Għal għonq it-triq #9: L-Imħabba wara l-imħabba, ta’ Derek Walcott

walcottInsejt meta ltqajt mal-versi ta’ Walcott għall-ewwel darba. Li niftakar żgur, jien u miexi f’Berlin fir-rebbiegħa tal-2008, sibt edizzjoni bilingwi, bellezza, tal-ġabra The Prodigal fil-ħanut tal-Haus der Kulturen den Welt. Ktieb li żammli kumpanija għal tliet ijiem, jitma’ u jtuq dik il-malinkonija ħelwa tal-vjaġġ solitarju f’belt ġdida u fi lsien ġdid. Illum lil Walcott nammirah iktar mill-bogħod, imma hemm xi ħaġa f’dik it-taħlita ta’ kadenza klassika u ta’ modernità solenni li kultant terġa’ tiġbidni ‘l ġewwa. Apparti l-fatt li nidentifika miegħu għas-sempliċi fatt li ġej minn gżejra (Santa Luċija, id-doppju ta’ Malta fid-daqs, u inqas minn nofsha fil-popolazzjoni), u jista’ jkun li l-arja mielħa tal-Karibew tispjega l-wisa’ li jinħass sew fil-versi tiegħu – ċjoè, in-nuqqas ta’ densità tross u ddejjaq li ssib f’tant poeti kontemporanji ta’ lingwa Ingliża. Walcott mhuwiex poeta li jħallik bla nifs, la bit-tajjeb u lanqas bil-ħażin. Imma lil hinn mill-mewġa pjaċevoli ta’ vrusu, nammira fuq kollox l-atteġġjament partikulari tiegħu, li miċ-ċokon iħaddan u jfisser kif jista’ l-kobor. Rooted cosmopolitanism, kożmopolitaniżmu bl-għeruq, hemm min sejjaħlu, espressjoni li togħġobni wisq, u tnikkitni fl-istess ħin. U dan wara li Walcott irritorna minn vjaġġ twil, ħali u ħafi. U forsi wkoll xi ftit ħati, min jaf. Il-ħtija muża intensa ħafna.

prodigalIl-poeżija t’hawn isfel mhix tipika tat-tematika ta’ Walcott, imma kultant hekk jiġri, l-iktar kitbiet ‘taliżmaniċi’ ta’ awtur issib li jkunu dawk l-eċċezzjonijiet li jikkonfermaw ir-regola. Xorta waħda hemm sens ta’ ritorn tal-iben il-ħali, ħafi u ħati f’din il-poeżija. Iżda iktar importanti minn hekk, is-sens ta’ awto-akkoljenza wara ċertu eżilju minnek innifsek.

Nirringrazzja lil sieħbi Yahia Lababidi, li kien tella’ din il-poeżija fuq il-profil tiegħu l-ġimgħa l-oħra. Ħajr ukoll lil Kevin Saliba tar-reviżjoni ħafifa.

 

L-IMĦABBA WARA L-IMĦABBA

Għad jasal iż-żmien
meta, b’ferħ ta’ ġenn,
għad tilqa’ lilek innifsek int u tasal
f’biebek stess, fil-mera tiegħek stess
u kull wieħed jitbissem bil-merħba tal-ieħor,

u jgħid, poġġi hawn. Kul.
Għad terġa’ tħobb lill-barrani li kien int.
Tih l-inbid. Tih il-ħobż. Agħti qalbek lura
lilha nfisha, lill-barrani li ilu jħobbok

għomrok, li umbrajtu
għal wiċċ ħaddieħor, li jafek bl-amment.
Neħħi l-ittri ta’ mħabba minn fuq l-ixkaffa,

ir-ritratti, in-noti ddisprati,
qaxxar xbihitek minn mal-mera.
Poġġi. U minn ħajtek agħmel xalata.

 

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Love at the bottom of the sea

(Re-published from the Passaport Project blog)

embraceEwropa! Intix
tisma’ l-imħabba ssejjaħ
minn qiegħ il-baħar?

Europe! Can you not
hear love calling out from the
bottom of the sea?

Europe ! N’entends-tu donc pas
l’appel de l’amour
venant du fond de la mer ?

Europa! Ben je
doof voor de roep van liefde
uit de zeebodem?

(French translation from the
Maltese by Elizabeth Grech
Dutch translation from the
English by Joke Kaviaar)

This heart-wrenching photogram is taken from a video published on 15th May 2014 by La Repubblica, recorded by police divers off Isola dei Conigli, Lampedusa, last October. A shipwreck that cost the lives of 366 people – men, women, children, and a newborn baby still attached by the umbilical cord to his 20-year-old mother.

A heart-wrenching image, but somehow, also heartening. To die alone is perhaps one of our profoundest fears. The embrace shown in this photo is a powerful symbol: borders, built according to a policy of fear and hate, may continue to separate people or even murder them – and yet, love prevails.

Perhaps it was insensitive of La Repubblica to publish the police divers’ video, even if it appears care has been taken to ensure that faces are not recognisable. For survivors of this shipwreck and others, the footage will no doubt be traumatic. Perhaps it is insensitive of me also to republish this photogram. Aditus, a Maltese human rights NGO that I highly respect and follow, has condemned the dissemination of the video as a disrespectful invasion of privacy, and I see their point. Working closely with migrants in Malta, they may have witnessed someone’s distress at the publication of the footage first-hand. The damage may be done, but it’s no justification.

Having said that, the excruciating reality of the footage published by La Repubblica, and reproduced on dozens of other media outlets in different countries, will hopefully have significant impact on decision and policy makers, and of course on the general public. Particularly on those politicians and voters who dream of their nation-states becoming impregnable islands, keeping ‘undesirables’ out with the intensive construction of militarised walls and hi-tech fences, filling the deep pockets of private security companies in the process. Again, the photo of the embrace is especially poignant, as an image of love and affection in the face of extreme hostility.

