(Poem) Mnajdra, Malta by Susan Hawthorne

I wrote this poem, which includes the commentary by the character Curatrix, after visiting Malta in 2013. An extraordinary island nation filled with the most amazing places, archaeological sites and remains of prehistory. To anyone with eyes it is clear that women’s bodies were the basis of the architecture. Unfortunately, the site has been got at by Colin Renfrew and his followers in the Cambridge School. They are in the process of distorting prehistory and pretending that women played no part. The poem is written in two voices. In three lines the speaker is experiencing the site, the silence and stillness of stones. In four lines, Curatrix is challenging the ideas being pushed by the museum’s interpreters and in her commentary Curatrix reflects on the different ways of seeing.

Malta: Curatrix

not a whisper on this headland

over the islet of Filfla

wind still stand still

a museum cluttered with static

the poster depicts a wrestler

his body the wrong shape

hips too narrow shoulders too broad

ancients try to speak

but not a word is heard

her mouth breathless


in the hollows of the rock

a round space empty

cut right through the sarsen

a female space


old ones sing the silence

Mnajdra’s walls her stone slabs

absorb sea wave sound wave

back in the Musæum Curatrix

holds up the small body

of a sleeping woman runs her hand

over the round lift of the hip

wind fills my ears with such stillness

all I can do is listen

to the echoing spill of the unheard


Notes by Curatrix

Going underground is an ancient tradition with us, but so too is building where the whole world lies at one’s feet. Here at Mnajdra the wind caresses you, sometimes it almost knocks you over. The rocks hold the silence. We are elemental. But interrupting the silence is absurdity. I have been to see the curator at this museum. He was not friendly. I pointed out to him that Sumo wrestlers and earth goddesses hold the fat in their bodies in different areas. He would have none of it. Said his friend Colin knows best. In the exhibition space, Diana, Agnese and Sulpicia were making all the right noises and getting some of the other visitors to think critically about the signage. Two of the women began to chuckle. I think they had been on one of those goddess tours to Crete, Turkey or the Celtic lands, their eyes already able to see the disjunction. One by one the change comes.

First published in my book, Lupa and Lamb (Spinifex Press, 2014)  http://www.spinifexpress.com.au/Bookstore/book/id=268/

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