A Poem by Ashraf Fayadh, Translated into Slovene and English

Tomorrow – Thursday 14 January – will see a huge selection of worldwide events in support of the Saudi-Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, recently sentenced to death by a Saudi court on charges of apostasy in his poetry (though the real reason behind the sentence may have been some regime-critical videos he’s posted online). At the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department at the University of Edinburgh we’ll be doing our bit with readings of Fayadh’s poetry in a couple of languages – including the original Arabic and translations into English, Sard, Italian, French, and Slovene.

This last will be my own contribution to the proceedings. For the occasion I’ve translated a poem of Fayadh’s – titled “Why We Care More About Oil Than Blood” (Fī faḍl al-nafṭ ‘alā al-dam) – from his 2008 poetry collection, Instructions Within (Ta‘līmāt fī al-daḳl), into Slovene.

This is in fact the first time I’ve done any Arabic translation directly into my native language – a bit intimidating, but fun! The Slovene version of the poem is below, followed by the English; note that in part the English follows the Slovene more closely than the Arabic, as I did the Slovene translation first and then used it as aid for the English version.

~

Zakaj nam je bolj mar za nafto kot kri

Vedi – in Bog te obvaruj –
da je nafta povsod, da jo vse potrebuje,
in da je, kakor pravijo, dobra za ljudstvo.

Vam, ki ste tavali,
tavali po velikih mestih, vsem na očeh
in izgubili vse –
poti odrešenja odrezane
od praznine, ki polni vaše prsi:

Tvoja kri bo ostala nema,
dokler boš ponosen na smrt,
dokler boš kričal, da si svoj duh prepustil nekomu, ki ga ne razume.
Morda boš dolgo brez duha –
a ta groza ne bo enaka tisti v tvojih očeh, ko boš videl, kaj lahko naredi nafta.

In gospodar ljudstva je rekel:
Kdor ima nafto, potrebuje njene derivate;
potrebuje jih –
blagoslov od tistih s plameni v očeh –
da postane njegovo srce božansko.

Nimaš dovolj,
da bi se rešil tegob naše dobe.
Nimaš cevi, iz katere bi tekla kri,
ki bi z njo poškropil zlagane vrednote,
ali da se malo po malo izmuzneš
desetini duha, ki se mu je ta doba ognila,
ali vsaj enemu dnevu odtujenosti.

Trepetaš.
Daj torej krvi, kolikor moreš,
da napojiš odtujenost,
da jo vbrizgaš v nafto tistih,
ki so dolžni izdati tvoj duh.
Da prosiš odpuščanje od reke
in se javno opravičiš za kri, ki si jo spustil vanjo.

Z nafto se upreš!
In odpreš temnice modrcev,
srkaš iz češenj in okoli njih,
zmehčaš in navlažiš, kar je med nogami –
in blagoslovljeno sladkobo okrog sebe.

In kaj potem,
če so ti izdajalci obesili sekiro na ramo?
Pravijo, da si se igral s krvjo – še vedno hrepeneč –
in se izgubljal v zasedah na beznice, bolan od veselja –
da si lahko spil požirek zastonj.

Zastonj.
Smrtonosne besede –
in pločevinka rabljenega tobaka,
in škatla, v katero ti je mati vrgla krike –
da te morje izpljune na obalo nevidenih grozot,
kjer ti je grom obljubil, da boš oplodil oblake –
in spočel dež, ki te ne bo opral sramu strahu pred reko,
spečo v objemu razočaranja

Črne kapljice nafte
potujejo med celicami tvojega telesa
in popravljajo, kar te je ostalo
po napadu bolezni odrešitve.

In kaj je v nafti slabega ali škodljivega
drugega kot onesnažen zrak in revščina?

Dan sramu za tiste, ki so odkrili še en vrelec,
in pihali v tvoje srce, da si predal dušo nafti –
v javnem interesu.
To nafta obljubi – in svoje obljube drži…

– KONEC –

~

Why We Care More About Oil Than Blood

Know this – and God give you strength –
that oil is everywhere and useful for everything
and that it is, as they say, good for the people.

To those who have wandered
lost between the great cities of the world for all to see
and came to ruin there
all paths to redeem the spirit cut off
from the void in your heart:

Your blood will not speak
as long as you take pride in death
and proclaim that you have hidden your spirit with one who doesn’t understand it.
And the loss of this spirit will not
equal the terror in your eyes when you see what flows from oil.

So spoke a man of the people:
If you have oil, you also need what can be made from it
You need it –
a blessing from those whose eyes blaze with fire –
so that your heart can turn divine.

You don’t own enough
to rid yourself of the troubles of our age.
You have no blood on tap
so you could spray it over your false values
or avoid, bit by bit,
a tenth of the spirit this age runs without,
or even a single day of your strangeness.

You tremble, now.
Draw, then, as much blood as you can
to fill the bellies of strangeness
to inject it into the oil of those
charged with betraying your spirit.
To ask forgiveness from the river
and apologise – publicly! – for the blood you spilled inside it.

With oil, you resist!
You open the depths of brassieres
suck on the cherries and all that’s around them
moisten and soften what’s between the legs
and the sweet blessings that surround you.

So what
if the apostates hung an axe at your shoulder?
They say that you’re one of those that have gambled with blood – still bound by longing –
and lost yourself in staking out nightclubs, sick with happiness –
so you could have a sip for free.

For free.
Abortive words –
and a tin of used tobacco
and a box where your mother hid your screams –
so the sea would spit you out on a coast filled with unknown terrors
where the thunder promised you communion with the clouds –
to give birth to rain that will not wash away your shame of fearing the river
which sleeps in the arms of disappointment.

Black drops of oil
travel between the cells of your body
and repair what’s left
from the sickness that struck you during your redemption.

And what is it that’s bad or harmful in oil
apart from air polluted with poverty?

A day of shame for those who discovered yet another well
and blew into your heart so you could give your soul over to oil
in the public interest.
This is the promise of oil. A promise that’s kept.

– END –

~

(Ashraf Fayadh, Fī faḍl al-nafṭ ‘alā al-dam, p. 23-35 in Ta‘līmāt fī al-daḳl, Beirut: Dar al-Farabi, 2008.)

Advertisements