It may take another five to seven generations, but love will eventually pull the borders down. This may indeed be a delusion on my part, and on the part of many other no-border activists, and yet I would prefer working towards that delusion, rather than allowing pessimism to clip our wings. If anything, the photograph above, at once frightening and endearing, should continue to embolden and encourage us.


mffAfter an eight-month hiatus writing new stuff and working on the Le monde n’est pas rond webzine, it’s time to relaunch the Passport project. Stay tuned for the March for Freedom, 250+ refugees and activists walking from Strasbourg to Brussels, passing via Luxembourg on 1st-5th June. On Sunday 1st June, the march will cross the border from Perl, Germany into Schengen, Luxembourg. Personne n’est illégal – Luxembourg are planning to stage a mini-concert and poetry reading to welcome the marchers once they have crossed the Moselle bridge. More details as we have them.

On 19th July, D’Autres Cordes (Franck Vigroux & Jean-Marc Bourg) will be performing their musical adaptation of the Passport poem at the Voix de la Méditerranée poetry festival in Lodève, France. Other performances are planned for theatres in southern France towards the end of the year. In the mean time, we’re working on adaptations of the poem into new languages, among them Serbian, Polish, and Dutch.

For more information on the March for Freedom, visit freedomnotfrontex.noblogs.org.

vigroux

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March for Freedom – Strasbourg to Brussels

Coming soon… Stay tuned.

mff

 

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Għal għonq it-triq #8: Tama għall-imġewħin, ta’ Caroline Davies

Convoy (Cinnamon Press)

Convoy (Cinnamon Press)

Il-qari ta’ Immanuel Mifsud fix-xelter ta’ Ħ’Attard – idea mill-isbaħ, fejn spazju maħkum mill-biża’ jimtela bl-affermazzjoni u s-saħħa li taf tagħti l-poeżija – fakkarni fi ktieb li rċevejt m’ilux, mingħand Caroline Davies, poetessa minn Wales. Convoy hija ġabra ta’ poeżiji li tirrakkonta l-esperjenzi ta’ nannuha, James ‘Jim’ Honeybill, li kien baħħâr fuq l-MV Ajax, wieħed mill-konvojs li ttrakkaw f’Malta waqt it-tieni gwerra dinjija. It-tagħrif storiku, spiss f’forma ta’ djarju, l-istojċiżmu tal-protagonist, u anki s-sens tiegħu ta’ vjaġġ u missjoni, ma jiskomodawx; ir-rispett lejn il-Maltin huwa profond. Fl-intarsjar tal-istorja u l-ġeografija mal-metafora u l-emozzjoni, qawwija proprju għax imrażżna, jinteressani speċjalment il-mod kif il-poeżija tista’ tiġbed lejn il-partikulari (anzi, biex ngħid hekk, il-partikularissmu) mingħajr ma tinħall ċerta rabta, meħtieġa dejjem, mal-universali.

ritratt: Wikipedia

ritratt: Wikipedia

Fost ir-rakkuntar minn għajnejn il-baħħâr, hemm poeżija li, għalija, tispikka sew fuq l-oħrajn. Forsi anki għal raġunijiet personali – wara kollox, kull qarrej għandu s-simboli preferuti tiegħu. Nannti ma kinitx taf taqra, imma fejn jidħlu n-numri, ħadd ma kien jista’ għaliha. Il-poeżija jisimha Hope for the Hungry. Bħall-puntata ta’ Aqrali, qalti fix-xelter ta’ Ħ’Attard – f’nofs it-twerwir u l-periklu tal-mewt, il-poeżija, l-għanja, it-tagħlim (saħansitra lezzjoni tal-maths) ikomplu jisfidaw il-periklu, jaffermaw il-ħajja, u s-saħħa li hemm fil-qiegħ ta’ kull bniedem. Speċjalment tan-nanniet.

TAMA GĦALL-IMĠEWĦIN

Bajd ma baqax
għax kielu sal-aħħar tiġieġa.
L-ixkafef tal-ikel battala.

In-nanna tgħanni hija u tonxor
fuq il-bejt. Idejha mħarrxa,
imtarrża bil-blu.
Għanjiet ta’ rġiel li jmorru l-gwerra
u ma jiġu lura qatt.

It-tifel jisma’ mit-tarġa ta’ wara,
rasu mdallma
ddur lejn l-istejjer.
Illum m’hawnx skola,
qed idoqqu l-errejds.

Iżda n-nanna tinsisti,
wara n-naxra, inkomplu bil-maths.
Jekk jobdi, forsi
tgħarrex ftit fil-kabord,
issiblu xi jgerrem.

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Christmas Island

Christmas_Island_Australia_76-frChristmas Island, located at 10°30′S 105°40′E, 500 km south of Java in the east Indian Ocean. An Australian territory since 1957. Area 135 km2, population 2,072 (as of 2011). A place where several migrations intersect: Chinese and Malay ‘coolies’ (i.e. migrant workers, indentured labourers, or slaves) imported by the British to mine the high-quality guano phosphate for exportation to the continents and to Japan; boats of asylum seekers from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; the Immigration Reception and Processing Centre on the north-west flank of the island; and one of the most spectacular migrations of them all – each monsoon season, tens of millions of the island’s endemic red crabs scuttle from the rainforest to the coast to breed and spawn. The scarlet carpet that sweeps Christmas Island between October and December can be seen from space.

Christmas Island red crabs crossing the road.

Christmas Island red crabs crossing the road.

