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

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9 thoughts on “To my mother

  1. deepest respect to your mother..

  2. May she rest in peace ya rabb… These poems are pure beauty.

  3. Catherine Sciberras on said:

    In our thoughts and prayers..these odes are woven with a very great love that

    would make any mother really proud especially yours.

  4. Kurt Sansone on said:

    Very touching words Karl. I admire your courage in this senseless episode.

  5. Mary Anne Pace on said:

    Thank you Karl for sharing your thoughts through such lovely poetry. Mum was a shining star who always had a good word for everyone. Always very proud of her two children.

  6. Maria Diacono on said:

    Beautiful and touching thoughts of your mum and our dearest friend .She is always in our thoughts Maria Diacono

  7. You have done her, and all those hours at the kitchen table, proud

  8. Massimo Farrugia on said:

    Dear Karl, very very touching and beautiful. Keep well, friend.

  9. Amazing Karl, this is realy touching, and real to the core. It reminds me of how prescious my Mother is.
    May god rest her sould in peace.

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