By Raymond Fenech

This Will Never happen to me Syndrome

There is Christmas, Easter and Valentine but also depressing advertisements about cancer. Outside – the slime and sleet – endless winter. Never before had I seen all this from the current perspective. Yet, I’m weighted down moving forward, backwards, dropping on my knees struggling to my feet, trying to stay up, only to be knocked down again. It all started when I began losing weight. I tried to emulate my hero Rocky Balboa, his joy of living, winning against all odds. But how can one train to fight cancer? I wanted to wake up people who worry about trivialities, make them realize health is never a sacrosanct right. But they all suffer from the, “This will never happen to me syndrome!”

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and a stroke broke me down into shards, like a fallen porcelain moon. I thought I was safe on my way to a new red summer dawn – could already feel the warmth. I was derailed, impaled by the sword of fate. Now, I stand again, shrug off the pain trying to regain, to seize, to feign, change a sorrowful sunset, into a happy refrain. My heart sinks at every passing day, be it summer, the fall, winter or spring. When it’s freezing, I grit my teeth, uplift my frightened heart and try to smoulder its weakened beat.

The day dawns with difficulty to breathe, gelid cold, incontrollable shakes and profuse sweating, the endless rest in hospital. There are plastic flowers in the vase, which I envy for their immortality – the stench of surgical spirit. Fourteen hours of painful chemotherapy: dripping orange liquid and a torturous injection that lasts five minutes. I am forced to listen to my heart beat, stare at the blood stain on the carpet from my punctured arms whilst doctors try to find a non-thrombosed vein … Should I immerse myself into a sob story no one wants to hear, start over standing tall, even if I fall, wait for another dawn? Time has clipped Pegasus’s wings, his unicorn trimmed. So I will call out my fearsome 300 Spartans to turn this scuffle into a last spectacular tussle. 

Platonic Love

Beautiful as a Greek statue,
Her jet-black hair hung in satin long curls
Eyes beaming wide like a black onyx.
Only her voice spoilt the synchronization
Of this artistic creation:
It was coarse, masculine.

Married but naïve,
She was a virgin in more ways than one.
Never had a proper orgasm,
Simulated in a forced effort to express
Pleasure merely from a sense of duty.

She was stuck in stagnant boredom,
Often reflected in her nail biting habit,
As she watched with dreamy eyes
A colourless world go by
Beneath her confined balcony.
It was at times like this, their eyes met,
Fleetingly, in one single passionate glance
That often took their breath away.

That was all there was to their love affair.
It was enough; their eyes said everything
From poetry to pornography.
When she parted her lips, he parted his
And their tongues spoke in flicks
Triggering silent conversation.

Their love was condemned to make-belief,
Turning their heads away
When their eyes were about to speak;
When their smiles almost risked
Their hands waving kisses,
And their sighs were about to become
Too loud and clear to hide.
This love was different from many others,
A love so perfect, it could not survive.

Our Maid Claire

Her long smooth legs were to die for.
When she came home, she always sat on the sofa
Crossed her legs and sipped her lemonade.
August then became even more of a sizzler:
As her tongue licked her sensuous lips
I imagined her every body language move
To be telling me silent sweet nothings;
And the rest of the world around didn’t exist.
In contrast to her worn out hands and nails
I imagined her bare elegant thighs
In lacy black lingerie on our first wedding night.
Each time my thoughts made me drool,
She seemed to notice my lustful stare
And in exchange she crossed her legs again
Slowly, so I could define the details in between;
Stark naked like my soul, I felt my heart was laid bare.
Every week until she came, I dreamt about her in my sleep
As often as I could closing my eyes to imagine
And each time she was unmistakably there,
Voluptuous as ever, looking straight into my eyes.
Then one day my dreams became reality:
Claire came early as it was shopping day for mum.
I was in my bath gown still shaving before breakfast;
There was a knock on my door – it was her.
She came in and asked me for a cigarette, then a light;
Next, she was in my arms on the longest kissing quest
Our tongues needed not search for words;
As my hands explored her body, we fell back into reality.
Claire was supposed to be married within two months
We thought our love for each other was only lust:
I was a dreamer and she was young, both naïve
Building our castles in the air aspiring for a miracle.
As we slipped out of each other’s arms we learned
We lived in an unforgiving world that discriminates
Between race and class. Claire was just our maid.  

The Dandelion Seed
(Petrarchan sonnet)

This single parachuted seed descends
softly swiftly in the parched garden soil
to flower, live, die, join the earthly toil.
This single parachuted seed transcends
all meaning of existence. Freshly blends
into a coloured world full of turmoil.
It defies all odds, makes the mind recoil
from its amazing and resilient strength.
It will grow then inevitably die,
to leave little or no trace on earth
of it ever having been. Just like us,
that strive until our demise.
Within this seed there is no pain of birth
at death, it simply turns to dust.