The ecstatic dance of a female crab as she releases 100,000 eggs into the sea at low tide, a scene famously captured by David Attenborough, is an incredible joy to watch. Weeks later, in a good year, another migration takes place: millions of miniscule infant crabs swim out of the surf and climb their way up the cliffs, through the settlements, and across the roads toward the forest. The crabs’ numbers are steadily dwindling as a result of another migration: acid-spraying yellow crazy ants, accidentally introduced to the island from an unknown source, assumed to be western Africa.

The series of island poems continues. English version given first, followed by the Maltese. The two versions were written simultaneously.

christmasisland
Christmas Island

391px-ChristmasIslandFlyingFox-Andrews1900Black-eared flying fox, hanging
from the branch of a stinging tree,
safe from the blinding acid
of the yellow crazy ants.
Dreamy commercial shuttle
launched from the island spaceport,
its cockpit and front passengers
disappeared beyond the future.
Tropical green poodle, upright,
at the ready, guarding
the sovereign borders
of Queen Victoria’s terrier.

Mony, Pulau Krismas,
Shèngdàn dǎo, the Australian
territory of Christmas Island,
a winghead shark swimming in
from the open Indian Ocean,
its fins sliced off, its cephalofoil
floating in the foam.

beriberiThe right eye looks south. Apricot
moonscape, centuries upon centuries
of fish and crustaceans digested
from sea to sky to soil.
1910. British commissioners supervising
Sikh policemen watching over
Chinese and Malay coolies extracting
high-quality phosphate, for export
as fertiliser to the continents
and as gunpowder to Japan.
At sunrise, barefoot, the indentured
labourers’ backs bend down
as they dig with the changkol.
At sunset, barefoot, the slaves’
backs prostrated with beri-beri,
their changkols double up as stilts.

© Joel Van Houdt, New York Times

© Joel Van Houdt, New York Times

The left eye looks north. In and
out of view, the swell permitting,
December 2010, SIEV-221,
the two hundred and twenty-first
Suspected Irregular Entry Vessel
since MV Tampa, slowly leaking,
the first fish swimming across the deck.
Aref (name changed), once a printer
in the suburbs of Tehran,
rips each individual page
from a burgundy passport,
crumples it gently into a ball,
relishing every sound, every crease,
before tossing it to the belly of a wave.
Saturated with brine,
each crumpled page
falls like a snowflake
slowly toward the Java Trench.
A pair of scissors is passed around.
Aref snips at the coat of arms
like the petals of a tulip
and releases them to the wind,
then cuts out his daughter’s photograph
carefully from the first page,
and slips it under the lifejacket
into the pocket of his shirt.

idcCharging from Flying Fish Cove
to the other side of Murray Hill,
the refugee bus squelches the carapace
of a red crab on its way to breed.
Both eyestalks face west,
seeing without seeing.
At the poodle’s hindquarters,
built in what remained
of a second guano quarry,
the Christmas Island Immigration
Reception and Processing Centre,
managed by British security firm
Psycho (name changed),
a London Stock Exchange listed company,
constituent of the FTSE 250 Index,
shredding applications for asylum
into electoral votes.

Cable reference id #09CANBERRA1006,
the words of a key Liberal Party strategist
over tea and biscuits with
the US chargé d’affaires:
“Fantastic… The more boats
that come, the better.”

The moon is waxing gibbous,
the monsoon now well under way.
At Aqua Compound, Granaz
(name changed), a bleeding
pregnant mother, pleads to the doctor
for an ultrasound, and is warned
not to push her luck.

battalionAt Lilac Compound, 6-year-old
Farah, or Shahla, or Zaynab
(names not necessarily changed)
begins a lucid dream:
at the edge of hearing,
wave upon wave of scarlet crabs
scuttling like lunatics
across the forest,
the spectacular migration
of a hundred-million-strong battalion
scratching its way toward the camp,
a red carpet unstoppably rolling,
two hundred million pincers
now hacking at the razor wire,
klikk, klakk,
klikk, klakk,
klikk…

Chinese migrant workers, otherwise known as 'coolies', at one of the phosphate mines on Christmas Island. Photograph taken in 1911. (National Archives of Australia, R32 CIPC 3/54B)

Chinese migrant workers, otherwise known as ‘coolies’, at one of the phosphate mines on Christmas Island. Photograph taken in 1911. (National Archives of Australia, R32 CIPC 3/54B)


Christmas Island

christmasislandVolpi jtir widnejh suwed,
imdendel minn siġra tniggeż,
‘il bogħod mill-aċtu jgħammex
tan-nemel isfar miġnun.
Mekkuk kummerċjali, tal-ħolm,
imtajjar mill-port spazjali tal-gżira,
bil-kokpit u l-passiġġieri ta’ quddiem
ġa megħjuba wara l-futur.
Poodle aħdar tropikali, bilwieqfa,
attent, jgħasses il-fruntieri
sovrani tat-terrier
tar-reġina Victoria.

Mony, Pulau Krismas,
Shèngdàn dǎo, it-territorju
Awstraljan ta’ Christmas Island,
pixximartell dieħel mill-ftuħ
tal-Oċean Indjan, ġwinħajh
imċarrta, rasu wiesgħa
titmewweġ fuq ir-ragħwa.

changkolL-għajn il-leminija tħares
lejn in-nofsinhar. Pajsaġġ qamri,
lewn il-berquq, sekli fuq sekli
ta’ ħut u krustaċji ddiġeriti
mill-baħar għal ġos-sema,
mis-sema għal fuq il-ħamrija.
1910. Kummissarji Brittaniċi jissorveljaw
lil pulizjotti Sikh jgħassu
lil ħaddiema Ċiniżi u Malaj jisiltu
fosfati tal-iprem kwalità, għall-esportazzjoni
bħala fertilizzant lill-kontinenti
u porvli tan-nar lill-Ġappun.
Ma’ tlugħ ix-xemx, ħafjin,
dahar il-migranti jitqawwas
huma u jbaqqnu biċ-changkol.
Ma’ nżul ix-xemx, ħafjin,
dahar l-ilsiera jiltewa bil-beri-beri
u ċ-changkols jiddawru fi krozzi.

