"Where Is the Escape?" by Ali al-Jundi
To where is the escape?
All the sea of death is in front of you
and the past is behind you..
You are not running away from a past or from a black future.
You are running away from your blazing depths
carrying, wherever you go, fear and death,
and sufferings of the wailing homeland.
Carrying your totaled sorrows..
* * *
You are alone, alone..
All seductions are yours,
and you have the abilities of a thousand gods
to kill yourself
and to destroy your dangling insides!
..And this country you drink
but don't relish,
you carry it at the ends of your barren veins..
will you ever be finished..with its murderous passion?!
And.. you depart from it and to it.
You journey in it from east to west.
You look in its scorching desert for a shelter.
And you know there is no place
in the land of perdition except for killer or victim!!!
From all the shrubs you selected a thorny one
and went on snapping its branches, changing its colors
and transforming with your mouth a darkness over its murderous soul..!
* * *
..And you wait for sleep became longer
and your fringes elongated in the blowing wind.
Intense desires burdened your body .
You voyaged in every direction
poor and disrespectable.
A man in these huge crowds.
Nights steal you
and the nation's guards follow you everywhere.
They take from you the smiles of your day.
You are alone and riddled with slanders.
You wear the garments of drowsiness
worn by all who are violated..
And your kin are either in the grave or in coffins
coddling their deaths in barrenness, and dreading awakening.
If.. only they could get lost in the ruins ..
..The season of roses and water and fire is over.
So you and they become vestiges.
Maybe they'll sleep forever.
The dew is welcome
and a thousand hellos to the touch of bullets
and return of the echoes..
And you return to paths not shielded by any sound or bird or imagination.
Dust sleeps little by little.
Into it falls a light skewed from its destination.
The blood of a departing winter run slowly, slowly..
And you continue your trek depicting a lark.
At times you stare at the heavens apologizing for blue skies.
You brush the surface of polluted waters.. smiling at your reflection.
And at times you smell the air and mutter: "How impoverished".
And in your inside a massacre dwells..
* * *
And you pamper your whimsies and run away from any gesture of love,
from any woman that chooses you.
As if you are killing in you any glimmer of happiness!
You race your shadow toward devastation.
You race your poetic friend to destroy the two of you with drink and with grief..!
You don't keep the poison of frustration off the aging body.
Instead, you burn what's left of youth in it.
And you recede from your stiffened body like and old man!
And there you are after the long years..naked of people and offsprings
and wealth, love and fancies..
You comprehend the futility of your old dreams!
So what do you protect at this
And what do you, cursed heart, aspire for but death?!
And birds desert your shade
looking for non-emaciated branches.
Your branches are thorns and frightening desiccation.
No water passes your shoes
and around you fire,
destruction and foul winds.
Around you poverty, fear and death.
A tomb and..corps of this country!
So bow your branches my ill-omened master.
Pull out what's left of your roots in a soil you cast forth
Maybe you'll find: a home!!
"Where Is the Escape?" was originally published in Arabic.
The poem is written in the free verse style of Arabic poetry known as nather (نثر) developed in the Middle East during the mid-1900s. As such, it does not have a strict meter or rhyming structure, but rather uses punctuation and new lines to convey the intended concepts and emotion.
- English translation by Lahab Assef al-Jundi
- Formatting issues in the Arabic version may cause punctuation to display incorrectly. A fix is in progress.