Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh has now gone more than a year without trial in Saudi prisons on the ostensible charge that he’s been “insulting the Godly self” through his poetry, as well as “having long hair”:
Poet and activist Mona Kareem has translated one of Fayadh’s poems, posted online on Laghoo.
Frida Kahlo’s Mustache
By Ashraf Fayadh, trans. Mona Kareem
I will ignore the smell of mud, and the need to reprimand the rain, and the burn that has long since settled in my chest.
I am looking for fitting consolation for my situation, which doesn’t allow me to interpret your lips however I wish
Or to brush away the drops of mist from your reddish petals
Or to ratchet down the level of obsession that overtakes me when I realize you are not beside me at the moment
And will not be… When I am forced to justify my position to the punishing silence of the night.
Just act as if the earth is silent, as we see it from a distance, and that everything that’s happened between us was not more than a bad joke that’s gone too far!
What do you think of the days I spent without you?
About the words that evaporated so quickly from my heavy pain?
About the knots that were deposited in my chest like dried algae?
I forgot to tell you that I’ve grown used to your absence (technically speaking)
And that wishes lose their way to your desires
And my memory is being eroded.
That I am still chasing the light, not to see, but because darkness is scary…even if we get used to it!
Would my apology be enough? For everything that has happened while I tried to make up good excuses.
For every time jealousy was aroused in my chest,
For every time despair ruined a new day of my dark days,
For every time I said Justice would get menstrual cramps and Love was a feeble-minded man in the autumn of his age with erectile dysfunction!
I will have to sidestep my memory
And claim that I sleep well.
I’ve got to tear out the questions
That have come looking for a rationale, to get convincing answers.
The questions that, for very personal reasons, have come after the fall of the usual punctuation.
Let the mirror explain how beautiful you are!
Remove your dusty pile of words, breathe deeply.
Remember how much I loved you, and how the whole thing turned into an electric shock that could have caused a huge fire…in an empty warehouse!
For the last year, poet Ashraf Fayadh has been detained in the Saudi city of Abha without clear legal charges beyond having “ideas that do not suit the Saudi society,” based on a reader’s complaint about Fayadh’s 2008 poetry collection, Instructions Within.
Translator Mona Kareem is a stateless poet and writer from Kuwait. She published two poetry collections in Arabic and is currently a doctoral candidate at the Comparative Literature department in Binghamton University.