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For Ashraf Fayadh (two poems)

by James Graham 

Posted: 15 December 2015
Word Count: 348
Summary: There's a very serious, true story behind this poem. See below. (I've added a 'companion' poem, which tries to make a point of sorts.)

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For Ashraf Fayadh


You do not run
through the forest of a poem
by a straight path, looking
neither left nor right.

You wander and meander,
turn off the path, find speedwell,
bryony, celandine. Look
from ten paces and two inches,
find beauty beneath beauty.

But stupid men who run all day
through the business of power
saw only a snake.


They love not poetry
but machines: machines that gouge
the earth for oil, build business towers,

control. Their humanoid police
were activated. On voice command
and by autonomous navigation

the poet was found. A metal voice
recited: ‘You are charged
with derogation of the Faith, which is
apostasy. You will have
no counsel’. Thus poetry

was simplified


The Faith
must be cared for constantly.
It is haemophiliac.
Prick it and it will die.

The Trial of William Wordsworth

Gentlemen of the jury, to conclude:

‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven!’

He wrote this, not about the glorious
Coronation Day of our dear Queen,
but the anarchy in which the ancient crown
of the King of France was taken from him,
and he was brutally slain. You have heard

the evidence of our distinguished
Reader of Poetry, who reminds us
that poetry may not be what it seems;
that there are ‘underlying meanings’,
a concept he made very clear to us.

Elsewhere, you will recall, the prisoner
has called himself ‘an active partisan’;
in these two words conspiracy and treason
wear a thin disguise. This man has walked
the vales of Cumbria premeditating
the tearing down of all that is dear to us:
our proud nobility, the rights of property,
a man’s prerogative to protect and rule
his womenfolk. More heinous still,
he has conspired against the life
of our beloved Monarch! A final word:

there may be some among you who have doubts,
allow some minor reservation that this man
is but a harmless poet. If so, do not forget
the maxim: Better safe than sorry.

With that, Milord, I rest my case.

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 19:29 on 15 December 2015  Report this post
Ashraf Fayadh is a poet and artist. His art has been shown at the Venice Biennale, and his poetry collection Instructions Within was published in Beirut in 2008. He is also a Palestinian refugee, now living in Saudi Arabia.

In 2013 a Saudi artist who disagreed with his views reported him to the religious police. He was arrested, charged with blasphemy and promoting atheism, and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and 800 lashes. Later, however, the charge was changed to apostasy (renouncing Islam) and on 17 November 2015 he was sentenced to death.

Amnesty International and other human rights organisations are campaigning for the sentence to be annulled, and for his release. An open letter, signed by poets including Carol Ann Duffy, Paul Muldoon, Charles Simic, John Ashbery and George Szirtes, has been sent to the Saudi king.

Here are two of his (untitled) poems from Instructions Within, translated into Engish by Mona Kareem. They relate to the experience of being a refugee.


prophets have retired
so do not wait for yours to come to you
and for you,
for you the monitors bring their daily reports
and get these high salaries.
how important money is
for a life of dignity
he’s got no right to walk however
or to swing however or to cry however.
he’s got no right to open the window of his soul,
to renew his air, his waste, and his tears.
you tend to forget that you too are
a piece of bread

V`yonne at 14:40 on 16 December 2015  Report this post
I signed that petition.

I love the poem James.

James Graham at 20:53 on 16 December 2015  Report this post
Nearly 23,000 signatures now. Great, but not much good unless the 'international community' gives the Saudis a shot across the bows. I don't know if you know about this, but another Saudi citizen, Raif Badawi, was sentenced to prison and 1,000 lashes for blogging about free speech. But the European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize (for defending the right of free expression). EU President Martin Schultz said he should be released in order to receive the prize, and added that the Saudis were 'trampling human rights underfoot'. The Saudi authorities have kindly suspended the lashes. They should release Raif, but  at least it's a concession. Pressure and more pressure...until they squeal.

No criticism of the poem? A word here and there, even? Does the third section work and fit with the poem, or should it be more about the man not the religion?


V`yonne at 11:02 on 17 December 2015  Report this post
I'll get back to it James. Just a profuctory read... I see all these petitions on Facebook and I get emails about most of it too. Just a bit Christmas busy you know xxx

V`yonne at 14:47 on 22 December 2015  Report this post
I think you could do without 'you' if you see what I mean and

But stupid men who run all day
through the business of power
see only a snake.

I don't think you need the word 'business' to qualify towers.
And I think you'd have more layers here with less puntuation.

control their humanoid police
activated on voice command
and by autonomous navigation

and it needs a full stop after simplified.


must be cared for constantly.

needs constant care? requires constancy and care?  Just a thought.

V`yonne at 14:50 on 22 December 2015  Report this post
I think the second poem works very well as it is.

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