We’re Not Going to Malta

I often find myself blaming much of my discontent on the place where I live, though in my heart I know that’s not true, just as I know that moving someplace else is no guarantee for happiness. Still, I think we are “wired” to believe, or rather, hope that indeed there is a paradise somewhere waiting for us. This is especially true for me; as a child of exile, I was raised thinking someday we’d return to that paradise that my parents called Cuba. That desire often fuels my wanderlust and is the inspiration behind this light-hearted poem about my ludicrous quest for my Eden, my Avalon, my Shangri-la.

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because the winds are too strong, our Captain announces, his voice like an oracle coming through the loudspeakers of every lounge and hall, as if the ship itself were speaking. We’re not going to Malta–an enchanting island country fifty miles from Sicily, according to the brochure of the tour we’re not taking. But what if we did go to Malta? What if, as we are escorted on foot through the walled “Silent City” of Mdina, the walls begin speaking to me; and after we stop a few minutes to admire the impressive architecture, I feel Malta could be the place for me. What if, as we stroll the bastions to admire the panoramic harbor and stunning countryside, I dream of buying a little Maltese farm, raising Maltese horses in the green Maltese hills. What if, after we see the cathedral in Mosta saved by a miracle, I believe that Malta itself is a miracle; and before I’m transported back to the pier with a complimentary beverage, I’m struck with Malta fever, discover I am very Maltese indeed, and decide I must return to Malta, learn to speak Maltese with an English (or Spanish) accent, work as a Maltese professor of English at the University of Malta, and teach a course on The Maltese Falcon. Or, what if when we stop at a factory to shop for famous Malteseware, I discover that making Maltese crosses is my true passion. Yes, I’d get a Maltese cat and a Maltese dog, make Maltese friends, drink Malted milk, join the Knights of Malta, and be happy for the rest of my Maltesian life. But we’re not going to Malta. Malta is drifting past us, or we are drifting past it–an amorphous hump of green and brown bobbing in the portholes with the horizon as the ship heaves over whitecaps wisping into rainbows for a moment, then dissolving back into the sea.