A Christian in Manus Prison (Mohammad Ali Maleki)

Dedicated to my brothers in Bomana Immigration Prison

There is no one left in this world who has not heard your name.
Everyone knows your story.
We humans are all ashamed before you
because you gave your blood on the cross
to wash away our sins.

My Lord, you were always God, but we didn’t know you.
You came among us like a human being, but we denied you.
We crucified you with nails on the cross —
we’ve done such terrible things to you.
And many have worn your lamb’s clothing
though their hearts were the hearts of wolves.
They have used your words to advantage themselves:
the only wanted power.

Like a beam of light your Word crossed the mountains, seas and forest.
When it reached our town, I was opened and found
like a flower, or nightingale.
But when unbelievers heard about my love
I was sentenced to prison and death.
So following your words
I left my family and home to worship as a free man.

I travelled to the city of freedom
and introduced myself as a Lover of Christ 
— such a beautiful phrase! —
but they put me in a cage with disrespect.
They said, it’s your punishment for being in love,
to live with thousands of people in this cage.

At that moment, l recalled Judas.
He was a newsmonger and betrayed you for a few coins.
My Lord, there is such a difference between
these people’s words and actions.
Their behaviour is not clear; Judas was the same.
They found fellow newsmongers among us,
people who preferred to be animals rather than humans,
making them airy promises of fine clothes and freedom.

Some of our friends lost their lives during these last years.
My Lord, you saw how the freedom-wish died within them.
How the traitors ignored the mothers’ cries
when their children’s corpses were carried home;
the followers of Judas had stabbed us in the back.

We have read in the Holy Bible what happened to Judas:
God, you know how to punish these ones too.
My Lord, since I’ve known you
I’ve always been caged or chained.
I’ve suffered so much for following you —
but it’s worth it because, even when I’m imprisoned,
my soul remains free.

* Translated from the original Farsi by Mansoor Shoshtari, and edited in English by Marilyn Beech and Michele Seminara

Mohammad Ali Maleki is an Iranian poet and avid gardener who has been living in detention on Manus Island for five years. His poetry is written in Farsi and translated into English by fellow detainee Mansour Shoushtari. Mohammad uses his mobile phone to send his poems to friends in Australia who help to edit, share and publish them.

Mohammad’s poem ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was the impetus for, and first work published on, Verity La’s Discoursing Diaspora project. Since then, his writing has been published by online literary journal, Bluepepper, and by the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group. He has been a featured poet on Rochford Street Review and his poems and letters have been included in the Dear Prime Minister project and at the Denmark Festival of Voice.  His poem ‘Tears of Stone’ was shortlisted for the Red Room Company’s New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 & received Special Commendation for extraordinary work in extreme circumstances. His poem ‘Silence Land’ was performed at the 2017 Queensland Poetry Festival as part of the Writing Through Fences performance, Through the Moon. An essay about his writing can be found in the Extreme Texts Issue of Jacket2 magazine. 

Mohammad’s chapbook, Truth in the Cage, is available for purchase in ebook and print from our online shop. All proceeds go directly to the author.