Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teargas poems from Egypt

And the Arabist:

I loved these revolutionary poems, by Egyptian poet Kareem Abdulsalam and translated by Elliott Colla over at Jadaliyya. The first two probably deal with events that took place on January 28. The last one speaks to the longing for Midan Tahrir as a place in which everything seemed possible, and everyone felt purposeful (a longing that as we've seen has led people to return to that square and others in the past week). Enjoy. 

4. What Comes From a Cop

Armored cars
Boxes of perfected fear.
     We thought they were divine creatures come to crush us
          as native Americans first looked at horses. 
     We thought death itself sprang from them.

Armored car
     Went up in flames
     And the policeman inside struggled against the tongues of fire
          Fought against fear.

When we rescued him, 
     He joined the rebellion.

5. He Thought We Were Going to Kill Him

Central security policeman
Peasant who came straight from the village
To fire tear gas at revolutionaries. 
When we grabbed him, 
He thought we were going to kill him
And cried like a child,
     I want my brother. He’s over there
     In that burning armored car.

We took him by the hand
     To his brother—the very one from the last poem. 
He’d taken off his black vest, 
     And was sitting on the ground with the revolutionaries.

6. What Is to Be Done, Now?

What shall we do, now that freedom has dawned over Midan Tahrir?

It would be senseless to go back home,
     To tell tales of the many victories won by the people. 
We will tell the stories often, 
     And listeners will ask us and ask us to repeat them.

In our hearts we might wish that the Dictator had persisted in his stubbornness
     that we had remained in Midan Tahrir forever…
          churning out hurried placards and posters
               sharing food with one another
                    sharing slogans of freedom.

We desire, each one of us, to go on talking about ourselves without end. 
     We dream of sitting,
          all of us together,
               on the ground,
                    singing ballads about our country
                         on cold nights
                              while the tanks protect us.

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