SONY DSCL-għajn ix-xellugija tħares
lejn it-tramuntana. Jidher
u ma jidhirx, skont il-ħalel,
Diċembru 2010, SIEV-221,
il-mitejn wieħed u għoxrin
Suspected Irregular Entry Vessel
wara MV Tampa, jagħmel l-ilma bil-mod,
bl-ewwel ħuta taqsam il-gverta.
Aref (isem mibdul), stampatur
mis-subborgi ta’ Tehran,
iċarrat paġna wara l-oħra
minn passaport aħmar,
jgħaffiġha ballun, b’delikatezza,
igawdi kull ħoss, kull tikmixa,
imbagħad jixħitha fiż-żaqq ta’ mewġa.
Imxappa sew bis-salmura,
kull paġna mgħaffġa
taqa’ donnha troffa tal-borra
lejn it-Trunċiera ta’ Java.
Qed idawru mqass. Aref iqatta’
l-arma tal-qoxra
bħall-petali ta’ tulipan
u jitlaqhom f’ħobb ir-riħ,
imbagħad jaqla’ r-ritratt ta’ bintu
bil-kura mill-ewwel paġna,
u jżerżqu taħt il-ġakketta tas-salvataġġ
għal ġol-but tal-qmis.

crabsquashedSparat minn Flying Fish Cove
san-naħa l-oħra ta’ Murray Hill,
ix-xarabank tar-rifuġjati
jgħaffeġ il-korazza
ta’ granċ aħmar sejjer jgħammar.
Iż-żewġ qasbiet t’għajnejh
iħarsu lejn il-punent,
jaraw bla ma jaraw.
Mal-warrani tal-poodle,
mibni f’dak li baqa’
mit-tieni barriera tal-gwano,
il-Christmas Island Immigration
Reception and Processing Centre,
immexxi mill-kumpanija tas-sigurtà Brittanika
Psycho (isem mibdul),
intrapriża elenkata fil-Borża ta’ Londra,
membru tal-FTSE 250 Index,
iċċarrat it-talbiet għall-ażil
f’voti elettorali.

Cable reference id #09CANBERRA1006,
il-kliem ta’ strateġist ewlieni
tal-Partit Liberali
waqt tè u biskuttini
max-chargé d’affaires Amerikan:
“Fantastiku… Aktar ma jiġu
dgħajjes, aktar aħjar.”

Il-qamar fil-mużqaq,
il-monsun ilu li beda.
F’Aqua Compound, Granaz
(isem mibdul), omm tqila
qed titlef id-demm, tittallab
lit-tabib għal ultrasound, u jwissuha
biex ma tittantax xortiha.

svDETENTION-420x0F’Lilac Compound, Farah,
jew Shahla, jew Zaynab
(ismijiet mhux bilfors mibdula),
tifla ta’ sitt snin,
tibda toħlom imqajma:
f’tarf is-smigħ, mewġa fuq
mewġa ġranċijiet skarlati
jiġġerrew imġienen ġol-foresta,
il-migrazzjoni spettakolari
ta’ battaljun ta’ mitt miljun
iħakkek fi triqtu lejn il-kamp,
tapit aħmar jirrombla, ma jwaqqfu xejn,
mitejn miljun tnalja
jqasqsu l-fildiferru,
klikk, klakk,
klikk, klakk,
klikk…

crabs2

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Robben Island

Robben Island. In the background, Cape Town, Table Mountain, and the Cape Peninsula.

Robben Island. In the background, Cape Town, Table Mountain, and the Cape Peninsula.

For the past ten days, I haven’t been living where I’m living. I searched for Robben Island on the map, and I’ve been absorbed ever since. Area 5.07 km², pretty much flat, 12 km north-north-west of Cape Town in Table Bay. Roughly oval in shape, yet at first, I found it difficult to describe, from any of the four cardinal viewpoints. I began to read voraciously. The climate, between Mediterranean and sub-Antarctic, and extremely windy. The wildlife – the seals that gave the island its name; the colony of African penguins that were almost completely exterminated by 1800; the rabbits released by Dutch settlers to provide ready meat for passing sailors, and which according to one account of 1958, had reached such a high Fibonacci number that they practically stripped the island of all vegetation.

Xhosa chiefs imprisoned at Robben Island in the 19th century. (Wangermann engraving from 1868 in the South African Library/Robben Island Museum)

Xhosa chiefs imprisoned at Robben Island in the 19th century. (Wangermann engraving from 1868 in the South African Library/Robben Island Museum)

More importantly for the Atlas poems, the history of the peoples that passed through the island, for a short stay or for decades, if not forever. Shipwrecks lined up in Rangatira Bay. A 600-strong leper colony. The first prisoner, Autshumato, known to the Dutch as Harry die Strandloper (‘the beachcomber’, in reference to his Khoisan tribe), after they had used him as an interpreter in the mid-17th century. A hundred years later, Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, one of Cape Town’s first imams, was also exiled to the island; a commemorative shrine was built for him there in 1969. Later, during the fifth Xhosa War in 1819, the British colonial government sentenced African leader Makanda Nxele to life imprisonment on the island; he managed to escape and swim to the continent, only to drown metres before reaching the shore.

