Egypt Independent

The Prisoners’ Laughter



In solidarity with activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah

, who has been detained since October in relation to the Maspero violence of 9 October and missed the birth of his first child Khaled earlier this month, colloquial poet Abdel Rahman al-Abnoudi wrote “The Prisoners’ Laughter.”

Egypt Independent has translated an excerpt of the poem to share with its readers.

Flirting with its bars, the birds sing

and the cell, for your sake, hates the jailer.

Come taste with us the sweetness of the prison cell.

On its floor, you stretch your legs

your jailer, at a loss to describe you,

however hard he tries, will never know you.

The sun’s a stubborn torch … it won’t set,

it worries for you,

the sun grieves like every prisoner.

And the night, your partner in patience on this journey,

sings … and the night is inky in its darkness

its songs of suffering passed down from those who came before.

In the dark, reproach Egypt and coax her,

you who’ve for so long loved her

twins, in a moment of passion born.

Blessed are the unjustly imprisoned.

In a time that tricks and procrastinates,

you are suns shining in dark places

The guards’ steps outside the window

The sound of shoes with you through the night

Your jailer, it’s he who needs a lawyer.

The war and those who boldly fought it

were both Muslims, friend, and Christians.

Can we profess a religion and deny the other?

Those who plant between us a wall of separation,

dividing us, one group hating the other

intend: the one Egypt to be come two.

A salute for you … written it in my own hand.

Pay the price of your love for your Coptic brother

Although, in origin, all of us are Copts.

Those who died in the revolution’s square

Was their blood red or black?

Tell those who’re trying to divide the blood.

The cry is low but it shakes the universe,

the fool warns the rose: “hide your color.”

What does the ox know about garden breeze?

Evil lies drunk on the edge of the square,

soldiers block the breaking dawn

while you write a path for those to come.

The revolution’s a light and its thief is sly

Dancing between the martyrs and the prisoners

While the squares are still soaked in blood.

They don’t repent … nor does the past teach them.

They hear nothing except their own words.

Not for them the talk of land and plant.

We say “yes” and they say “no”

and to tell the truth, they have a point

for you made the revolution with a blog.

Translated by Aisha El-Awady.

With thanks to Ahdaf Soueif for her editorial contribution.