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Amman

AmmanAmman at sunset

Biljett Miftuħ/Open Ticket

Biljett Miftuħ/Open Ticket – Tales, poems & music of protest, love & death

10 April 2013, Coach and Horses, Malta

Photos by Gilbert Calleja/www.gilbertcalleja.com 

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Strange creatures spring out of my shadow

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Strange creatures spring out of my shadow
pretending they're not there
when I look at them
playing hide and seek
in the afternoon sun
under dull neon tubes
and warm yellow lights
they disappear when I catch them
make me look like a madman
when I scold them
and get rid of them in the dark
until the first ray of light
opens the door ajar again
bringing them back 
senselessly frolicking
merrily jumping
like gnomes in an orgy
feasting at my expense
behind my back.

Buffer zone – the killing fields of Gaza

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The old woman has seen
enough sunrises to wrinkle the earth
her skin has the memory of trees
her head used to balance
jars of fresh milk
when the fields were still open
when her feet treaded bare
on homely land
and the livestock were still alive
grazing on the horizon.

Today her face
resembles her house
pockmarked with bullets
yet standing her ground
under the sun
feeding sheep hay and imported food pellets
keeping an eye on the barren horizon
where life once thrived
and her soul will forever wander.

---

We had wells over there
now spitting blood in our violated fields
we used to walk till the trees
now where there is a razor sharp desert
feeding barbed-wire colonies
foreign bodies in terrorised outfits;
you know I could love them,
I swear I could
I would call them by name
and hand them fresh mint
and some cheese
even from behind a wire fence
but their hands are all occupied
gripping their heavy guns
handcuffed to fear.

---

They greet us with gunshots 
from behind a smokescreen
they just don't get it
it's us greeting them
in our house.

As they run out of bullets
we run out of patience.

Things that come and go through the port of sadness

DSC_1902-eThings that come and go
like the China vase about to shatter
seated on the edge
like the mirror that fell yesterday
and today is being crushed in the landfill
like the beer bottle that slipped out of my hand
making a mess on the pavement
tarmac absorbed what it could
leaving the rest to be trodden on
like cigarette packets outside the bar
empty plastic lighters of no value
like valuable antiques buried in the mudslide
with their latest owner
museums set alight by clueless rebels
rewriting history
with things that come and go
futile arrivals
inconsequential departures
from the port of sadness.

The boy who saved the world

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There was once a sun that shone on a distant planet very similar to ours. There were boys and girls and animals and plants on this tiny planet, including a young lonely boy who had no friends except for those hiding in the wardrobe in his bedroom. He would play for hours with these friends, but when he was away from them, like when at school or out with his parents, he would speak to the sun, ask her to be kind and light the day for as long as possible. Not because he was scared of the night, but he loved the sun’s warmth, and, as much as he loved sunsets, it always left him a wee bit upset whenever the sun disappeared.