Prisoners crushing stone at the Robben Island B-Section courtyard. (UWC-Robben Island Mayibuye Archives)

Prisoners crushing stone at the Robben Island B-Section courtyard. (UWC-Robben Island Mayibuye Archives)

Then of course, there was the maximum security prison for political prisoners, operative from 1961 to 1991. You’ll find dozens of documentaries about it. I watched far too many; they began to repeat themselves, and at times contradict each other. The list of apartheid opponents confined to the island is very long. Today, thousands flock every year to see the prison museum, in particular cell number 5. I’d love to visit one day, though judging by the footage I saw online, I fear I’ll be disappointed by its all-too-sensational presentation. I’ll let the poem below tell the rest. Beyond the homage to Mandela and fellow prisoners – their ‘scholarly’ resistance is a fascinating story -, it’s also a tribute to the people who are still waiting, still imprisoned in that more ‘informal’ yet glaringly visible order of social and economic apartheid, that persists after the demise of the political one.

Afrika Moni, local resident and tour guide at ImiZamo Yethu township. Photo by Amy.

Afrika Moni, local resident and tour guide at ImiZamo Yethu township. Photo by Amy.

English adaptation first, Maltese original given afterwards. The place names and souvenirs mentioned in the final part exist in reality. As does Afrika Moni, the admirable, enterprising tour guide at the ImiZamo Yethu township. There are dozens of articles online about his work and commitment to the community. I hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing his name. Superstar Mandela is not the only hero in this long, as yet unended story.

(Thanks to my good friend and fellow Maltese poet Clifton Azzopardi for the short Rorschach session and ideas, and to the members of Kelmet il-Malti for the discussion on a number of Maltese words.)

Location-map-Robben-Island-UNESCO-world-heritage-site-South-Africa
Robben Island

1

mythicalbaobabDroplet of mud tossed
off the chin of the rhinocerous,
after he awoke to find his long horn
had been hacked off.
Yellow-green husk
launched from amid the branches
of the giant baobab,
rinsed in the shivering surf
of the Benguela current.
Gold nugget that rolled
off the edge of Table Mountain,
where the lion and the devil
face each other at breakfast.

From the east

From the east

Robbeneiland, island of seals –
or from the Bloubergstrand beach,
the head of a single seal,
resting on the sand.
From under the military beret,
the seal keeps an eye
on the Antarctic squall,
waiting for the right moment
to make a move and slither its way
back beneath the surge. Patience.

From the south

From the south

From the Cape Town harbour,
a standing rabbit, with wilted
ears, starting to feel hungry
after having sheared with her teeth
the very last blade of grass
off the face of the island.
Chewing at the salty air,
she twitches her nostrils,
and gapes at the patches of green
on the continent across the bay. Patience.

From the west

From the west

From the open ocean, a Dutch
klomp, firm upon the froth,
with a hole above the big toe,
or an ostrich crouched in the mist,
lying low, with no idea
where her head is, let alone her neck,
believing her plumes are invisible.
Clinging to the rock, the shell
of a Midas Ear abalone, mother-of-pearl,
slightly chipped, eavesdropping
the gusts from beneath. Patience.

2

From the north

From the north

From Matroos Bay, to the north,
the convict, head well-screwed
upon the neck, gazes between the bars
of the limestone cell.
The currents of his heart
rising and falling with the waves,
the inmate remains composed,
serene, chin up –
he knows that behind the wall
there’s the world ocean,
he knows that opposite the island
a game of chess continues
on Table Mountain,
he knows that between Signal Hill
and the Cape of Good Hope
there’s the mermaid Mamlambo
on the look-out upon the cliff. Patience.

mandela-cell-jpg_extra_bigAutshumato, native interpreter,
Makhanda Nxele, Xhosa prophet,
Dennis Brutus, ‘coloured’ poet
of Dutch-Malay-Khoisan lineage,
Rolihlahla, the one who pulled at
the baobab branch like a sling to
send the husk flying,
446/64, Isolation Section B,
cell number 5, diet scale F,
no bread for the prisoners
from the Bantustans, cursed
children of Ham,
one letter every six months,
maximum 500 words,
18 years of patience,
a blotch on the map
of the palm of his hand, roughened
by the pounding of the pickaxe.

dompasMemories of when he worked
as a night watchman
at a gold mine in Johannesburg –
1941, twenty-three years old,
with a whistle, flashlight and club,
“BEWARE – NATIVES
CROSSING HERE”,
verifying the Dompass,
a brown passport,
of any native who dared
to approach the gate. Patience.

3

Robben-Island-Geological-Map.mediumthumbRobben Island, isle of no comfort,
thumbprint, link of a chain,
a tick biting at the skin,
a chunk chipped off the rock
struck only for the sake of killing time,
the tear that the prisoner’s eye
can no longer shed
after the tear ducts clogged up
with limestone dust.

SONY DSCPatience. We’ll turn this prison
into a clandestine school,
the University of Robben Island –
we’ll teach each other to read
by scrawling letters in the limestone dust,
we’ll study crumpled papers
in the toilet cubicles,
with a football league we’ll prepare
the administration of tomorrow,
we’ll deepen our roots
in the soil of our country
from outside the continent.

abalonePatience. The great gale
will come, be it Bergwind
or Cape Doctor, the abalone
will be blown off the rock
to reveal a marbled palette,
where the mermaid Mamlambo
will dip the brush of her tail
to layer seven colours
across the baobab trunk.

