Black Christmas (Mohammad Ali Maleki)

Ah, black Christmas,
you’ve arrived again, too soon.
Why did you hurry back?
We’re not glad to see you,
we’ve been imprisoned for so many years.

Ah, black Christmas —
Come! Our hearts are full of sorrow.
Father’s back is broken
and Mother’s eyes are filled with tears.

Ah, black Christmas,
our hearts are deeply bleeding wounds.
You give joy to others
but to us you bring bad luck.

Ah, black Christmas,
l take mental pills every night.
l am afraid of dreaming;
may this empty mind find relief.

Ah, black Christmas,
my tongue is scared of its own words.
l babbling nonsense things
but it’s not me speaking,
it’s my shadow.

Ah, black Christmas,
why do you hide behind yourself?
Why are your feet in chains?
If even you are captive
then there’s no chance of me getting free.


Mohammad Ali Maleki in the garden he grew in detention on Manus Island. This garden has since been destroyed by authorities.

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 nine years. 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 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.

Mohammed has published a poetry chapbook, Truth in the Cage, which is available in eBook and print formats in Verity La’s online bookshop. He has also published an illustrated book-length poem, The Strong Sunflower, and his newest book is The Fox. It is a tale about power and uncertainty and follows a hungry animal roaming the countryside for food. The book includes illustrations by fourteen artists and is bound with a sewn spine in reference to Mohammad’s past work as a tailor. You can buy The Strong Sunflower and The Fox through the Writing Through Fences book shop. Profits from the sales of Mohammad’s books go directly to the author.