Miriam Calleja

Miriam Calleja

Miriam Calleja is a bilingual poet and Maltese wordsmith. Her poetry collections, Pomegranate Heart (EDE Books, 2015) and Inside Skin (EDE Books, 2016), have been described as ‘fresh’, ‘intimate’, and ‘sensual’. She has been published in a number of journals and poetry anthologies worldwide, such as For the Silent by Indigo Dreams Publishing, Please Hear What I’m Not Saying by Fly on the Wall Press, and Magic by The Gloucestershire Poetry Society.

Her work has been translated into Slovene, Greek, Romanian, French, Norwegian, and Frisian.

In 2017, she was recognised by the Network of Young Women Leaders as a leading female artist in Malta. In 2018 she received an honourable mention for the national poetry competition Mons. Amante Buontempo. In 2018 she was longlisted for the Troubadour International Prize. She has read at events in Malta, the UK, Italy, Berlin, San Francisco, and New York.

In 2020 she will be a guest author at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival. Following an artist residency in Munich, she will present her work at the Shamrock Festival for women poets. She is currently working on her next collection of poetry.

 
The island life

What saves you from fear
of complete isolation?
You lie awake at night,
thinking of your roots,
half-immersed in salt water,
clutching the warm earth.

Not knowing their true nature,
you watch neighbours ride horses,
leaving the stable light on.
You reach the dusty road,
but forgetting your destination,
turn back,
and forget to go back home. 

 
The song of the sea in winter

The fisherman takes you home –
only it isn’t his home, it is yours;
but still, it smells of fish, and traps, and the sea in winter.
He takes you home but it isn’t his home
it is a swollen belly of skin growing cold –
the fisherman wants to woo you,
but he won’t do it until you invite him in. 

 
An islander takes you home

It is a double-edged sword
of friendliness and secrecy
lots of doors, too many to count
with keys to locks that are hiding in them
there are ticking clocks that are out of sync
there are cages and salty spaces
humidity creeps up on you
the day turns to night
in fast-forward motion
the crickets’ song seems to be coming from inside the room
you try to pay attention while he speaks
but you’re lost
in resonance
wine
and song
you’re lost in this
paradise
of fishermen

where everything is not quite as it seems.


You are my island

I

You are my city
Ceremoniously a ribbon was cut
In your honour, the brass bands played
The mayor put on his best suit
For the occasion
(Of which there aren’t many
Nowadays)

You are my country
I fly your flag in honour
I don’t care what the neighbours think
My screams and cries permeate the air
You are my country
I wear you with pride

You are my beach resort
I play loud music till the small hours
I don’t tire, but when I dob
I sleep on the warm sand
That you made for me
I drink your tropical fruits
My skin smells of sunshine

You are my saviour
I crash into your shores
Your acceptance is unwavering
You are my saviour
I am on solid ground with you

You are my motherland
I lap up your milk and honey
Like a hungry stray
I sit on your lap
Even when you’re a stranger
I speak my mother tongue
It rolls off your ears
And falls to the ground

You are my island
I swim around you to protect you
I swim and swallow the water
But it is sweet
My skin gets wrinkled in your waters
You are my island
I wait for my end of days in you.

 
II

you are my island
the sun that burns your leaves
burns mine
the storms which you suffer
give me a beating

you are my island
I must protect you
like a mother cat
but you are stronger, more powerful

you can take me down with you
you are my island
and I am yours.

 
Poetry in this post: © Miriam Calleja
Published with the permission of Miriam Calleja