too cold here on the marble slab
on which you left me in my shroud of worn damasc.
Translated by Albert Gatt
Pour ma mère
Regarde maman, vois-tu,
mes larmes ne sèchent pas
même si le vent se lève ;
quand meurt le jour,
mon âme ne dort pas ;
et même quand les nuages deviennent lourds,
même si la pluie déborde,
même si le soleil déborde
et se déverse sur la pierre grignotée par le temps,
jamais la lumière ne pénètre
jusqu’à cette grotte sombre
où tu as caché des volumes de paroles
brodées dans une langue qui aujourd’hui ne se comprend plus.
Dans ce silence mort résonnent tes mots désormais libres,
et les sombres échos m’assourdissent ;
la peur souffle en rafales autour de la tombe,
au-dessus de ma tête, toute une cathédrale d’affreux cadavres
somnolent à chaque signe de croix
et épient Dieu
pendant qu’il planifie dans la sacristie son prochain coup.
La niche qui avait l’habitude de te regarder, regarde-la éplorée ;
l’eau que tes mains ont bénie a séché,
et ce marbre où tu m’as laissé
enveloppé dans ce vieux tissu damassé rapé,
ce marbre
est trop froid.
Translated by Nadja Mifsud

The universe and all that (2)

The universe and all that (2)

The universe and all that

I’m not a fan of Paulo Coelho. I love The Alchemist, but there’s something about him, his smug way of dispensing with his textbook wisdom that I find too, how shall I put it, smacking of self-help books for the desperate, kind of. (I also loved Veronika Decides to Die, by the way.)

And more often than not, people who quote him are those who never read anything else in their life. Except maybe for Fifty Shades of Grey.

Maybe that’s why I don’t see him as a storyteller. He’s too didactic. (I love José Saramago and he can be as didactic as he likes because he is my teacher). It’s as if his stories are mere fillers so that he could write his wisdom in between chunks of paragraphs. But when you take Coelho’s quotes out of his didactic context, they sound like some universal truths that just need to be repeated. Well that’s too much, but you know what I mean. Maybe it’s the journalist in me always looking for the sexy soundbyte. Soundbytes are true just because they sound good. (I can be didactic too but I try not to be in stories and poems, I guess).

So today I was chatting to a good friend of mine who lives faraway and who for the last year and a half or so has been somehow resurfacing every now and then, in one way or another, sometimes I call her, sometimes we just stumble upon each other, but always when, somehow, it was necessary. Her name is Imane, though everyone calls her Ammoun, and she’s a fantastic writer and has a blog called Kharabeesh (“Scribblings”, in Arabic, in Maltese we have the same word “Tħarbix”). I got to know her via twitter at the start of the Arab Spring, as the world was turning upside down, at least this part of it, and she was writing, tweeting and retweeting everything that was captivating us all, in her own quirky way. What had struck me at the time was how this little woman in Paris was so up to date about everything, in touch with everyone, making news channels look like amateurs. Seriously. And her humour.

That was the first time we “met”, and at the time it was very necessary for me, from this tiny blockaded enclave, to be able to somehow experience the revolutionary hurricane that was sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, and the falling dominoes of dictators and buffoons who all forgot the one basic truth repeated in so many languages since Machiavelli. That power in its crudest form, that is total repression, always, inevitably, leads to revolt, one day or another. That the Prince should be feared but not hated.

Besides, I knew nothing about twitter and she was one of the first I could ask the stupidest questions without feeling that stupid. (Besides Mike, a storyteller who has worn as many hats in his life as one can possibly imagine, who had been pleading me to use twitter for decades but he’s always so right that it always takes me some time to adjust to).

We disagree on the details, Ammoun and I, on the kind of varnish on the furniture that would make our houses completely different, I guess. It’s what makes her her, and me me, and that’s how it should stay. But as spring led to the summer drought, the autumn sadness and then the winter hibernation, our satellites kept colliding, sometimes with heated arguments that just betray our passion, that we somehow don’t bother flaunting to everyone. At least I don’t. Unless I’m bored and just feel like antagonising people.

But those “collisions” were always, somehow, at the right time, making them really collusions of complicity.

