Maria Grech Ganado, (b. 1943), poet, translator, critic, studied English at the Universities of Malta, Cambridge and Heidelberg. She was the first Maltese female Full-Time Lecturer at the University of Malta (Department of English), has published three collections of Maltese poetry (the first of which won a National Book Prize in 2002) and two of English (the second of which won a National Book Prize in 2006). Her poetry in one language or other has been translated into Italian, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Turkish, Lithuanian, Finnish, Czech and Catalan. It has appeared in English in the UK, the USA, Australia, South Africa and Cyprus.
She has been invited to many literary events in different countries and co-organised an international conference with LAF (Literature Across Frontiers) in Malta in 2005. In 2008, thanks to an exchange scheme with Saint James Cavalier, Malta, she was a Resident Fellow for six weeks at the Virginia Centre for the Creative Arts. Maria has also translated into English much of the contemporary poetry and prose written by Maltese writers today and published overseas. In 2000, she received the MQR – Midalja ghall-Qadi tar-Repubblika (Medal for Service to the Republic). She has three children and one grandson.
Sometimes I see you glide right out
and away, and over the edge of the world.
If we try to reach each other, our voices are
like the wind in your sails, like my wails in the wind.
Columbus never set sail,
Galileo was justly condemned,
Copernicus proved Ptolemy’s greatest fan…
…and because we created words which were flat
and burst the spheres we might have had
I see you sail right out to sea
and over the edge of the world.
‘They had got to a bridge in no-man’s land when the shots
put an end to their love’. The newscaster’s voice resounds,
while I park the car, with a solemnity suited to the event, or else
just an attempt at capturing his audience. Gathering my books
together hurriedly, since my class too should start at eight, I note
that it’s about a couple, Croat and Serb, but shrug it off in the lift
to scan the boldly-printed latest school directive: ‘No indecent
behaviour allowed on the premises. No kissing, no cuddling.’
In class, my boys and girls, their ‘Romeo & Juliet’ texts ignored,
hushed, tentative, explore the story heard the night before, late
on TV. I opt to overlook one girl kissing her boyfriend
and clinging to him blind. ‘They were no older, miss’, she pleads,
‘than him and me.’ A quick glance at the clock. I hear myself say:
‘I’m sorry. But I’m afraid we’ve got to get on with the lesson now,
so please open your books, Act V, Scene iii – in the light of what
happens now, let us discuss the basic theme of the play.’
Your uterus is very small, our gynae says,
at my Internal, booked to save time
together with my daughter’s weekly check –
and so dispenses with me, then turns
to check the pulsing world of hers.
The Leonardo print there on his wall generates
in me concepts about line and sphere,
both earth and heaven intervolved in St Anne’s family
with its pyramid of generations on each other’s knee –
and suddenly I feel my mother rise within me
as she had formed me once to permeate the future,
as I had then repeated with my daughter, and this
new birth might do, when I’d lie dead.
We thank the doctor, pay our dues and leave.
And then my daughter smiles, guiding my hand
straight to her belly with its mesh of lines and sphere,
and I smile back, my hand pulsing with movement
as my first grandchild heaves.
For years I’ve stalked you.
There were times I lost the trail –
or else some other tore my eyes away, because
I’ve always had a curious mind, preferring
to be the seeker than the prey.
It was your spores of light which sometimes played
in thickets or in clearings, on stone, through trees
which still distracted me, slipping from night to night
flitting in space, as if place and momentum
could be measured simultaneously
no matter what Heisenberg had claimed.
And yet, about uncertainty – well, he was right –
for even when I catch you moving, I’m moved too
to find out where I am, or who. My principles
grow watery, unsure. I become prey.
I wish you’d let me stalk you as before, controlling
my own time from spot to spot, stopping
to watch you sport as particle or wave – by turns,
not both at once, at once both wild and tame.
This tension is immense. Immeasurable.
I do not need it fathomed, or explained.
You do not understand about the thread
which winds me to the shelter of that particular
leaf on that particular tree
when dark thoughts lour with rain.
You do not know enough of the pain
of blame or of its stormy struggle
to uproot what you call my barren fig
though my dreams are its real fruit.
You see only, calm evenings later,
leaves fall and wantonly drift out of structures
believed superseded, out of strictures
deemed no longer needed.
But I blamed you. The thought continues
to rankle among the rain-soaked leaves our feet
drag under. You did not blame and I
blamed you and must blame you again.
You may chew up my outbursts just to help me unwind,
but you love playing with yo-yos
and the threads you snap free spring right back
to that leaf in your mind.
For other contributions by Maria Grech Ganado, please follow the links below:
Poetry in this post: © Maria Grech Ganado
Published with the permission of Maria Grech Ganado