Skip to main content

From a distance

In 2015 the Iranian poet and activist Fatemeh Ekhtesari was sentenced to 99 lashes and eleven and a half years of imprisonment for alleged crimes against the Islamic regime—immoral conduct and blasphemy—due to her poems. In 2016 she managed to flee the country and today she lives in exile in Norway. On the Internet and in social media she continues to be a vital voice for the people of Iran. In this poem she writes about the demonstrations in Iran in November 2019—about being in exile when one’s country is in a state of insurgence and the Internet is shut down and replaced by silence.

Credits Text: Fatemeh Ekhtesari Translation from Persian: Margo Munro Kerr March 13 2020

Far off, a small light flickers,
short of breath in the polluted air.
Today, more like a fly than ever,
I beat against the glass in vain.

Lines of blood on my computer screen,
lines of blood on TV.
What can she do but read the news -
the woman buried on that side of the border

the woman dreaming of return?
Waiting for Godot, she gazes at the screen,
her mother tongue catching in her throat.
She’s suffocating between Becket’s hands.

Her lips haven’t closed on calls for freedom.
My lips are broken from swallowed words.
Your lips are covered in blood from the truncheon’s strikes.
Your grief within my body, pressed together:

I’m wet! How can I sleep when I’m drowning?
I bind my restless legs to the bed.
I’m like an exile to a far-off island.
Someone has swallowed my escape map.

The light flickers, almost out.
It was a distant hope of sun these dark nights.
What can she do but read the news?
A woman boxed up, locked in.

Like what you read?

Take action for freedom of expression and donate to PEN/Opp. Our work depends upon funding and donors. Every contribution, big or small, is valuable for us.

Donate on Patreon
More ways to get involved