I don't even know how we came to be
in my bedroom - you locked the door;
I was thirteen and wanted to feel
the first shiver of excitement
that came like air into a deflated balloon;
you were twelve, and also wanted something new.
So you unbuttoned my shorts,
peeled them down,
slowly, with trembling hands.
Your veins were strained
your voice husky -
you tried to hide your eagerness
but your fast breathing gave you away.
I had only dreamt this moment.
Now you were fondling my erection.
I could only moan my consent.
In vain, I tried to hide my eruption,
then you sucked my shyness away,
until I was no longer ashamed of my nakedness.
You felt for my soul right inside me.
You kissed me, asking if I loved you.
But you didn't wait for my reply.
I doubt I knew what to answer.
Perhaps later - this was the first
of many sessions still to come.
We were both eager to experiment;
we both wanted to embark into the unknown.
The door was a safety barrier
against grown-ups and religion.
When I exploded and couldn't stop,
it collapsed the walls of my prison.
We both knew what we wanted;
we both got what we had dreamed about
and ate each other to the bone.
Unconsciously we saw through life
and discovered a shade of grey.
Then, rains fell abundantly outside
and lightning shook us awake.
HD’s First Blood
Plants don’t get cancer – we do
mine came like a lightning bolt
split the darkness of self-assurance
and left my soul in crystal shards.
The first blood is drawn with the injection of burning chemo
As I look at the white walls around
there are bloodstains full of human effort
each drop tells its own story of too many
white or too little red cells.
It will burn my spirit eventually and my hair will fall out
I could read it in their faces:
“this cannot happen to me”,
just like I used to think before it happened
but it will cure after I’ve died a dozen times.
The chemo comes in lollipop orange colour and transparent gin
Every drip is an ocean
like a drop of TNT that travels
through the sea of blue on the wall
into mapped veins and blurred vision.
Hearing your heart beat for 144 hours of drip
Just as the light diminishes
the leaves of the flowered curtains turn grey
into a nauseating smell of detergent soap
as the nurse walks in to check my pulse.
The last remaining strength is killed, the price for more sunsets
Two doctors discuss the Da Vinci Code
the room is wiser but I prefer Harry Potter
with each passing hour this elixir
of life kills more hair follicles.
The sun seems so far away – All Souls’ Day is in church bells
I am not who I was before
who will I be tomorrow
after the long sleepless night
and forgotten dreams about Captain Nemo?
Only now, I notice the preciousness of the dark outside.
Paul the Meticulous Fisherman
“Pawlu is-Sajjied”, as he was nicknamed was a quiet lad.
Every Sunday morning he would clad in a beige suit and tie,
shine his shoes with spit, like soldiers in the army.
He was neat, in fact his other nickname, “Pawlu Il-Fitt”.
So meticulous in his work, preached to all how life was so ridiculous.
His walk was a rhythmic sway, of self confidence
stopping to observe the sea and the weather like all good fishermen.
It only seems like yesterday,
Pawlu was shouting himself hoarse: “Lampuki friski, hajjin hajjin”.
I often wonder how on earth no one realised he was in deep crisis,
deeper than the sea from where he caught us fresh fish everyday.
His luzzu, Santa Maria was berthed at Spinola Bay.
Now it’s gone, like him leaving an empty space,
only a buoy to mark its place.
Now he no longer shouts, “Friski, hajjin hajjin”.
The mornings are drear without his yellow smile.
When my dog ran out into the street last year
Pawlu gave chase and brought him back safe.
The Santa Maria was red, black and yellow
painted in honour of St. Julian’s the village patron saint.
It would chug out happily from the bay, sometimes moon rising
every evening for many summery decades, as many as I can recollect,
rippling through the reflected white light of a dimming sunset.
Then he would whistle an unknown tune,
until his silhouette became one with dusk.
He lived with his old widowed mother, Giuzeppa;
everyone knew she dotted on him, her only son.
She came back from early morning mass
one day and found him hanging from the neck.
The rope was tied by a fisherman’s knot from the stairs’ railings.
The doctor came first, then Dun Karm, the Parish priest.
Pawlu left us without a single word, his luzzu only a ghostly memory.
Now the moon rises on an empty quiet bay.
Pawlu is-sajjied il fitt (Paul the meticulous fisherman)
Pawlu il-fitt (Paul the meticulous man)
Luzzu (traditional colourful Maltese fishing boat)
Luzzu, Santa Maria (the boat is named St. Mary)
Lampuki friski, hajjin, hajjin. (Fresh Dolphin fish, alive alive)
Friski, hajjin hajjin. (Fresh, alive alive)
Dun Karm (Fr. Charles)
Copyright Ray French Malta
Raymond Fenech was born in the small fishing village of St. Julian’s, Malta and embarked on his writing career when he was still in his early teens. He freelanced for three major political papers, Il-Mument, In-Nazzjon and The Democrat and between 1980-85 worked as a journalist with Malta’s leading newspapers, The Times and Sunday Times of Malta.
Since then, he has always worked in the media field handling huge advertising accounts and carrying out public relations work and copywriting assignments for several leading companies. Between 1999 and 2003, he edited two-nation-wide distributed magazines, Living 2000 and The Globe Trotter.
Ray has published poems, essays, short stories and articles in Malta, Sicily, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Cuba and Argentina. Many of his works have appeared in various magazines, journals, newspapers and anthologies earning the author several prizes in small press publication competitions.
The author’s interest in paranormal studies increased in the last seven years, a period during which he produced several short stories on haunted places and Satanism based on true facts. In 2000 some of his research on Maltese ghosts appeared in the international work of reference, THE INTERNATIONAL DIRECTORY OF THE MOST HAUNTED PLACES, published by Penguin Books in the USA.
After being diagnosed with HD lymphoma in 2004, the author survived 9 months of intense chemotherapy and a stroke. Although forced to retirement Ray managed to obtain a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing and parapsychology. He earned his masters in 2009 and was appointed Visiting Professor of Creative Writing and Parapsychology by an online UK based university. During the same year, the author was awarded a full scholarship in poetry therapy by the Creative Righting Center, Touro College, Hofstra University, New York and graduated in December 2012 to become the first qualified writing therapist in Malta.
Finding it difficult to find employment as a cancer survivor, Ray decided to launch his own small business in printing, copywriting and editing. He also conducts creative writing classes for both children and adults.