Mohammad Ali Maleki

Silence Land. A poem by Mohammad Ali Maleki

Dear Prime Minister,

The peaceful protests continue on Manus. The children on Nauru still have never walked on grass, only poisonous gravel. Men on Manus are handcuffed and flown to Port Moresby. An elderly, sick Rohingya man was told he must sign papers to go back to Myanmar or he will not be given any water or food. In Myanmar the Burmese army are burning Rohingyas alive. Ronnie Knight, MP of Manus Island, tweets that Toll are going to build a new detention centre on Manus. PNG police arrest any refugees they find unless they are paid cash. Women on Nauru cannot get terminations for their pregnancies while their rapists go unpunished. You are Prime Minister. This is done in your name. This will be your legacy.

Mohammad Ali Maleki fears he is losing his mind now that he is in his fifth year in Manus hell. He writes:

Silence Land

I have doubts about my sanity:
not everyone can bear this much.
They stole all my feelings;
there’s no wisdom left in my mind.
I am just a walking dead man.
I am just a walking dead man.

I yelled for help so many times –
No one on this earth took my hand.
Now I see many mad things and imagine
how the world would look if it collapsed.

Perhaps it would be good for everything to return to the past;
for nothing to be seen on the earth or in the sky.
It would feel so good to be a child
again and go back to my mother’s womb.
For there to be no sign of me,
for me never to have gone crazy in this place.

What if the woollen jacket I am wearing unravels
and begins to fall apart?
Or the butterfly flies back to its cocoon,
or the autumn leaf grows green and returns
to its branch on that old tree?
What if the tree becomes a seed in the soil –
I sound crazy speaking this way!

It’s the outcome of being detained for four years
after seeking asylum on the sea.

What if that sea returned to its source
and flowed back to the river mouth?
If that river receded back up into its spring?
What if only the sun and the moon remained in the sky?
If I saw even the sun’s birth reversed,
watched it dissipate into space?
Witnessed the moon implode upon itself?

All things returning to their starting place…

How beautiful, to live in a colourless world,
everywhere silent and still.
The earth would be calm for a moment,
free of even one miscreant.

But what do you make of my vision –
am I sane or mad?
— Mohammad Ali Maleki trans. Monsoor Shostari ed. Michelle Seminara


Dear Prime Minister,

'Brother', a poem by Mohammad Ali Maleki
Brother, how quietly you abandoned us alone. 
You left us alone, flew from our side. 
You made us mourn from your death. 
You broke our hearts and left us alone. 
We all saw you hanging from your neck in the tree. 
How cruelly that tree resisted. 
Whenever I see that tree,
I want to cut it down at the roots.
You're gone and the sun has turned pale. 
The moon and stars have turned pale too. 
The sun, clouds and sky were above your head. 
All of them were witness to your death. 
The sky, sympathising with us, 
Turned the clouds into pieces and it rained on us. 
It's so hard to die in estrangement. 
We all died with your death in estrangement. 
Brother, we have died from estrangement in captivity. 
We were condemned to die five years ago in captivity. 
Brother, you were witness to the death of your friends in captivity. 
You died but our turn is on the way. 
You saw your dreams were burning. 
Death made a flame and burnt everything. 
Brother, while dying in that moment. 
Many came before your eyes in a moment. 
You were dying in that moment. 
You wanted your parents to be beside you at that moment. 
I wish I died for your dried lips. 
There was no one to give you water that moment. 
What were you thinking about at the last moment? 
Did you see your childhood in that moment? 
Tell me: do you still feel pain in your body? 
Do you still have pain in your neck? 
You were hanging from the neck that day. 
We saw in the photo your neck was broken that day. 
Did you see the death dance with your eyes?
Did you hear the dance of your voiceless shouts? 
Youth’s freshness has faded from your face. 
The freshness faded from your face. 
The freshness of youth faded from your face. 
How cruelly death was whipping you. 
Your shouts were in the air but we could not hear you. 
You suffered so much in your life. 
Death was the end of all your pain and suffering. 
Now the strong arms of the soil,
The soil is hugging your body.

It is many years since I last attended church, but Mohammad Ali Maleki's lines 'There was no one to give you water at that moment. What were you thinking about at the last moment.' remind me of the Gospel verses about Jesus on the cross:

'... My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34

yet there was not even a soldier with Hamed Shamshiripour to offer him a cloth soaked in vinegar to ease his dry mouth. Prime Minister, you claim to be a Christian. How often do you read the Bible? Did you know that the description of the mob before Pilate ('Crucify! Crucify!') describes Australia's attitude to the refugees? That PNG and Nauru perform the role of Simon the Cyrenian who is forced to carry the cross? And even in Mark 15:40: 'There were also women looking on afar off ...' as do the activists in Australia who struggle every day for justice for the refugees on Manus and Nauru.

What sick compulsion in Australian culture has driven us to play out this travesty of the crucifixion story? Are you Pilate?