Adults highly commended Tetouan By Elena Scialtiel
Cones of herbs and spice,
Chickpeas, couscous, rice,
Dates and almonds for ghoriba,
Fresh fish from the river.
The pungent aroma
Of mint and cardamom,
Leather, wool, argan tree,
And rosebuds for pot pourri.
Incense, a whiff of Jannah,
Myrrh, crystallized manna.
Maroon swirls of henna:
"Get a tattoo for a tenner!"
Candy-cane aprons, pompon hats,
Saffron-dyed prayer mats.
Men in linen and moustache
Bake flat bread on wood ash.
Bees buzz over figs and grapes.
For upholstery and drapes,
Girls weave tassels in the Mellah:
"May a son be born, bizmillah."
Cross-legged boys chant the Quran,
In the maze of arcades of Tetouan.
Judge Charles Durante comments:
Adults Highly Commended: Elena Sciatiel with Tetouan. This poem is an assault on all our senses, especially the olfactory. Elena conjures up a sensuous salmagundi of colours, smells, textures and food as we are plunged into the throbbing life of a Moroccan Kasbah.
We are also reminded of the delights promised in the Muslim paradise (Jannah)-this is no ethereal Christian heaven, but a very palpitating earthy reality. Walking along the crammed, narrow streets, we realise life is lived al fresco; everything is displayed for the enjoyment and pleasure of the passers-by.
There is a hidden logic behind the poem’s colourful lines. We start with our taste buds being awakened. Then our nostrils are titillated; our eyes rest on the multi-coloured display of clothes and mats.
In the former Jewish quarter girls weave tassels and a pregnant woman is commended to Allah. We end our adventure with the Qur’anic verses echoing in our ears as we emerge from the labyrinth of Tetouan.
The sheer exoticism is seductively conveyed. This poem is a tour de force, a riot of colours, sensuality and smells. I am sure this is the best advert Tetouan has had for a long time.
Elena is to be congratulated for assembling this strikingly vivacious poem.