4

cape_town_lrgIn the shade of the baobab,
under the new rainbow,
opposite the island, amid
Mamlambo’s serpentine braids,
a swarm of tourists
desperate for memorabilia.

mandelahandAt Nelson Mandela Gateway
silver-plated coins,
with Robben Island in relief
and the bust of Rolihlahla.
At the end of Nelson Mandela Boulevard,
in the Central Business District,
rare 5 Rand coins
with Tata’s smile
from ear to ear
selling for 100,000 Rand.
At Mandela Place Hotel & Spa,
a mining company advert:
a solid gold replica
of Madiba’s right hand
waving to the crowd,
the entire map, down to the last
crease of his palm, waiting
for an auction bid. Patience.

stonesOn the other side of Table
Mountain, in the mermaid’s bosom,
at ImiZamo Yethu, known also
by the name Mandela Park Township,
the guided tour is on.
On the corner of S Biko Street
and N R Mandela Road,
a litter of barefoot children
with a handful of stones they gathered
from the Disa River,
painted with Rolihlahla’s face,
Hamba Kahle Madiba, Dankie Tata,
Long Walk to Freedom,
waiting for a buyer to appear
among the travellers from Europe.

imizamoyethuMeanwhile, Afrika Moni,
the tour guide who dreams
of one day becoming a journalist,
with a calm smile, turns his head
and gazes between the wire poles,
northward, toward the edge of Table
Mountain, under a cloth of cloud,
and does his best to go on smiling,
lest he reveal to his guests
that he may soon begin
to lose his patience.

View from corner of S Biko Street and N R Mandela Road, ImiZamo Yethu, Hout Bay, Cape Peninsula

View from corner of S Biko Street and N R Mandela Road, ImiZamo Yethu Township, Hout Bay, Cape Peninsula. Looking north toward southern edge of Table Mountain.


Robben Island

1

Location-map-Robben-Island-UNESCO-world-heritage-site-South-AfricaQatra tajn mixħuta
minn ma’ geddum ir-rinoċeronti
wara li ħanxrulu qarnu t-twil.
Ġewża ħadra-safra
mtajra minn ġol-friegħi
tal-baobab il-kbir,
titlaħlaħ fir-ragħwa rieżħa
tal-kurrent ta’ Benguela.
Farka deheb li tgerbbet
minn fuq il-Muntanja tal-Mejda,
fejn l-iljun u x-xitan
joftru ras imb ras.

Mil-lvant

Mil-lvant

Robbeneiland, gżira tal-bumerini –
jew mix-xatt ta’ Bloubergstrand,
ras ta’ bumerin wieħed,
mitluqa fuq ir-ramel.
Minn taħt il-beritta militari,
il-bumerin jgħasses b’għajn waħda
l-burraxka antartika,
jistenna l-waqt preċiż
biex jiċċaqlaq u jitkaxkar
lura taħt il-ħalel. Paċenzja.

Min-nofsinhar

Min-nofsinhar

Mill-port ta’ Belt il-Kap,
fenka bilwieqfa, widnejha
midbiela, dieħel il-ġuħ
wara li qaxxret bi snienha
l-aħħar sufa ħaxix
minn wiċċ il-gżira.
Hi u tomgħod l-arja mielħa
tqarras tnejn imnifsejha,
ċassa lejn l-irqajja’ ħodor
tal-kontinent faċċata. Paċenzja.

Mill-punent

Mill-punent

Mill-ftuħ tal-oċean, zokkla
Olandiża, soda fuq ir-ragħwa,
b’toqba fejn is-seba’ l-kbir,
jew nagħma mgeddsa fiċ-ċpar,
iżżomm fil-baxx, ma tafx
fejn hi rasha, wisq anqas għonqha,
u mingħaliha li rixha ma jidhirx.
Iggranfata mal-blat, qoxra ta’ mħara
ta’ widnet Midas, madriperla,
kemxejn imċaqqma, tissemma’
l-irwiefen minn taħt. Paċenzja.

2

Mit-tramuntana

Mit-tramuntana

Minn Matroos Bay, tramuntana,
il-ħabsi, rasu fuq għonqu,
issummat bejn l-iżbarri
taċ-ċella tal-ġir.
Telgħin u niżlin mal-mewġ
il-kurrenti ta’ ġo qalbu,
il-ħabsi joqgħod b’sabru,
sielem, geddumu ‘l fuq –
jaf li wara l-ħajt
hemm oċean id-dinja,
jaf li faċċata tal-gżejra
hemm logħba ċess għaddejja
fuq il-Muntanja tal-Mejda,
jaf li bejn Signal Hill
u Kap it-Tama t-Tajba
hemm is-sirena Mamlambo
tissajja fuq l-irdum. Paċenzja.

Autshumato

Autshumato

Autshumato, torċman indiġenu,
Makhanda Nxele, profeta Xhosa,
Dennis Brutus, poeta mżewwaq
Olandiż-Malaj-Khojsan,
Rolihlahla, dak li ġibed bħal wadab
il-fergħa tal-baobab
biex itajjar il-ġewża,
446/64, Isolation Section B,
ċella numru 5, skala tad-dieta F,
ħobż xejn għall-ħabsin
mill-Bantustanijiet, ulied
misħuta ta’ Ħam,
ittra waħda kull sitt xhur,
massimu 500 kelma,
18-il sena paċenzja,
ċappa waħda fuq il-mappa
tal-keffa t’idu mħarrxa
bit-taħbit tal-baqqun.

dompas2Tifkiriet ta’ meta kien jaħdem
t’għassies ta’ bil-lejl
f’minjiera tad-deheb
ta’ Johannesburg –
1941, tlieta u għoxrin sena,
bis-suffara, bit-torċ, bil-lenbuba,
“BEWARE – NATIVES
CROSSING HERE”,
jivverifika d-Dompass,
passaport kannella,
ta’ kull indiġenu li jazzarda
javviċina x-xatba. Paċenzja.