Well at least that’s how I feel and I told her so, although she always tells me that she doesn’t really understand why I find her to be so “helpful”. I thinks she does, but I can’t explain it either, so I’ll just leave it at that. Because not everything has a reason, and not everything has an explanation, and if there is one, I don’t need to be its discoverer. I prefer making things up than researching them, which is not a great trait for a journalist but I guess there are other skill-sets I have that make up for it (I love HR-speak!… as in love to hate it).

The only reply I could give her is the quote that also resurfaces pretty much like Ammoun every now and then in my head, from The Alchemist, which says: No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.

So as I was looking up his quotes I came across this Wikiquote site that pretty much sums him up in one page (another good friend of mine, Albert, who translated most of my writings from Maltese into English, always says that once you read one of Coelho’s books you don’t need to read more… incidentally almost all of the quotes I liked are from The Alchemist).

Another quote of his brought me back full circle to Saramago.

No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it.

Saramago says it even more beautifully, and in less words, and without the hype, in The Tale of the Unknown Island.

Liking is probably the best form of ownership, and ownership the worst form of liking.

And liking, I would say, whatever we want to like, is all the nicer when it is something you discovered, that little gift left somewhere by someone, by the universe, not necessarily because they thought of you, in all probability they don’t even know you, and that makes it even nicer. As The Little Prince says (the one inimitable dispenser of truth and stories), what makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

So anyway, this is my blog and I feel like posting some of Coelho’s quotes, because I can.

Just to set the record straight before you go to fetch the vomit bags – there is a lot of crap I don’t share among the Coelho-like clichés, which are a crime against humanity, really. I think there’s nothing more idiotic and tasteless than telling someone that “everything happens for a reason” (go tell that to the victims of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, no wait that wasn’t real), that in life we “move on” and that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (with apologies to Nietszche, one of my idols who is, more than Coelho, misquoted by the illiterate masses). What doesn’t kill you leaves you tired. Scars do not make you stronger. They’re just eventful marks on your calendar, helping you record time as you always, inevitably, get nearer to death.

There are many things I could be writing to make my point. I can write about the other satellites somehow orbiting around my universe, about another very dear Ukranian friend in South Sudan and how she paints her own future, most of the time without knowing; or my Scottish friend Joyce and how she knows everything; about how my long-lost Japanese friend (found again through facebook, of course) had appeared just on time to save me when I was alone in the US; and how Albert was impossibly saved in New York when he has also penniless and alone on New Year’s Day and stumbled upon the one friend who could also save him, just as he was trying to pawn his useless camera, looking down dejectedly at the rainy pavements of New York, only to recognise his friend from his shoes walking in Time Square. Not to mention the crazy French photographer I met this summer whom I first felt like slapping only to grow on me in a few days until he could tell me his little secret.

And I could tell you of how when I was reading a poem at a festival in France last summer, just as I tell my audience to hear the church bells taking the piss out of us, the bells in the tiny chapel just behind us started ringing, forcing us all to smile.

But I won’t write all that right now, and probably not anytime soon. Some call them signs, for me they are intriguing coincidences, which makes them none the less mysterious. All I’ll say is that I don’t want to believe in dreams, I just want to live them. You don’t believe a recurring dream, you just know it’s true. There’s my soundbyte for the day.

Writing, the one thing I believe I can do well, gives me my launchpad towards the sky, to travel in time and space, and explode whenever I feel like.

Now that’s as confessional as I’ll get. Ever. Well at least until I write about the Superstitious Atheist, which I’m led to believe has been coined by myself … yes … yours truly … remember you read it here, and watch this space.

Now please someone send me a consignment of Foucault on the next flotilla to Gaza.

Coelho’s soundbytes

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

Warriors of the light are not perfect. Their beauty lies in accepting this fact and still desiring to grow and to learn.

We warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.

The two worst strategic mistakes to make are acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip; to avoid this, the warrior treats each situation as if it were unique and never resorts to formulae, recipes or other people’s opinions.

There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe…. The soul of the world is nourished by people’s happiness.

In my world, everything is possible and everything is relative

Laugh at your worries and insecurities. View your anxieties with humour. It will be difficult at first, but you’ll gradually get used to it.

