New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 Special Commendation: ‘Tears of Stone’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki

‘Tears of Stone’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki was shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016 and received Special Commendation for extraordinary work in extreme circumstances. Mohammad Ali Maleki currently lives in detention on Manus Island.

“You can find my whole life in my poems like a letter to God.”- Mohammad Ali Maleki

Tears of Stone

The land of this island
is a hot, dry desert.
The colour of its soil
is yellow and red.
The waves of its sea
croon a soothing song.

The ocean shimmers
like a rainbow.
The birds of its jungle
sing gaily.
The colours of its parrots
are renowned around the world.

They brought me here forcibly.
I came to this land with no choice.
It doesn’t have rich soil –
They threw sulphur
so no flowers grow at all.
It’s true I am a stranger;
I have no one here.
I can’t trust anyone
with my heartfelt words.
That’s why I created my garden.
They laughed, saying, that’s impossible,
because of the dry, sulphured soil.
But a single, beautiful tree grew in my sight.
A faraway old, old tree…
Its bark was rotten
but it grew in good earth –
They threw no sulphur there.

I filled buckets with this soil,
pouring it onto my sad patch of land.
I did this for many days;
I felt helpless, doing it on my own.

There was a big stone
on my dry land.
I tried, but couldn’t dig it out.
I left it, finally, where it was.
When I threw soil there

I would push it with my hands,
smoothing it around the stone
until the ground grew level
and ready for seeds.

I asked many people
for seeds to plant in my garden.
They said, we can’t afford that!
You are a prisoner here,
we can’t give you seeds.
I had no hope.

A week passed…
While tending my garden
I saw that a bud had sprouted beside the stone –
I was so happy I kissed the bud!

But my bud was weak,
in need of water.
I asked, what should I do, God?
Here the water is salty,
it will hurt my bud.
I had no sweet water to give it.

God didn’t love me enough
to rain on my garden.
So I spoke to the bud
and told it not to get hopeless.
Days later, when the bud was exhausted
an idea came into my mind.
I sat by the bud’s side
recounting my bad memories
and weeping down onto its soil.
It was my task, every day,
weeping onto the bud.
It used to drink my tears –
We both had no choice.

One night, I went to cry for my bud.
I tried so hard but couldn’t weep.
The stone was my witness!
I wanted to give tears to the

bud but my eyes were dry.
What should I do now?
I was angry with myself
for having no tears
left to give to my garden.
I was disappointed in my eyes.

Suddenly, I heard a sound.
I didn’t know what it was.
I searched the whole garden
and saw nothing there…
but when I went to my garden in the morning
I saw water everywhere!
I looked at the sky –
there was no sign of rain
and all the other earth was dry.
Then I saw that the big stone in my garden
had a cleft right through its heart.
From the hard centre of the stone
a stream of water ran out.
From the source of this stone
my garden was flooded and fed.

My bud became cheerful
and turned into a flower.
After a few months, even a rose grew!

My dear, sweet stone,
I will love you forever.
I wish many people
could learn from you.
I wish they could learn
as you did
how to soften
their hard hearts.

-Mohammad Ali Maleki

translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari
edited by Michelle Seminara

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, ‘Tears of Stone’ was shortlisted for the New Shoots Poetry Prize 2016. Mohammad Ali Maleki is the featured writer in current issue of Rochford Street Review. His poem, ‘The Strong Sunflower’ was originally published in Verity La’s Discoursing Diaspora project. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are translated from Farsi by Mansoor Shoushtari and edited by Michelle Seminara and Melita Luck. Mohammad Ali Maleki’s poems are emotive tales of life in detention which often employ plants as metaphors. He also enjoys gardening and has planted a beautiful garden behind his room on Manus Island.

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


Featured Writers Part 1: Mohammad Ali Maleki- Curated by Zalehah Turner
‘Hope’, ‘The Golden Wheat’, ‘Dry Land’ and ‘The Strong Sunflower’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki

Mohammad Ali Maleki and Mansoor Shoushtari both live in detention on Manus Island. Donate this Christmas for a better future for the refugees currently living in detention.

Refugee Action Coalition (RAC):

You can donate to RAC by:
sending a cheque made out to Refugee Action Coalition to PO Box 433, Newtown NSW 2042 or
making a direct deposit to BSB: 062018 Account Number: 10118562, Account name: RAC, bank: Commonwealth Bank

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)


Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

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