Mirrors of Absence

These mirrors could have been
pure rain
or pure silence
But things were made of stone
The clinking of time and space
was bloodied
with what resembles madness
or gods


for what has to go
for what has to come
for what succumbs to silence
and never returns


All the cracks you see on the wall
were carved by my eyes
they have been looking at them
for years
No use counting them


prison is time
you mark the first days on walls
the following months on memory
but when the years become
a long train
tired of whistling
despairing of a station
you try something else:


and there
on the wall
on my heart
on the night and wind
on doors, dates and sidewalks
on fear, despair and nothingness
deep like blackness
black like catastrophe
catastrophic like silence
silent like howling
nothing before or after them
except fallen banners,
God and I
in adjacent cells

— Faraj Bayraqdar

Syrian poet Faraj Bayraqdar was arrested on March 31, 1987, on suspicion of joining the opposition Party of Communist Action. He was held without charge for seven years, during which time he was kept in solitary confinement and repeatedly tortured. He was brought before the Supreme State Security Court in 1993 and sentenced to 15 additional years of imprisonment. After years of international pressure, Bayraqdar was released in November 2000. He lives in exile in Sweden. The verses above are excerpts from a longer poem Bayraqdar wrote in Saydanaya prison between 1997 and 2000.