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
While you excel in worshipping anxiety—
didn’t you notice that your arteries have failed to pump your insomnia up to the eyes?
Didn’t you notice?
That the hearts of those abandoned on the pavements of the night
have split from your vision so many times?
The patterns of the night continue their work
until dawn appears on the edges of clouds gathering
on the ceiling of your imagination.
Didn’t you also notice—
how you enjoy interpreting the arteries of women
and the bodies tossed on the roofs of memories from long ago?
Your pages have been soaked with the sludge of exegesis
and not one word has been read
these pages have exhausted all languages known to earth
in order to offer a name that matches your definition of self
your name—like an inkwell pregnant with possibilities
your build defies all definitions of its organs combined.
Come stand to where the thunder can see you so that your emaciated body may dissolve
and your soul be resurrected as a cloud followed by rain
pouring down life to where your name is not even a dream
that won’t come to pass as long as you’re unable to abandon the definitions
of dubious pleasures and drunken nights
and those who call out the sacred names of love.
Come—for the night is long for the beloved,
not long enough to write about pleasure
or bodies saturated in the smell of peaches
absorbed in all the forbidden pleasures of the night.
Come—to where the cloud chooses to shift your sickly form
and snatch your soul from its exile—
from a heart that had openly declared the absence of love
and from the mirages of the assumed homeland you thought you belonged
to every grit of its earth.
Since when does the wind honor traffic laws?
Did the wind ever stop at your red light?
How long have you coaxed it to stop
so you could gather a few words
or find some news no longer fit for print?
Your eyes will confess that insomnia
has violated the secrets of the night
and the night too won’t keep silent for long.
Your heart is an idol to which your arteries have absconded
And they no longer offer your veins as sacrifice
as tribute to the throne of beautiful gods
Your name means nothing to me
it cannot deliver me of all the sins of drought
and it cannot supplicate the night so that I can walk free from its isolation
your name is a lost number—
a weight that has broken your back!
Mona Zaki is a translator and a contributing editor at Banipal.