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.