Ashraf Fayadh, Cracks in the Skin

My country passed by here,

wearing the shoe of freedom….

Then off it went, leaving its shoe behind

It ran at a belabored pace… like the rhythm of my heartbeat.

my heart, which was running in a different direction… without a convincing justification.

The shoe of liberty was worn out, old and fake

like the rest of human values, at all levels.

Everything has left and abandoned me… including you.

The shoe is a disconcerting invention

it demonstrates our ineligibility to live on this planet.

it reveals our belonging to another place with no great need for walking

or a place with a floor that has cheap tiles… slippery ones!

The problem is not the slipping… but rather the water,

the heat… the broken glass… the thorns… the dry branches and the sharp rocks.

Shoes are not the perfect solution

but in some way they fulfill the intended goal

just like reason

and like passion.

My passion has become extinguished since last time you left

I can no longer reach you

since I have been detained in a cement box supported by cold metal bars,

since everyone has forgotten me… starting from my freedom…

and ending with my shoe, affected by an identity crisis.

*Translated from Arabic into Italian by Sana Darghmouni, from Italian into English by Pina Piccolo and approved by the author.

**Cracks in the skin, is a poem written by Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh from a Saudi Arabia jail, where he has been detained for the past four years on charges of apostasy, with a court sentence issued in February 2016 eight years imprisonment, 800 lashes and the demand that he publicly renounce his work. Since 2016 La Macchina Sognante has joined the international campaign demanding his release and has published one of his poems in translation in every issue. We will follow the same approach in The Dreaming Machine, the English language version of La Macchina Sognante. The artist’s family has called for renewed monetary support to help pay for the expenses incurred by his legal defense team as it prepares the appeal. We will provide more information as that international effort becomes more structured.

On October 20, 2017 the poet was awarded the prestigious PEN Canada One Humanity award which, in the words of the press release issued by the Canadian organization, is given “to a writer whose work transcends the boundaries of national divides and inspires connections across cultures. Valued at $5,000 CAD, the award honours PEN’s commitment to literature as a common currency between nations, and as a catalyst for mutual understanding and respect.

The 2017 winner, Ashraf Fayadh, is a Palestinian refugee living in Saudi Arabia and the author of Instructions Within (2008), a poetry collection that comments on social issues in the Arab world. He is a key member of the Edge of Arabia, a British-Saudi arts community and digital platform that promotes dialogue and cultural exchange between the Middle East and western world.

“Behind Fayadh’s poems, there are stories that show the painful loss of freedom,” said Ashraf Zaghal, editor for Arabic poetry magazine, Laghoo. “His stories about freedom do not necessarily relate to the poet’s homeland but, rather, reach out to the human public sphere and the strife for the essential right to free speech and action.”

In the summer of 2014, Fayadh stood trial in Saudi Arabia on blasphemy related charges related to his poetry collection, which has since been banned from circulation. Saudi courts sentenced him to death in 2015 for the crime of being an infidel, but after international outcry, authorities commuted his sentence to eight years and 800 lashes. Fayadh remains in prison in Abha while he appeals his sentence.

“This award reminds Fayadh, his family, his supporters, and most importantly, his jailers, that his colleagues will continue to advocate for his right to freedom of expression until he is released,” said PEN Canada president, Richard Stursberg.

PEN Canada will present the award Friday, October 20, at their annual event at the International Festival of Authors. Entitled, Glorious and Free? Canada in 2017, the panel features Jesse Wente, Rachel Giese, Desmond Cole and moderator Jesse Brown in a discussion on Canadian freedoms.

The International Festival of Authors will also feature an empty chair on each stage to honour imprisoned Azeri writer and blogger, Rashad Ramazanov.”

Featured image by Ashraf Fayadh courtesy of the artist, from his in-progress project “Spiderscarf” (Shashaboon)

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