A Martyr’s (Thamoulh)
She passed the low fence… the sky was crying. Silence was everywhere, only the breeze was among trees, which had flowers blossoming, next to the gravestones. The breeze was whispering like a pained flute, mixed with a low groan coming from a hidden place, her sad steps, and the Eid prayers coming from far-off mosques. She stood among the small graves that covered the road, reaching into the horizon. She read al-fatiha,then she squatted in front of a small taba,which had the remains of her lover.
She caressed with damp fingers the soft grass that grew on the grave, wet as it had rained in the morning as the sun started to shine. She opened her little bag, grabbed a hot Thamoulh, crushed it and started to sprinkle it. She grabbed another one, but before crushing it, she brought it near her mouth as if whispering to it a sort of will. She hugged the taba, covered her face, and started whispering to the body resting under the ground. She told him secrets that she hadn’t had the chance to tell him until he went away. Her lips touched the cold dirt as she left a warm kiss; she stopped when she felt her palms were wet. The Thamoulh melted between her fingers, soaked with tears. But then she remembered something, a smile was being drawn on her face. She mumbled as she cried:“He preferred it dipped in milky tea.”
A sweet cake baked in the south.
A quranic surah, recited when visiting graves.
A raised grave. The graves of the martyrs are usually like hills that gets higher with time, to eventually become mountains.
Huda Alattas is one of the best known short story writers in the Arabic peninsula, and is an activist and academic working in the sociology department at the University of Aden. She was born in Hadramout, south Yemen. Her books have been translated into many languages. She has won several awards in Yemen and the Arab world. Her short stories collections are: Obsession of the Soul and Obsession of the Body (1995), Because She Is (2001), Lighting Practicing to Illuminate (2003), Three Steps (2004), and Two Ones (2018). Her thesis is on educated women in the Arabic novel.
A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)