3

Robben-Island-Geological-Map.mediumthumbRobben Island, gżejra bla wens,
marka tal-behem, ħolqa ta’ katina,
qurdiena tgiddem fil-ġilda,
laqxa mċaqqma mill-ġebla
mkissra biss biex jgħaddu l-ħin,
id-demgħa li għajn il-ħabsi
ormaj ma tistax iddemma’
wara li nstaddulha l-kanali
bit-trab tal-ġir.

onsdienmettrotsPaċenzja. Dal-ħabs nibdluh
fi skola klandestina,
l-Università ta’ Robben Island –
fl-għabra tal-ġir inħarbxu l-ittri
ħa ngħallmu naqraw ‘il xulxin,
nistudjaw il-karti mkemmxa
fil-kubiklu tal-loki,
b’lig tal-futbol inħejju
l-amministrazzjoni t’għada,
infanndu għeruqna
fil-ħamrija ta’ pajjiżna
minn barra l-kontinent.

mami_wata_poster_lgPaċenzja. Ir-riefnu l-kbir
għad jasal, ikunx grigal
mill-muntanji jew xlokk
mill-oċean, l-imħara
għad tinqala’ minn mal-blat
u tikxef tavlozza mraħħma,
fejn is-sirena Mamlambo
għad tbill il-pinzell ta’ denbha
biex tiżbogħ sebat ilwien
ma’ zokk il-baobab.

4

cape-peninsula-mapFid-dell tal-baobab,
taħt il-qawsalla l-ġdida,
faċċata tal-gżejra, qalb it-trizzi
mserrpa ta’ Mamlambo,
biżibilju turisti
mejtin għat-tifkiriet.

1120 per cent Mandela 5 rand coinF’Nelson Mandela Gateway
muniti miksija bil-fidda,
bir-riljiev ta’ Robben Island
u l-bust ta’ Rolihlahla.
F’tarf Nelson Mandela Boulevard,
fis-Central Business District,
muniti rari ta’ 5 Rand
bit-tbissima ta’ Tata
minn widna għal widna
jinbiegħu għal 100,000 Rand.
F’Mandela Place Hotel & Spa,
riklam t’intrapriża tal-minjieri:
replika f’deheb mastizz
tal-id leminija ta’ Madiba
xxejjer lill-ġemgħa,
il-mappa kollha, sal-aħħar
kemxa tal-keffa, tistenna
offerta bl-irkant. Paċenzja.

stonesIn-naħa l-oħra tal-Muntanja
tal-Mejda, f’ħobb is-sirena,
f’ImiZamo Yethu, magħruf ukoll
bl-isem Mandela Park Township,
għaddejja l-ġita tat-turisti.
Fil-kantuniera ta’ S Biko Street
ma’ N R Mandela Road,
boton tfal ħafjin
b’koċċ ġebel li ġabru
mix-xmara Disa,
b’wiċċ Rolihlahla mpinġi fuqhom,
Hamba Kahle Madiba, Dankie Tata,
Long Walk to Freedom,
jistennew li jitfaċċa xerrej
fost il-vjaġġaturi Ewropej.

View from corner of S Biko Street and N R Mandela Road, ImiZamo Yethu, Hout Bay, Cape PeninsulaIntant, Afrika Moni,
il-gwida tal-ġita li joħlom
li xi darba jsir ġurnalist,
bi tbissima kalma, idawwar rasu
u jibqa’ ssummat bejn l-arbli tal-wajers,
tramuntana, lejn tarf il-Muntanja
tal-Mejda, taħt dvalja sħab,
u jibqa’ jitbissem kif jista’,
ma jmurx jikxef lill-mistednin
li dalwaqt jibda jitlef il-paċenzja.

Situationsplan_von_Kapstadt

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Għal għonq it-triq #7: Jack Hirschman

Jack Hirschman. Ritratt mill-album 'Jacckissimo', ta' Marco Cinque.

Jack Hirschman. Mill-album Jacckissimo, ta’ Marco Cinque.

Illum, it-13 ta’ Diċembru, il-poeta Jack Hirschman jagħlaq 80 sena. Tmenin, u għaddej ġmielu! Nistħajlu n-nannu Whitman. Bħalu, minn New York, u beda minn Paumanok. Bħalu, ta’ spirtu wiesa’, iħaddan id-dinja mingħajr ma jifgaha. Bħalu, poeta minn dawk fejn il-jien mhuwiex il-jien ta’ wieħed, iżda ta’ ħafna, eluf, fuq il-paġna u lil hinn minnha.

Darba f’mitt qamar, tiltaqa’ ma’ persuna għall-ewwel darba, bla mistenni, u tħoss minnufih li ilek tafha snin twal, b’ċerta intimità li m’għandhiex bżonn titlissen. Fir-Readers Review, Byron Spooner, li laqqagħni ma’ Jack, jirrakkonta l-annedotu ħlejju ta’ kif iltqajna. Pariġi, Ġunju 2010, fil-park faċċata tan-Notre Dame, ftit sigħat wara qari tal-Passaport fil-Marché de la Poésie ta’ Place Saint-Sulpice. Bniedem ta’ tenerezza kbira, qisu n-nannu bil-beritta, kalm, seba’ widnejn, jikkmanda rispett b’leħen ta’ ħabib antik.

