Tense Times

Tense times for me,
and sleep’s acting like a newly love-struck teen.
I shall disregard the state my heart’s in
and my mind’s upheavals like water bubbling
past the boiling point.

I am a part of the universe with which the universe is angry,
a part of the earth of which the earth feels utterly ashamed,
a wretched human towards whom
other humans cannot maintain neutrality.

Neutrality: an illusion
like all the graces of which humans speak, so shamelessly theoretical.
Truth is an inadequate term, just like Man,
and love bumps about,
a miserable fly
trapped in a glass box.
Freedom is very relative:
all said and done we live in a ball-shaped prison
barred with ozone.
Set free, our fate
is certain death.

I am incapable of laughing.
Completely incapable of smiling, even.
Incapable, at the same time, of crying.
Incapable of acting like a human being,
which doesn’t upset me in the slightest
though it hurts so
to have a body covered with light down,
to walk on two limbs,
to depend wholly on your mind,
to be drawn after your desires to the furthest point,
to have your freedom trapped,
to have others decide to kill you,
to miss those closest to you
without a chance to say farewell.

What good does Farewell do
but leave a sad impression?
What good’s meeting?
What good’s love?
What good is it to be this alive
while others die from sorrow
over you?

I saw my father for the last time through thick glass
then he departed, for good.
Because of me, let’s say.
Let us say because he could not bear the thought
I’d die before him.
My father died and left death to besiege me
without it frightening me sufficiently.
Why does death scare us to death?
My father departed after a long time
spent on the surface of this planet.
I didn’t say farewell as I should have
nor grieve for him as I should have
and was incapable of tears,
as is my habit, which grows uglier with time.

The soldiers besiege me on all fronts
in uniforms of poor color.
Laws and regimes and statutes besiege me.
Sovereignty besieges me,
a highly concentrated instinct that living creatures cannot shake.
My loneliness besieges me.
My loneliness chokes me.
I am choked by depression, nervousness, worry.
Remorse, that I’m a member of the human race, kills me.
I was unable to say goodbye to all those I love
and who departed, even temporarily.
I was unable to leave a good impression of a last meeting.
Then I yielded to the rifles of longing
leveled my way.
I refused to raise my hand
and became incapacitated.
Then I was bound by sorrow
that failed to force me to tears.

The Knowing gnaws at me from within,
killing every shot I have at survival.
The Knowing is killing me slowly
and it’s much too late for a cure.

— Ashraf Fayadh
(Trans. by Guardian.com)

Palestinian-born Ashraf Fayadh was arrested by Saudi religious police in August 2013 and charged with cursing Allah and the prophet Muhammad, insulting Saudi Arabia, and promoting atheism. He was released on bail, but was rearrested on January 1, 2014. On November 17, 2015, he was sentenced to death for heresy. In February 2016, his death sentence was overturned and he was sentenced to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.