Oliver Friggieri wrote several poems in his lifetime, but one of his former students has now revealed one that has never been seen before – an impromptu poem he had written to her about his own eventual death.
Shortly after the Maltese literature giant died today, Marilyn Mintoff published an email he had sent her in 2015 when she reached out to him to ask him how he’s doing.
This is how the email and poem, loosely translated from Maltese, reads.
I’m not bad, thank God.
When the time comes for my mouth to close, for my feet to leave the floor and for my hands to fumble as I take my last steps, I hope I’d have said every word I had chosen in my life contract. I hope I’d have touched someone’s heart, be it an insect or a human.
And when my hand closes like a rose and stops moving, when my pen falls from my hand, I hope it will dawn, and I will learn the language of silence. If I discover new sounds in silence, and if words from above fall in my lap, it would mean I have understood the stars, mute as I am…. It would mean the alphabet would be easy, and with a trembling hand, without the vigour of childhood, I would chisel out another book.
Until then, with a watch stuck to my still-beating pulse, I will await the minute hand to find its place. I will then pack up all my words into my sack, hoping they will get me to the other side. Those will be my departing words if I never get to choose another word.
Dear Marilyn, I don’t know why I wrote that but those are unrevised verses that I just wrote now as I started writing to you, after I had arrived at the word ‘God’.
I haven’t revised them. Keep them as a thank you for your kindness. I’m still writing etc, and publishing books and articles overseas as I used to. Drop by whenever you like and reach out whenever you think I can help you. Keep on believing, keep on smiling – no matter what the weather’s like, remain a good person.”
Friggieri’s niece Claire Grima commented that her uncle died exactly as he had written he would.
“The irony of it all is that the description of his death is exactly how we found him – writing his last piece of literature with his hands closed like a rose. Rest in peace, uncle, until we meet again.”
“It’s powerful and shocking at the same time,” Marilyn told Lovin Malta, describing her former lecture as a unique and humble person.
“Seeing as my surname is Mintoff, he would jokingly call be Honourable. When I was passing through a tough time, he would even call me up at home and do his utmost to help me.”
Friggieri died today at the age of 73 and several people, including Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech, have paid tribute to him.
Tag someone who needs to read this.