Minn irdum ta' Lamma Island

Minn irdum ta’ Lamma Island

Kien żmien ikrah, bil-mewt tan-nanna għadha friska, u l-laqgħa ma’ Jack kienet l-uniku skoll ta’ ferħ f’baħar ta’ diqa fonda. Aktar tard dik il-lejla, niftaħ il-gazzetta tax-Shakespeare & Company u ninzerta l-poeżija Path. Kont ilni ma nfittixha bla ma kont naf. Poeżija paterna, mielsa, dritt għall-punt, fuq kif mill-qsim il-qalb jitwieled il-leħen għall-ewwel darba, umli u ġewnin. M’hemmx triq oħra: il-qalb trid tħalliha tinkiser biex mix-xquq joħroġ id-dawl. Imxi lejn qalbek maqsuma. / Jekk mingħalik li m’għandekx, mur sibha. / Biex issibha, kun sinċier. / Tgħallem is-sinċerità tar-rieda billi tħalli / tidħol il-ħajja, għax tridx jew le, / ma tistax tagħmel mod ieħor. L-istess biċċa karta mill-gazzetta għadha mitwija fil-kartiera sal-lum, bit-traduzzjoni Maltija ħdejha bil-lapes, f’każ ta’ emerġenza, qisha karta tal-assigurazzjoni medika. Xahrejn wara, waħdi fuq irdum imwerraq ta’ Lamma Island, gżira ta’ Ħong Kong forma ta’ klamar bit-tentakli jissikkaw, dik il-poeżija salvatli ħajti.

path
sf passaportiSentejn wara li ltqajt ma’ Jack, sibt ruħi San Francisco, f’festival ta’ poeżija internazzjonali mmexxi minnu u minn martu Agneta Falk. Esperjenza minn dawk li jberrħu l-kuxjenza, jittondjaw ir-ruħ. Id-dawl Paċifiku ta’ dik il-belt għandu mod kif jibqa’ dieħel sal-ifnad irqajja’ tal-moħħ, jidħollok fil-vini, iħaffiflek il-pass. Għandi travelogue bil-lapes, tliet kwarti ta’ pitazz żebbuġi, li naf li x’aktarx qatt m’jien se naħsel indur għalih biex nittanta nittajpjah. Ġimgħa ta’ ferħ u ħbiberija, ta’ ftuħ totali lejn id-dinja. North Beach. Kerouac Alley. Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Il-leħen iwassal ta’ Matt Sedillo jirbombja kontra l-ħitan tas-City Hall. Specs, Caffè Trieste, il-poker room moħbi ta’ Tosca fejn ittraduċejna x-xogħol ta’ xulxin qalb id-duħħan u d-daħq jixpakka. Id-dija tal-oċean jien u nsuqha lejn ir-redwoods primevali u l-laguni tan-naħa ta’ fuq tal-Kalifornja. Għalija, f’dak il-festival, il-qari pubbliku tal-Passaport kien biss pretest. L-aktar mument għażiż, meta waqt l-ikla tal-poeti, qomt u qrajt Mogħdija, it-traduzzjoni Maltija ta’ Path, b’radd ta’ ġieħ lil Jack.

Jack Hirschman u Agneta Falk.

Jack Hirschman u Agneta Falk.

Min hu Jack Hirschman? Storja twila, 80 sena preċiżi. Poeta spiss imsemmi flimkien ma’ sħabu Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso u Ferlinghetti, iżda b’leħen għalih. Poeta patern, li jisħaq fuq l-hena essenzjali tal-ħajja daqskemm iħaqqaqha, ċajtier u manjanimu dejjem, fuq il-ġustizzja soċjali, komunist mingħajr tlaqliq. Awtur ta’ 50 volum ta’ vrus, fosthom The Arcanes, ġabra ta’ 126 poeżija twila mifruxa fuq 35 sena. Traduttur prim, minn tużżana lingwi. Rivoluzzjonarju, b’lingwaġġ poetiku sempliċi fit-tidwir tiegħu, ‘il bogħod mill-akkademiċiżmu formali tal-East Coast li ma damx ma telqu warajh.

Awguri għal għeluq sninek, Jack, u ad multos annos, et arcanos!


Mogħdija

Imxi lejn qalbek maqsuma.
Jekk mingħalik li m’għandekx, mur sibha.
Biex issibha, kun sinċier.
Tgħallem is-sinċerità tar-rieda billi tħalli
tidħol il-ħajja, għax tridx jew le,
ma tistax tagħmel mod ieħor.
Int u tittanta taħrab, ħalliha taqbdek
u tqaċċtek,
bħal ittra mibgħuta,
bħal sentenza ġo fiha
li ilek għomrok tistenna li tinqata’
minkejja li ma għamilt xejn ħażin.
Ħalliha terfgħek ‘il fuq.
Ħalliha taqsmek, qalb.
Il-qalb maqsuma hi l-bidu
ta’ kull akkoljenza reali.
Widnet l-umiltà tisma’ lil hinn mill-ixtiebi.
Arahom jinfetħu l-ixtiebi.
Ħoss idejk jistrieħu fuq ġenbejk,
ħalqek jiftaħ bħal ġuf
biex iwelled leħnek għall-ewwel darba.
Itlaq itkanta u żżagrag fil-hena
li sempliċement tkun int.
Ikteb il-poeżija tiegħek.

L-hena

Hemm hena, hemm
għaxqa fir-ruħ, li ndifnet
ħajja f’qiegħ kulħadd
u dlonk intesiet.

Mhijiex iċ-ċajta ta’ mal-bar
jew id-daħq ta’ bejn tnejn
jew iż-żegħil tal-ħbiberija
jew il-logħob bil-kliem jixpakka.

Huma l-meħlusin li ħelsuha
minn dak li seħħ meta l-hena
ndifnet ħajja, meta
ma kinitx baqgħet tħares

mill-għajnejn tal-lum, u li
lanqas ma tixref meta xi ħadd
minn fostna jmut, biss nitilqu
kollox warajna, waħedna

ma’ dak li jibqa’ minna,
inkomplu nkunu essri umani
mingħajr ma nsiru umani,
mingħajr dik l-hena.


Ħajr lil Clifton Azzopardi u l-kumpanni ta’ Kelmet il-Malti tal-għajnuna fit-traduzzjoni tal-poeżija
L-hena.
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