Imprisoned By Our Own Heritage
The current events in Syria, where the regime of President Bashar al-Assad (based on reports from the UN) have been conducting a systematic and vicious assault against Syrian civilians and those factions trying to protest against the government, has yet again raised the specter of genocide and human rights violations. We’ve seen this movie before in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya. For myself it forces me to put myself in the shoes of the citizens of Syria and, also, in the shoes of those who are being ordered by the government to carry out attacks on their own citizens. This is a lose-lose situation for both sides until the rest of the world exerts pressure on Syria to force this to a peaceful end. But with so many already dead it is far too late for many Syrians.
As we speak the world is unravelling and changing before our very eyes. It is a tragic time, but it is an immense time to be a writer and a poet.
I wrote the following poem, Imprisoned By Our Own Heritage (دبكة), as a part of my latest collection of poems, The Protocols of Torture. This particular poem was written in response to the Arab Spring, where mostly everyone is caught in between the two clashing sides.
Imprisoned By Our Own Heritage (دبكة)
Soldier, shhhh! listen, you come from a fertile country full of song,
mountainous and ridiculous, luxuriant valleys where the Arabian
mare still runs free, their wedge-shaped heads wildly belligerent,
the jibbah between their eyes bulging from their swelling pride,
in brick and mortar you can see the sonic quality of the poor that you know,
young men and women in bright red grab, waving flags, protesting in the
street who are more true poets than any lines on a page,
above you darkness, swords poised and ready,
below you dust and clay, gentle yellow flowers breathing beneath
a land that needs watering, shade from the heat, a gentle hue of blue
over where you can live in peace;
Soldier, shhhh! listen, what will you do?
fire orange-red shots across the plague filled streets at your brother?
at your sister? at your mother? at your father? at your lover? at your child?
at your friends?
Dabke (دبكة), tiptoe, hide in the margins of the fear that you must face
headlong, thoughts that will make you labor, monsters that will
become your new enemy when you become the savior-enemy of
here is a corpse; here is a river; here is the impervious blue sky;
Soldier, listen, shhhh! here is freedom;
what will you do?