At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.

Don’t think about what you’ve left behind, the alchemist said to the boy as they began to ride across the sands of the desert. Everything is written in the Soul of the World, and there it will stay forever.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

Collected from here:

The weatherman, his lover and the end of the world (2)

The weatherman, his lover and the end of the world

His eyes betrayed that he was elsewhere, somewhere between melancholy and elation. She couldn’t quite grasp where, exactly.
She was staring at him from the other side of the room, holding the white plush towel tightly around her, the yellow stripes enhancing the curves of her body while giving some semblance of protection. Like the towel was the last shield left that could offer it. But nothing could protect her from herself, the burning questions inside her were filling her with the acrid smell of jealousy and the rancidity of resentment.
She was looking at him as if he was a book written in a foreign language that she couldn’t read. Probably some old forgotten language. He was always a bit quirky, which made her want to know him even more. Was it too late? Could she learn his language? Would he bother teaching her?
But that’s not what she was thinking there and then. She was scrutinising him accusingly, his initial endless fidgeting driving her crazy, just prolonging the silence, the pain, noting down his every breath, sigh and eye movement as he sat on his side of the bed in his boxers.
He rose to roll a joint.
He wasn’t afraid to tell her the truth; or maybe he was, a bit, but he was mostly wary that she wouldn’t understand it. She couldn’t. She would only get hurt. It would be pointless even trying; just a dragging, tiring argument. Putting it in words, just then, felt like defiling one rare corner in his life that was left sacred.

I didn’t sleep with her, he says inhaling the first puff, or rather I did. Literally. We just slept together, in the same bed.