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His parents were clearly worried about him, especially whenever he returned all sad after school, where his class mates picked on him and invented all sorts of cruel lies. Sometimes he felt so hurt and lonely that he would ask his parents not to send him to school again. And after sunset he would ask the sun to ensure that its light, the next day, would warm the world and people’s hearts and make them friendlier, nicer. Sometimes he even asked her to take him with her somewhere nice.
 .
The sun had long been watching the boy and keeping an eye on him, pondering how she could help him. It was hard, though, because there was no way the sun could get any nearer without burning the planet and all living things with its fiery flames.
 .
Other suns, stars and planets nearby could clearly notice the sun’s incessant anxiety, although they couldn’t understand why she looked so worried. At times she rose late or mixed up the seasons, shining strongly in winter and forcing people to remove their jackets and scarves when she was meant to be much milder.
 .
The planets finally decided to tackle the bull by its horns, or rather the sun by its flames, and called for an inter-planetary meeting in which the sun would be heard and the best decision taken.
 .
What’s wrong with you, our dear comrade sun? one of the oldest stars asked her. You’ve been very, very distracted recently. You’re confusing the animals, who are thinking winter is over only to discover the next day that it isn’t. Plants can’t figure out whether they need more water or if they should hold back their flowers from blossoming. And the people – not that they don’t deserve a punishment for all the the wrongs they did to their planet – but you’re just confusing everyone with your behaviour. Tell us what it is that’s troubling you.
 .
The sun told them about the boy. She cared for him and wanted to get closer to him and keep him company. Some of the stars were quite shocked. For thousands of years they learnt to observe everything without intervening, sticking to the order of things and letting the universe decide everyone’s fate.
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Surely, my dear, you must be extremely troubled to be thinking of these things, said one of the Grand Suns. You remember one of our first instructions we were given on the day we were set alight was to keep our distance from the little things we can’t change, and to stick to our simple job of giving light and warmth in enough measure for everyone and everything. It is then up to them to decide what to do with it.
 .
The sun felt embarrassed, admitting her love for one little boy in front of so many others who thought she was going crazy, but she couldn’t help her feelings and always had some reply to the others’ words of warning. She had decided to get near the boy and be his friend forever.
 .
This is madness, the Grand Sun said again, raising its voice now. Do you know what your madness will lead to? Sure you do. And yet, we understand, that once in a thousand years or so, one of us feels it is more important to leave everything for someone. And we have to accept that such madness is also part of our universe; it came with the light and the dark and the raging infinity in which we live. But beware: Your love will change everything. You’ll have to leave your flames behind you and deprive billions of humans, animals and trees of the light that keeps them alive. And you will no longer shine for as long as you stay close to your loved one, and eventually die together. Do you really want to do all this for one person?
 .
Yes, I do.
 .
Then crazy might not be the right word for you, but this is not a reunion of linguists, so let it be. May you find the happiness you so crave. In time we’ll find the words to describe the destruction you’re about to bring, but meanwhile, make the best of it and leave the rest to history.
 .
Not wanting to upset everything at once, the sun decided to wait till her last sunset before turning off her flames and start her journey to the boy, so that it looked like a normal night as all the others before it, only there would be no sunrise the next day; there would be no next day at all.
 .
In just a few hours the sun was well on her way towards the planet, shrinking as she got nearer, and just a few minutes after midnight she was knocking outside the boy’s window. The child couldn’t believe his eyes when he finally realised she had come all that way down for him. He was so excited and wanted to introduce her to his wardrobe friends and show her around the house – obviously in perfect silence not to wake up his parents.
 .
Back in his room, they partied all night – which seemed to never end – and played all sorts of games that the boy never had the chance to play with normal friends; from hide and seek to hopscotch and snakes and ladders.
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Of course the night never ended; his parents stayed asleep, as did everyone else, and all the plants and trees started to die slowly. The birds stayed all huddled in their nests and all the world’s clocks and watches stopped working, having realised this was the end of days and there was therefore no point in keeping the time any longer.
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It took a while for the boy to realise what was happening, caught up as he was playing with his new friend.
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It just occurred to me that you will soon have to go back to your place so that you can shine again on our planet, the boy said. I will miss you.
 .
I’ve decided I’m not going back. I want to say here with you.
 .
But so many planets and animals need you, you can’t let them down like that – they’ve done no wrong.
 .
I see you’ve left out your fellow humans. They’ve been cruel to the planet and also to you.
 .
Quite, but there are good innocent people who do not deserve to be punished. And I too love you alight and giving your warmth so generously to everyone.
 .
In that case I’ll have to go back, but the only way to set me back alight is to have someone with me who, once we’re at the required distance from the planet, brings the flames from our neighbouring suns and gives me the right amount of them so I can continue shining.
 .
I can do that.
 .
Humans never did this before. The flames will be too strong for you and you will cease being a boy after that.
 .
You’ve given up your flames for me. Why are you surprised if I give up mine for you? Come on, let’s go and do it before it gets too late. We’ve left the world in too much darkness already. Let’s get going.
 .
The sun was so touched by the boy’s kindness that she struggled to hold back its tears, which she had to hold back at all costs if she wanted to flare up again like the sun it was. Holding the boy’s hand, she opened his bedroom window again and started flying up high, from where the boy could see all the houses, towers, rivers, mountains, deserts and forests of the world, and it was beautiful, an entire world asleep, snoring, dreaming or just sound asleep, waiting for the first rays of the sun to wake up.
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It’s time, the sun finally told the boy who was still breathless from the speed at which they were travelling, You can see those flames on the star in front of us. Fetch one of them and bring it to me. You will be able to handle it but once I’m on fire everything will change, and I don’t know exactly how.
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It will be all right. You are my sun, I want you to shine, and that’s all that matters.
 .
I love you, the sun told him just as he set her alight again.
 .
As the sun was slowly sending off her rays towards every corner of the planet, everyone started waking up from their long sleep, the clocks started ticking again, and the birds started chirping as if nothing ever happened.
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In fact nobody knew that the little lonely boy had saved the world, and much less that he had become the new moon, who once in a while, when he really misses her, gets so close to the sun again that he blocks her view, triggering all sorts of stories and rumours about the end of days.
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Only the sun and the moon know how true those stories are, and it is only thanks to their undying love that there has never been an eclipse as long as there was on the day the sun stopped shining; just brief visits that always, inevitably, captivate the entire world, short enough to keep it alive, intense enough to be marked on everyone’s calendar, as you can see for yourself about their past and future encounters.

