‘Hope’, ‘The Golden Wheat’, ‘Dry Land’ and ‘The Strong Sunflower’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki


There was a seed,
fresh and beautiful –
it knew nothing
of the outside world.
This beautiful seed
was stuck between
two walls in a village.
The sun and the moon,
the rain, the white snow
and the blue sky were unknown to it.
Because this seed was living
in darkness.

Still, it had a good feeling
about the outside world.
It continued to say,
Behind this wall
there is something better.
Its heart beat
with each passing day,
beating faster and faster,
yearning to see the outside
until it couldn’t take it anymore!

Its heart cracked,
grew a stem
and then a bud.
Its pretty stem
punched the wall
and, shaking with fear,
it poked its head out into the sun.

Afraid at first
it shrunk back into the wall,
not even knowing
it had seen the light.
But soon it got restless
and returned, longingly, to look at the sky.
The sky rained on the bud
making it clean and cold,
then the sun warmed its body
and the bud inspired itself to keep growing
until it burst into a beautiful flower.

No one had ever seen such a flower!
But between the two walls,
standing steady,
the flower just said –
We can carry on,
in any circumstances.
All we need is patience.

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Michele Seminara

The Golden Wheat

I am a beautiful golden seed
I am wheat
Once I was out of sight
From humans and the sun
No one planted me to grow
And I would have died alone
Me, who with the sun’s help
Could be thousands

But birds saw me among the grass
And zoomed in to peck me
I fell from a beak and hid beneath the earth
The sun saw this and shone
Where I lay concealed
Waiting for the rain
This fell too heavily for me
But the sun knew
Warming me again under that wet soil
Until I sprouted happily
And grew up into overjoyed sunlight
My body as golden as the sun

Day and night I was nurtured
By moon and sun until
I revealed myself to be
Yellow harvest in summer

Winds blew my seeds many miles
Making the deserts green and golden
All from me

I may have died, useless, before I slipped
Into that soil
Sun and moon saved me
Knowing I would remain on Earth
Many centuries to come

Since then other creatures
Have thrived upon me
Learning my many uses
Knowing the ways of the sun
All friends, we stay alive
Wind, moon, sun, rain, wheat and humans

If this chain gets broken
There will be no order left on earth
No sun by day
No moon by night


-Mohammed Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Melita Luck

Dry Land

Behind my room I had a piece of land
that stayed forever in my mind –
not knowing how to use it,
I thought arid land was no good.

Then spring came
bringing new purpose
and I planted some tiny seeds.
A stem grew up and multiplied;
buds followed.
In that dry place I’d made a garden
where flowers blossomed and covered
the cracked earth.

I loved my little garden.
Smelling so sweetly, it attracted guests:
dragon flies, butterflies and a sparrow
all came dancing through
until I felt I was dreaming of a garden
that had come to life…

Then the sparrow left.
Months passed and the garden
grew depressed. I did too.

But the sparrow returned with more of its kind,
singing to my garden, making it happy.
That sparrow had found its mother,
just as I had found Mother Earth.

But I have forgotten to tell you
where this garden actually is.
It is far away, on Manus Island.
And you know well
what a menace Manus is.
And how during three years of incarceration
we have suffered here.
For what crime?

I hope you never see this place,
nor your child feel any pain,
even from the thorn of a beautiful flower;
that would make you so sad,
the pain of your precious child.

God knows we are just human
and that we have beloved families.
Are your children neatly dressed?
Are ours dirty?
No. We too are simply human,
like you.
For God’s sake realise this:
it is in God’s eyes
that we are all equal

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Michele Seminara and Melita Luck

The Strong Sunflower[1]

Manus Island knew nothing of sunflowers
so I planted some seeds, from my heart, on Manus.
These seeds from a refugee, me,
grew into a flower for the Manus people
and the heat of the sun created new hope in their hearts.
I planted this happiness into the heart of the soil,
I willingly left it as a souvenir-
now in my name I bequeath it
to all who may come.

You, sunflower, are a stranger, like me, on Manus;
I hope you will not be cursed here.
Friends help me stay sane in this land;
I hope your friends, the sun and the rain, will help you.
Sunflower, my people have been disrespected
but I’m happy this island is kind to you,
my sunflower friends
on Manus.

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

Translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
Edited by Michele Seminara

[1] ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was first published by Verity La in Discoursing Diaspora on 21 May, 2016. It has been reprinted with permission from the author, Mohammad Ali Maleki and Verity La editor, Michele Seminara.
The Strong Sunflower’ in ‘Discoursing Diaspora’, Verity La, 2016


Mohammad Ali Maleki in his garden on Manus Island

Mohammad Ali Maleki is an Iranian poet and avid gardener living in detention on Manus Island whose poem, ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was published in Verity La’s Discoursing Diaspora project. His poems have been translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari and edited by Michelle Seminara and Melita Luck. His poems question the justice and cruelty of a world in which countries are devastated by war and any hope of asylum, for those that survive the journey, is cruelly taken on, or before, arrival. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are emotive tales of life in detention which often employ plants as metaphors. Mohammad Ali Maleki enjoys gardening and has planted a beautiful garden behind his room on Manus Island. A remarkable sign of endurance despite the odds.

Featured Writers Part 1: Mohammad Ali Maleki- Curated by Zalehah Turner
Mohammad Ali Maleki: Biographical Note


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