The Last of the Line of Refugee Descendants

You give the world indigestion, and some other problems.
Don’t force the ground to vomit,
and stay close to it, very close.
A fracture that can’t be set,
A fraction that can’t be resolved
or added to the other numbers,
so you give rise to a certain confusion in global statistics.

Being a refugee means standing at the end of the queue
to get a fraction of a country.
Standing is something your grandfather did, without knowing the reason.
And the fraction is you.
The country: a card you put in your wallet with your money.
Money: pieces of paper with pictures of leaders.
Pictures: they stand in for you until you go back.
Going back: a mythical creature that appears in your grandfather’s stories.
Here endeth the first lesson.
The lesson is conveyed to you so that you can learn the second lesson, which is “what do you signify?”

On the Day of Judgment, they stand naked,
and you swim in the spillage from the cracked sewage pipes.
Barefoot — that’s healthy for the feet
but unhealthy for the ground.

For your sake we will set up rostrums and hold conferences,
and the newspapers will write about you in the appropriate manner.
A new formula has been developed to eliminate recalcitrant dirt,
and at only half the price.
Hurry to buy up half the amount,
because the water shortage is very acute.

Serious negotiations
are underway to provide ashes for free so that you won’t choke,
without affecting the right of trees to live on Earth.
Learn how to avoid using up all your ash allowance in one go.

They taught you how to lift your head up
so that you can’t see the dirt on the ground.
They taught you that your mother is the Earth.
And your father?
You’re looking for him to confirm your lineage.
They taught you that your tears are an extravagant waste of water.
And water . . . as you know!

Tomorrow,
It’ll be a good idea to get rid of you,
because the Earth would look better without you.

Children are like sparrows,
but they don’t build nests in dead trees.
And the U.N. agency isn’t responsible for planting trees.

Use yourself as a bargaining card,
as a piece of paper with a poem on it, a piece of toilet paper,
a piece of paper for your mother to light the stove
and bake some loaves.

The weather forecast:
The sun is lying in bed because it has a temperature.

The bones, clothed in flesh and then with skin.
The skin gets dirty and gives off a horrible smell.
The skin burns and is affected by supernatural factors.
Take yourself as an example.

Don’t give up hope.
Take heart from the exile from which you are fleeing!
This is intensive training for living in Hell
and in your harsh conditions.
My god, is Hell somewhere on Earth?

The prophets have gone into retirement
so don’t expect any prophet to be sent your way for your sake.
For your sake the observers submit daily reports
and are paid high salaries.
How important money is
for the sake of a decent life!

Abu Said’s felafel are exposed to contamination
and the dispensary is announcing that the inoculation campaign is ending
so don’t worry about your children being contaminated
as long as the dispensary is there.

Live coverage of the proceedings of the beauty contest.
That girl looks good in her bikini,
and that one has rather a large bottom.
Breaking news: Sudden Rise in the Number of Deaths
From Smoking.
The sun is still a source of light
and the stars are peeping in at you, because your roof needs
repairing.

An argument at the taxi depot:
“We don’t have enough passengers to leave yet.”
“But my wife is in labour.”

“This is her tenth pregnancy. Hasn’t she learnt anything? There are reports warning of random population growth. Random — that’s the word I’ve been looking for for ages. We’re living in a random world. We’re multiplying and our children stand naked. Sources of inspiration for film-makers, or for discussion around the table at the G8. We are small people but they can’t live without us. For our sake some buildings have fallen down and some railway stations have been blown up. Iron is liable to rust. For our sake there are plenty of picture messages. We are actors who don’t get paid. Our role is to stand as naked as when our mothers gave birth to us, as when the Earth gave birth to us, as the news bulletins gave birth to us, and the multi-page reports, and the villages that border on settlements, and the keys my grandfather carries. My poor grandfather, he didn’t know that the locks had changed. My grandfather, may the doors that open with digital cards curse you and may the sewage water that runs past your grave curse you. May the sky curse you, and not rain. Never mind, your bones can’t grow from under the soil, so the soil is the reason we don’t grow again.

Granddad, I’ll stand in for you on the Day of Judgment, because my private parts are no strangers to the camera.
Do they allow filming on the Day of Judgment?

Granddad, I stand naked every day without any judgment, without anyone needing to blow any last trump, because I have been sent on in advance. I am Hell’s experiment on the planet Earth.

The Hell that has been prepared for refugees.

— Ashraf Fayadh
(Trans. by Jonathan Wright)

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 by beheading for heresy. In February 2016, his death sentence was commuted and he was sentenced to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.

[Research note: Ashraf Fayadh, Instructions Within (Brooklyn: The Operating System, 2008); Ben Hubbard, “Saudi Court Spares Poet’s Life but Gives Him 8 Years and 800 Lashes,” New York Times (February 6, 2016)]

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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.

Even if the Pain

Even if the pain of the wound increases,
There must be a remedy to treat it.

Even if the days in prison endure,
There must be a day when we will get out.

— Siddiq Turkestani
(Trans. by Marc Falkoff)

In 1997, Saudi Arabian Siddiq Turkestani was traveling in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped by al-Qaeda. He was imprisoned and tortured until 2001, when U.S. intelligence found him in a jail in Kandahar. The U.S. sent him from Kandahar to Guantánmo, where he was subsequently imprisoned, accused of being a member of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In January 2005, the U.S. military decided Turkestani was not an enemy combatant. They waited six more months before releasing him from prison.

Oil is Harmless

Oil is harmless, except for the trace of poverty it leaves behind

the day, when the faces of those who discover another oil well go dark,
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—

The end

— Ashraf Fayadh
(Trans. by Mona Kareem)

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 with his poetry. He was released on bail, but was arrested again on January 1, 2014. On November 17, 2015, he was sentenced to death for heresy. In February 2016, his death sentence was commuted to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.