Dictator (to those still standing)

DSC_1863Tomorrow, 25 January, will be the second anniversary since the start of the Egyptian revolution, the ongoing popular project that changed the region, and the world. Even with the beheading of the Pharaoh, the foundations of the regime linger, while dictators elsewhere stick to their palaces at all costs. Change is inevitable, one just needs to choose the right side of history.

The bells are already
announcing your funeral
we know that you're ready
you know it's your time
your arsenals running out
unlike our rage
and yet we'll allow you
to die like a man.

Tahrir

DSC_1786This is where liberation starts
when our guts roar hungrily
our stomachs unable to digest anymore
the cheapness of your greed
your blatant necrophilia
lusting at our demise
feeding yourself on engineered failures
sucking the sweat
of the masses
uprooting our family trees
from your own plastic garden
fountains of dollar ink
arousing your corpse
already buried alive
in your Pharaonic palace.
Do not fear us
we won't even touch you
we're just gathered outside
to seal your grave.

Waiting for the revolution

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He had been waiting at the gate forever, an eternity. Unshaven, dirty, ridden with fleas, scabs and bruises inflicted by the seasons, he waited patiently to be allowed in, as he watched high dignitaries, emissaries, entire cavalries entering freely, only to see the gate closed in his face. He wrote messages on the walls around the palace, got beaten up by the guards as he sung and screamed for the King to come out, lost his voice and his tent, and even his coat was taken, making his life harder, more miserable. Tear-gassed he didn’t even have the chance to cry his fate, lost as he was trying to survive, struggling to enter while stuck to the ground. Little did he realise that behind him, new tents were being erected, new faces blossomed and stronger voices were joining his – voices with different accents and dialects, faces darker or fairer, forming one big colourful tent of the oppressed. Even the guards, or most of them, had grown wary of their fate, paid to stay out on attention come rain or shine and just shut up everyone and clean up the palace street of the unwanted rogues, their own brothers. Stripped of their uniform, they were part of the gathering masses with a humiliating salary.

That’s how the guard who shall remain unnamed told the waiting man, Why do you want to enter this soulless place? Look behind you, everyone else is waiting, we can force through the gates by sheer force. But what do we do then? Install you as the new King?

That’s not what I came for.

I know, I’ve been watching you everyday.

Although now that I think of it, I’ve forgotten what I came for.

That’s even better. It means we can all start afresh.

And that’s how the guard and the waiting man realised that all they needed to do was to lock the King and his followers inside, give them their mausoleum, let them rot under their crumbling walls, dying of their own tyranny. Freedom was out there, on the streets.

Fading muse

DSC_0062-e2You know what?
She probably doesn't care
at all,
they told me,
caught as I was
scribbling frantically
to keep her reading
to keep her mine
to keep her loving me
to keep me alive
in this fatal game
flirting with fire
words stabbing our hearts
once soothed our soul
silence speaks a thousand pictures
more than our bandwidth can carry
more than is ever bearable
incurable massive mindfuck
writing along not to drown
clasping to dying alphabets
that built our homely walls
gasping for air
that only she could breathe
into me.

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