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 l-fitt.
Meticulous in his work, he considered life was ridiculous.
His walk was a rhythmic sway of self confidence
stopping to observe the weather like all good fishermen.
It only seems like yesterday,
Pawlu was shouting himself hoarse: Lampuki friski, hajjin hajjin;  
no one realized he was in deep crisis, deeper than the sea
from where he caught us fresh fish every day.
His luzzuSanta Maria was berthed at Spinola Bay,
now it’s gone just like him leaving an empty space
with only a lonely buoy to mark its place.
Pawlu no longer shouts, Friski, hajjin hajjin:
and 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 the village Belgian saint.
It would chug out from the bay, sometimes moon rising
every evening for 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.
One day she came back from early morning mass
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 suddenly without a warning sign;
now, he is only a ghostly memory
as 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)

Straw Hat
(Remembering mum 1925-2014)

Decades seemed to burst
from each crevice in the attic,
where the straw hat lay
on a dusty rocking chair.

Steel cobwebs chained
to breezes swayed,
like mama’s hair
threads of shiny silver grey.

I remember her wearing it,
to hide from the sun;
now in permanent shade,
never to be worn again.

It’s of sentimental value,
but who will care?
When I’m gone someone
will stuff it in a garbage bag.

And winds will howl
through fissured walls
like lone wolves,
that vanish in cotton mists.

Light after Dark

For us light after dark is not
like the aurora borealis;
it’s not the day’s beginning
on the edge of the horizon or on
a windowsill: an eye peeping over
a mountain, bloodshot from
too much opening and closing;
it’s just a light within
that does not light up a room
but lights up a world
like no other light can do.

Light after dark is seeing
life’s vitality through luminosity.
We are all children of light or darkness
born after sunset, or sunrise
when the day is on its way,
it’s no matter we are blind
there is always a shade of grey.
It’s all in the mind – if we lack one sense
it’s likely another is sharpened instead,
and darkness is cut by a sword
that flashes in the night,
illuminating the mind from behind.

Light after dark is clean,
like cutting an eye-ball in half
without inflicting pain;
we cannot feel what we cannot see:
in one’s life there is only one light within
bathing in a moon-filled pond,
that we see better with eyes tight shut.
But it doesn’t matter, not really –
we recognize all truths far better
like they were written on stone
and we can see with touch,
all’s hewn in our other senses;
therefore we do not crave for vision –
it comes to light after dark.

(Shakespearean sonnet)                             

I was a child when I first fell in love                               
though immersed as you were in vanity,                         
I had visions of magic and mystery;                                
vivid full of illicit desire.                                                  

But now time has fled, and I know not where                 
our promises – castles in the air,                                     
made in the bedroom, when trembling fingers                 
explored our naked shame – we lingered.                        

I traced your curves with breathless lips and called         
your sexy name a hundred times in vain.                                           
You only used to laugh at me and feign                          
not to hear when I asked you to marry me;                      

you dipped your fingers deep in me unfazed,                  
yet your cold blue eyes could not meet my gaze.   

The Swing in the Garden

The swing hangs creaking on the broken chain                 
screeching loudly in excruciating pain,                             
rusty, dribbling red blood and hanging lame                    
on winded years, day in day out the same.                        

How many a child has sat here and played                       
how many on its wooden bucket swayed                           
before with age its outer skin was flayed;                         
time flew, children grew; all to rest were laid.                 

Just memory of all those years remains                            
like photos shot in some special time frame,     
sparked from an urge or mania to maintain                     
this life immortalize, or so we like to feign.                                 

The swing hangs creaking on the broken chain                 
as summer breeze wistfully speaks in pain,                       
whispering about our joy and strain                                  
like conscience when it pokes us hard in vain.                 

The swing squeals contemplating on the rain                    
joining chorus with time’s tick-tocking refrain         
of life that’s been: will never be again,                              
while our dreams flee on a choo choo train.   

A Mosquito’s buzzing Birth

Buzzing it slipped out almost transparent
from beneath azure space;
razzing at its inability to fly

it fizzed with long proboscis,
beyond the day’s quivering laze,
dazzled by cascading colours:

its vibrant jazz increased
it zigzagged
like a Harrier jet racing its engine:

then, as if it remembered
it zipped above water,

zapped out into space
with a fulminating blaze,
that was soon part of an orchestrated buzz.

About the Author:

ray fenech

Raymond Fenech embarked on his writing career as a freelance journalist at 18 and worked for the leading newspapers, The Times and Sunday Times of Malta.  He edited two nation-wide distributed magazines and his poems, articles, essays and short stories have featured in several publications in 12 countries. His research on ghosts has appeared in The International Directory of the Most Haunted Places, published by Penguin Books, USA. In 2009, Ray graduated with BA first class honours in creative writing and later obtained his PHD. In the same year, he was awarded a scholarship in writing therapy by the Creative “Righting” Center, Hofstra University of New York. He is a visiting professor (creative writing and parapsychology) for an online university and conducts creative writing classes for both adults and children.