June 20 is United Nations World Refugee Day, a day where we hold the 25.9 million refugees of the world in our thoughts.
Refugees around the world have made and are still making treacherous journeys in pursuit of peace, prosperity, and the full enjoyment of basic human rights.
Iranian poet Mohammad Ali Maleki undertook the perilous journey of an asylum seeker seven years ago. Unfortunately, he — and many like him — still wait in limbo in the cruel Australian immigration detention system.
Today we pay tribute to the courage and resilience of refugees everywhere, and share two of Mohammad’s powerful poems in the hope they may foster increased understanding and compassion towards the plight of refugees, and inspire action on the behalf of Australian citizens and its Government to treat those who come to our shores seeking safety with the care and respect they deserve.
What should I do? My lifetime
is being wasted —
All paths leads to extermination.
All plans lead to destruction.
My life source is spent and nearing
its end. Soon the stars in the sky will expire.
I wish it were possible to rewind
time, to relive my happier days.
I had my first date with my love in the park.
We sat on a bench and I gave her an apple.
Her lips grew redder with every bite
then the sky grew cloudy
and love rain fell on our heads.
We shared such promises with each other!
I said I must go but will return soon —
Then I travelled and lost knowledge of her.
She waited for me for a few years…
Now I hear she has gone with another.
For years I tried to make her mine!
Damn this ocean journey I undertook.
What should I do — send her a text,
or cry and burn like a candle to the end of my days?
I’ve lost both my love and my life.
For years now I’ve been captive inside my own mind.
I’m finished with the mind goals —
welcome to my house of sorrow.
We young people are the burnt generation;
we search through the rubbish for our dreams.
There’s no soul left in my body.
For years I’ve been stuck between
heaven and earth, screaming the truth —
They pulled the tongue out of my throat.
For years I dug a deep hole to bury my goals in.
But racist and dirty-minded people
have tired me of life in so many ways.
Hey Death, over here with your chariot!
My friends still bury their goals underground
in the hope that one day they might grow.
But the rain doesn’t fall and the sun doesn’t shine:
our seeds decay in the soil.
History is repeating for us; our destiny
is always the same. There’s no difference
between living and dying for me —
Death, speed me away.
Poems translated by Mansour Shoshtari and edited by Michele Seminara
You can purchase Mohammad’s poetry chapbook, ‘Truth in the Cage’, online at the Verity La Bookshop in print or eBook format. All profits go directly to the author.
Mohammad Ali Maleki is an Iranian poet and avid gardener who has been living in detention on Manus Island and now in Brisbane Detention Centre for nearly seven 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 poems have been featured in Verity La, Bluepepper, Rochford Street Review, and by the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group. His work has 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 and 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 work has been published in the Extreme Texts Issue of Jacket2 magazine.
Despite living in extreme conditions, Mohammad continues to create poetry saying, ‘You can find my whole life in my poems, like a letter to God’.
Mohammed’s poetry chapbook, Truth in the Cage, was published in 2018. It is available for purchase in eBook and print formats at Verity La’s online bookshop.