[The following poem is by Muḥammad Farḥāt al-Shalṭāmī (1945-2010), one of the leading figures of Libyan dissident literature. Born in Benghazi in the wake of Italy’s bloody colonial rule, al-Shaltami was employed as a teacher. He was first jailed in the 1960s under the monarchy – for his poetry as much as for his political activities. He was imprisoned again more than once during the 1970s by the Qaddafi regime. Shaltami was the author of numerous collections of poetry, with many poems originally composed in and about prison. Much of his poetry was published only in the 1990s. The Arabic original (below) comes from the collection Tadhākir li-l-jaḥīm (Tickets to Hell).]


You issue your verdict,

While morning still follows evening

And our mother, the great sun,

Dawns red despite your disgraceful informant.

Let me say this: Neither you nor I hold Time in our hand

As it passes by this huge world of ours.

The door locks shut

As morning makes its way. I can feel it, like a hand in the dark

Knocking down fences of the impossible,

Like fate's laughter, warning of sobs and tears,

And now I can see your crucifix, your scepter, your end, your predication

Now I can see you harvesting in the fields of death

Those things you planted with your own two hands.

Like me, you are someone who now awaits the cross in terror,

You wake to the delusion of a hand slipping ruin and annihilation into your palm.

To the delusion that the refuge of comrades surges and crushes while the essence

At dawn, a bullet smashes apart your barbaric head.

While you sit staring at the face of your dismal killer in mirrors.

Like me, you now await your cross with dread,

Whenever night falls, the echoes of a phonograph record bring you back,

You traitor. Yes. The worst of it all is to have betrayed.

-- July 26, 1969.

الاتّهام للشاعر محمد فرحات الشلطامي

أصدرت حكمك والمساء

ما زال يعقبه الصباح وأمنا الشمس الكبيرة

حمراء تشرق رغم مخبرك الوضيع

دعني أقول بأن ما بيدي أو يدك الزمان

يمضي بعالمنا الكيبر

*     *     *

الباب يغلق والصباح

آت أحس به، كأن يدا تحطم في الظلام

سور المحال كأن ضحك الدهر ينذر بالبكاء

فأرى صليبك.. صولجانك، وانتهاءك مبتداك

وأراك تحصد في حقول الموت، ما زرعت يداك

الآن مثلي، أنت ذا في الرعب تنتظر الصليب

تصحو على وهم بأن يدا تدس لك الفناء

وبأن حصنك بالرفاق يموج يزحم والخلاصة

بالفجر تنسف رأسك الهمجي رصاصة

وتظل تبصر في المرايا وجه قاتلك الكئيب

الآن مثلي، أنت ذا في الرعب تنتظر الصليب

وتعيد نفسك كلما عتم المغيب صدى اسطوانة

قد خنت آه لعل أبشع ما يكون هو الخيانة

          -- نشرت في  ٢٦-٧-١٩٦٩

من ديوان تذاكر للجحيم

  (بنغازي: دار الجماهيرية، ١٩٩٨)