Ali Salami

In a Coffin Made of Nothing, Carried on the Shoulders of No One By Amin Faghiri

He has built himself a room in the center of the world, surrounded by a wasteland of sand and wind. Perhaps now and then, when he goes up on the roof and shields his eyes with his hand, he sees the tree of his childhood and perhaps birds sit on this tree whose species he does not know, or which do not even have names.

He is not sure if the people sweat every day under the sun they carry on their bare shoulders, toiling on the edge of the desert and repeating the same work the next day and countless other days. It’s always the same people, and he recognizes the sweat on their foreheads…

Some nights, girls with crowns of white flowers carry the moon like a silver tray on a cart to do the same work as the sunburnt men. The moon has a certain coolness about it. They tremble in a way they don’t know how to name. One evening he invited them into his room, which was right in the center of the world. He had prepared a big fire. They were not enthusiastic. Not one of them looked back to leave a memory of the fire in their pupils. They did not go to the mirror to see themselves in it. He thought he could beg for love.

But this house is sometimes made of transparent glass and sometimes it has no openings at all. If he wants to expose himself, the solid walls won’t allow it. And when he wants to hide his face from everyone, these transparent, glass walls expose his whole being.

Lush gardens and even more alleyways have grown in this room, which is at the center of the world; the sound of water can be heard. Sometimes he hears the voice of a woman who has forgotten the concept of man. Perhaps the man had said, such a death is not worthy of me. You should entrust my leaves to the wind, piece by piece, or pluck the feathers of my wings from their roots, one by one.

But the woman had laughed, and the sound was drowned out by the other noises. “This death was too little for you, you would have had your peace. You must pay for the breaths you took.”

The voice of a little girl who sits weeping on the grave of no one. The girl who had attacked the bailiff when he had brought the divorce papers. The clerk had moaned, “Do you even know what’s in that letter?” The little girl with the shiny black eyes had replied, “They want to separate mommy and daddy!”

The man’s hand remained suspended in the air along with the letter. Instead, two invisible tears ran down his cheeks, which quickly evaporated. He started his motorcycle. The frightening sound of the engine could be heard for miles. The moaning sound of the engine kept circling the house, over and over again. He opens the window to take a sip of cool water. The desert stretches far and wide, nothing but the annoying grains of sand can be seen.

There is a plant in a corner of the room. The pump works continuously. The constant noise is beyond human comprehension. Four or five trees have huddled together and provide cool shade. A warm pyramid surrounds them, where crowds of people have settled down. Some are telling stories and a few are enjoying wine from a jug they have retrieved from years-old shelves. Two are unhappily losing at backgammon. Several are drowning in a swamp of words. Occasionally a lip moves, scatters an incomprehensible thought and then falls silent. Thousands of years pass between each word.

A man stands up. He puts on his pants. He gets behind his car and drives off. There is enough dust to make him disappear quickly. There are no tracks. Everything is quickly buried.

It’s always the same. He had said, and those words still hang somewhere invisible in this room.

Words weep from the eyes of grief, end, and then new words sprout.

There is a meeting on Friday afternoon. I must find my seventeen-year-old son among the lunatics sprouting up in droves. Initially, he showed no signs of insanity. He had plunged a kitchen knife handle deep into his brother’s heart; and then, after looking closely at his brother’s corpse, the clotted blood, and his brother’s pleading, astonished eyes, he raised his hands to plunge the knife at his own heart, when a father, who goes to another planet at exactly three of the clock in the afternoon, when visitation takes place, arrived and grabbed his hand. The young man who had fallen to the ground was nineteen years old. They had also told the sparrows that the boy was mad, and then, as if the sun had also confirmed these words, the boy was now nothing but a noble madman of the world.

When he saw his father, tears burst from his bright eyes. It is unclear what power these tears have. The father flicks his heart. All the suffering in the world. This is not him! He is still sitting next to the rattling pump, in the cool shade, listening to a drunkard recite poems by Hafez.

