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THIRD WORLD RESURGENCE

By Nazik al-Malaika

The Iraqi poet Nazik al-Malaika (1923-2007) was moved to write the following poem in the time of another devastating disease outbreak – the 1947 cholera epidemic in Egypt which claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Cholera

It is night.

Listen to the echoing wails

rising above the silence in the dark

…

the agonised, overflowing grief

clashing with the wails.

In every heart there is fire,

in every silent hut, sorrow,

and everywhere, a soul crying in the dark.

…

It is dawn.

Listen to the footsteps of the passerby,

in the silence of the dawn.

Listen, look at the mourning processions,

ten, twenty, no… countless.

…

Everywhere lies a corpse, mourned

without a eulogy or a moment of silence.

…

Humanity protests against the crimes of death.

…

Cholera is the vengeance of death.

…

Even the gravedigger has succumbed,

the muezzin is dead,

and who will eulogise the dead?

…

O Egypt, my heart is torn by the ravages of death.

Translated from the Arabic by Husain Haddawy, with Nathalie Handal

*Third World Resurgence No. 345/346, 2020, p 115


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