Today — January 14, 2016 — readings will be held around the world in solidarity with Ashraf Fayadh, the Palestinian poet sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. Poems that can be read at the events, and more details about the readings, can be found here. We remain hopeful that Ashraf’s appeal will be successful:
By Ashraf Fayadh, trans. Mona Zaki
Oh you who have been made homeless—
your homelessness sprawled across lands
and in despair
as oblivion unfurls between your ribs
The mute blood of yours will never speak out
as long as you brag about death
and proclaim secretly how you’ve safeguarded the soul to those who cannot understand it.
It will take ages to lose your soul and console your eyes’ fear for all the oil it once gushed.
This was what a leader of the people said:
Whoever has oil can meet his needs from its by-products
which is far better than he who torches his eyes—
and turns his own heart into a god.
You don’t own enough—
to console you in the face of time’s tribulations
you don’t own a tap of blood—
to spend in the face of broken values
nor do you have enough to extract
a tax on that soul of yours that time has wearied.
You don’t have enough to help you through one day of exile.
You tremble now—
So take what there is of your blood
to fill the belly of exile—
to gather the overseers’ oil
and smother their intention to drag away your soul.
Ask forgiveness from the waters of the river—
and loudly apologize as your blood seeps into its waters.
It is through oil—that you resist!
As you unfasten those secured bras
and leisurely taste the cherries and all else—
and enjoy the wetness between the thighs—
may all pleasure be blessed.
when all heretics have pitched the axe into your shoulder?
And it has been said that you have gambled with blood that cannot fill desire
and that you have filled the taverns with the malaise of joy—
in order to grab a glass for free.
a used tobacco pouch
and a box—where your mother once trapped your scream—
so that the river can spit you out onto the shore of fear, a kind you’ve never known.
And there, thunder assures you it can inseminate the clouds—
and give birth to rain that will yet be unable to wash the shame of fear from a river sleeping in the arms of defeat.
Black pellets of oil—
circulate throughout your cells
healing what your nausea
could not vomit.
Oil is utterly blameless
except for its stains of poverty
the day when the faces of those who discover another oil well turn black*
and your heart—will be filled with new life so that your soul is resurrected as oil
for public consumption.
This is the promise of oil—a promise that will come to pass—**
* An allusion to Q3:106
** An allusion to Q10:4; 18:98
Mona Zaki is a translator and a contributing editor at Banipal.