To his surprise, he realizes that all his actions resemble those of other fathers. He embraces his seventeen-year-old son, confides something unspeakable to nature and leaves.

The son has lost all his ways. They take his hand and he easily complies. He goes with them, and when no one comes to fetch him, he sits there uncomplainingly for hours, smoking the cigarette his father had offered him years ago. Countless days and nights pass until a century passes and his father leans against a tree by the water and lights a cigarette. From a distance, he sees his son being dragged in chains. He lights the cigarette and, with trembling hands, puts it between his son’s well-formed lips, who forgets to take even a small drag, and cough after cough follows. The son hasn’t cried for a long time. If he listens carefully, he can hear constant wailing from one of the heavens. He opens the window. There is no sound outside. Only the voice of a young man sitting on the branch of a non-existent tree, in the shape of a bird that has lost its mate, can be heard.

In the room that is the center of the world, a huge field of poppies spreads a mysterious terror. It was said that a man had hanged himself from a rose branch in the city park.

He had thought for a while and then wandered around for hours among the imitation sunflowers. In the corner of the room, on the chairs, sit some teachers sharing happiness and misery. All the news is bad. Children cutting through their mother’s belly and flying away. Water rising into the sky. People who had crucified themselves on high-voltage pylons. Everyone spoke of a man with a cubic head. A face with four facets. With one he laughed, with another he mourned, with another he thought of love and with another he thought of his countless children.

A man sat on a chair that they had to sew to the chair with steel nails, and a woman slowly poured tea into his mouth. The man smelled of roses. Next to him stood a girl who looked as if she had just blossomed in the wind. She was surrounded by horrible toxins and in order to breathe better, she greeted every car that stopped in front of her.

The father has come to speak words, but it seems that he has not parted his lips. Perhaps he has spoken his words without knowing it. Or he knows that an hour later his hanged corpse will be found dangling from the branches of red roses.

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Someone screams and disturbs the sleep of the desert snakes. Another sits hidden from the eyes of the lizards and buries his eyes. One has created a small stream with his tears in the hope that it will take root in the earth. Another has buried itself upside down in the ground. Two fleshy legs stick out of the sand with two large eyes shining on their soles. Everyone must be looking for their own death. There is no one to lighten the burden of the jasmine flowers.

A man is taken away in a coffin from nowhere, carried on the shoulders of no one. He glides and leaves. A mother and a daughter, with a hundred cosmetics and a pile of peace, follow him. They close the doors of schools and colleges, shut everything down – “chain wards of psychiatric clinics.” One day everyone laughs, another day they cry, and there are days that don’t exist. They are not marked in the calendar.

The mother cries. It is systematic and beautiful. She says that you cannot earn your bread with your muscles alone. You have to believe in it. Because she only has two eyes to be proud of, the rest of her body has deteriorated.

And a woman comes and says she has taken her daughter to safety. The daughter knows nothing. Not even whether her mother was telling the truth or lying! She understands nothing. She loses herself so quickly in the behavior of water, stone and plant. What difference does it make whether you are abandoned or not? Do trees think about these things?

A cat comes from mating with the stars. She drags her tired body. Then she sits down and looks ahead.


© Ali Salami 2020


About Amin Faghiri

Amin Faghiri (December 22, 1943) is an Iranian researcher and writer.

Amin Faghiri was born in Shiraz to a large family. He had a difficult childhood. His early difficulties prompted him to write short stories. He had a precise method and style of writing. His stories were characterized by realism and an honest visual style. It took him four years to write his first collection of short stories. He published Primal at the age of 23. The book was published five times before the Iranian Revolution. The sixth edition was published in 2003. In the book, he described the loneliness and boredom of rural teachers. He also told stories about the violence of the peasants and the sociological persecution they faced. Along with Mahoud Dowlatabadi, Faghiri was one of the first Iranian writers of rural stories. The stories in this collection have been translated into more than a dozen languages, including English, German, Russian, Urdu, Italian, French and Japanese. He has published a total of nineteen books.

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