Just. Just not. Whatever. I didn’t fuck her if that’s what you’re asking. We didn’t even get naked, if that’s what you’re thinking.
Does that make you feel less jealous? Because it shouldn’t. Because if you asked me if we made love, then yes, we did. We made the best love in the world, old ancient love that lasts forever, the love of happiness. We stripped ourselves more naked than baby skin, more naked than water, we entered each other bearing fragile candles just so we could blow them out in our darkest places, and we flew across forests on broomsticks and laughed pissing ourselves from up there, and would never get back down here were it not…
Stop it… 
A cloud of smoke now separated them by light years, like the monsoon and the desert that with the help of computer graphics he could switch from at the touch of a tiny button. He was panting, sweating at the eyebrows. She was frozen.
This will never end. It’s useless pretending otherwise.
He didn’t want to hurt her, but that’s only as possible as having no casualties in war. She wanted to know all the details and now she was just lost, unable to understand, like he knew she would.
He had thought about killing it all, he thought it over and over again, killing this improbable fling that became an obsession, so as not to hurt her, so as not to hurt anyone. That’s like keeping your car in the garage so as not to run out of fuel, his lover had told him once while he was somewhat reluctantly, or more confused, lighting candles in her bedroom, the night he slept with her.
So yes, my dear, I slept with her.
What’s sex but a tickle next to all that? Maybe a punch, granted. Not to downplay orgasm but, you know, sometimes you don’t even get it. You, as in women, not you as you. I know you do.
But you know what I mean.
Well if you don’t it just proves my point, my dear.
You don’t expect the weatherman to announce a scandal do you? Or to break news of a new world war. It wasn’t the weatherman who told us they shot Kennedy.
But you know, sometimes they do. I guess that’s what happened to me. I was watching the weather report, as always, barely regarding his everyday nonsense, clouds, peshing rain and thunderstorms are my everyday life this side of the world, and I like it because I can wear jumpers and scarves. It makes the sun even more valuable. It’s useful to know if it’s too windy (god I hate wind except when I’m on the cliffs watching the sea) just so I can decide whether to carry one of my colourful umbrellas that I like matching to the handbag of the day (I have looots of them, both umbrellas and handbags, all bought from sales or flea markets, a couple of umbrellas I stole from nasty people), but my pragmatic side tends to take over so I always carry my wee foldable umbrella with me, and in any case my friendly trees along my street always warn me when I wake up to tell them good morning. And well, when it’s sunny, the light comes into my room first thing in the morning and shows me my otherwise dark tiny abode that I love lighting with tiny candles that I always steal from my wee little brother’s and sister’s birthdays.
One day, as I was eating takeaway sushi, he just stopped halfway through his report, as if realising I wasn’t listening, and looked me in the eye from inside the screen to announce that the world was about to end. It’s ending, now, just like we’re dying, you know, he told me. I blushed. For a second or more it felt as if something heavy was going down my throat to engulf my guts. It’s been a while now but I remember well that we then both broke out laughing, crazily, slightly out of nervousness, but mostly out of this sense of freedom. There’s nothing that is more liberating than knowing that the end of the world is now, right now. The end of the world makes every moment monumental, immortal, to die for. Like reaching orgasm with the person you love.
I have his lighter that I keep with me. It’s the kitschiest thing on earth, with a red heart on it. He used it once to help me light the candles. I nicked it from him but just before he left the next day he remembered it and pretended he had lost it, telling me to keep it.
So for me it stopped being the daily weather report, it became this daily programme I got addicted to, a daily telenovela if you like, just because it was so crazy, because it felt so good, it was right. And it’s there for me, playing and replaying itself everyday, retelling our tale forever, because the best fairy tales have no ending, and our last chapter will be written together.
Cloud formations covering half the world are currently being drunk by the sun in a phenomenon never experienced before.
All the world’s armies are on the other half of the world, missiles pointed towards the sun although experts tell us there is no rocket on earth that could reach it.
It is also feared that when shot in the direction of the sun, missiles might defect and turn back to explode where they left from.
Government sources tell us a Universal War Cabinet has been formed and is convening now in a secret location. The ministers, whose names have also been kept secret, are reportedly flanked  by chess grandmasters from all over the world, together with eschatologists, pathologists, astrologists, astronomers, soothsayers, dream interpreters and psychoanalysts.
The Minister of Information has appealed for calm.
Meanwhile hurricane Manuel is sweeping across the United Arab Emirates uprooting all fake trees and destroying every tower and crane on its way. The hurricane is also estimated to have left millions of dollars of damages in US military bases abroad, from where all drones seem to have disappeared. It is now moving westwards where it is feared it might be joined by cyclone Morgane that has been wreaking havoc across Europe. A toddler who escaped miraculously as Morgane brushed by the south of France told his parents that he realised the cyclone was on its way when the dragon kite he was flying just, quote, “escaped like in a fairy tale”. Earlier today while still raging over the UK, Morgane destroyed what was once the Olympic Village built for this year’s event as well as carried with it all advertising billboards, except those publicising Gothic films. A spokesman from Saatchi & Saatchi’s regional hub in London told us that from his office, quote, “this all looks like a f****** sick joke”.
And in an unrelated story that just reached us from news wires, a mother in Guatemala gave birth to a baby boy with a tooth in his throat. Doctors say this unprecedented…

I love you (2)

I love you (2)

I love you

I love you when you stop to watch old doors
opening them with your gaze
locking others forever.

I love you when you smile just for me
and our mean little universe
nobody else understands.

I love you when you scowl at balloons
get angry at unbreakable tape
flirt with useless lighters.

I love you when you dodge ugly trolls
and get back to me
so we write our own fairy tale.

I love you when you give all your heart
to your wee siblings
mothering your future children in enchanted forests.

I love you when you panic at spiders
and at loud inappropriateness
only to piss yourself laughing later on our balcony.

I love you when you stalk me softly
catching me stalking you too
as if it was a secret.

I love you when you blush once again
caught out humming
like the world wasn’t there.

I love you when you wax lyrical
on dark knights and unbeatable heroes
teasing my insecurities with silliness.

I love you when you embrace trees
seeking their wisdom
their stories, their eternity.

I love you when you dream naked at night
knowing you’re willing
our ancient love and happiness.

I love you when you keep me waiting
making me realise
I also need to prepare.

I love you when you tell me not to worry
taking my paranoid cue
that it’s your turn to reassure me.

I love you when you teach me
that urgence and patience
are twin sisters of love.

I love you when you come to me
bringing with you
all that I have been living for.

I love you when you leave
knowing you will come back
with more.

The dance of Qohelet (2) — Alors on danse by Stromae

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