Project Description

Nada Menzalji


Nada Menzalji Is a Syrian poet and author. She studied at the University of Latakia, her hometown, but left Syria to live in exile in London since 1998, where she works as journalist. She taught Arabic language at SOAS for years.
Her published poetry collections in Arabic are “Withered Petals for Dinner” and “Thefts of a Nameless Poet” as well as many articles and poems published in prominent Arab papers. She is member of the Union of Free Syrian Writers. She has performed her work internationally.

Yearning for the Coffin

Translated from Arabic by Valentina Viene

The old Europeans love to wear red
in spite of a life whose colour is the bark of trees.
They proceed slowly
but they don’t hesitate at a turning.
They have experienced it all
And they confide in oblivion.

The elderly,
It suffices them to be first in the bus row
during their free excursions between hospitals
in the white waiting rooms.
They are most enthusiastic.
They wake from their naps,
their wet eyes turning round in space
searching for the rest of their friends.

From their conversations
you will gather names like Cherie, Max, Tiger or Crispy
and if you seem particularly nice
one of them will tuck in a veined hand
to grab an image from their wallet.
You’ll be relieved for not having asked about their grandchildren,
What they study
and where they work
when they reveal a picture of a dog
in a Superman outfit
or a cat, with a boastful look,
unmissable to an expert eye.

The European elderly are not alone.
They receive at least one phone call a week.
But they will have to survive until Christmas
if they want a gift.
When there is a wedding or a divorce
or a new arrival in the family
they will know in due time:
the mail here is not delayed
and doesn’t go missing.

They go to the mortician
like a bride to the tailor.
They will lie down in the coffins,
join their hands on their chests
and close their eyes
for the picture.

The witty ones
might surprise the photographer
with a smile.

They choose the suitable make up
for the occasion
after long sessions with the funeral make up artist.
The hairstyle,
the flowers,
the colours.

They ascertain the number of guests
but what makes them most anxious
are the traitors,
A guest who precedes them with a sudden departure
and misses the celebration.

Long time passed since they were teenagers,
But most probably they will laugh with insolence
and the beats of their orphaned hearts will be perturbed.

If only they were to see,
staring inattentively at the TV,
the image of hundreds of Syrians
sailing in their mass graves.
The sea swallows them
then returns and spits out
their torn bodies,
keeping for itself their souls
on the desolate rocks ashore,
while they dream of a strange dream.

A dream that probably no one
except them
would consider: to become
one day
one of them.