Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Political Arabic Poetry for you: (3) Don't Reconcile!

Mid Ramadan
July 2014
Cairo, Egypt

Gaza is being massacred again and Cairo feels more Zionist than ever.
 And I'm supposed to be just siting here. They even took away from me my right to speak about Palestine.

Once upon a time when -for the first time- direct action was possible and did cause things to happen.
That only time I could consider abandoning the feelings of shame for being an Egyptian I grew up with. That only time we could actually express how we have always felt about Israel fiercely and openly through direct action. Real actual physical direct actions. 
Thousands walking and driving towards physical Egyptian/Palestinian borders..
 Egyptian youth swimming across the Mediterranean to get there..
 Egyptian protesters bringing physical walls built by the US funded junta down, and eventually kicking ambassadors out of the country.
 And what the world thought then didn't matter. 
This felt so right after years of suffocated, tiny, shy expressions of disagreement. 

How does the world want me to sign up for less than this in 2014?
It's 2005 all over again, and Cairo is painfully quiet and too complicit that it feels more Zionist than many other Zionist places around the world. 

The comrades who could do these things are gone or hiding, and the shameful helplessness is back to being as bitter as it has always been. 

Outside what used to be the Zionist embassy in Cairo.
Ramadan 2011.
We were there.

Political Arabic Poetry for you: Don't Reconcile:

The Egyptian poet Amal Dunqul wrote his most well known poem “Don't reconcile” لا تصالح to denounce Sadat's decision to sign the Camp David accord with Israel against the will of the Arab and Muslim nations and that of the Egyptian masses whose wounds were still fresh from the war.
Egypt's role in the region and specifically in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict has changed forever since this treaty was signed. The shameful reality of today's Egypt is a natural consequence of this move.
While Egypt is becoming more Zionist diplomatically than any other time in its modern history, this piece has become the voice which represented the voiceless Egyptians who never wanted to reconcile with the killer of their brothers. And now, as Arab regimes have cracked down on popular uprisings, people have come to relate to the piece in a different light, viewing it as a call to neither reconcile nor negotiate with their own tyrannical regimes. 

The poem was used in different artistic forms whether street art (Graffiti), Arabic calligraphy designs, caricature, and others. This is the poem recited by the author with a dedication to the Egyptian martyrs of the revolution 40 years after it was written:

This was a very challenging poem to translate. It's an honor to introduce such an important piece in the revolutionary Arabic collective subconsciousness to the non-Arabic speaking reader. It is part of the translation initiative I mentioned in my previous posts.

More works and info could be found here:



Do not reconcile
even if they give you gold
I wonder
if I were to gouge out your eyes
and replace them with two gems
would you see?
These things are priceless.

Childhood memories
between you and your brother
when you - suddenly - felt like men.
Bashfulness suppresses your yearning
when you embrace him
the silence with a smile
while your mother blames you
as if you’re still two kids.

Eternal comfort between the two of you
such that two swords are your sword
two voices are your voice
such that if you were to die
there is a guardian to the house
and a father for the child.

Would my blood turn to water in your eyes?*
Would you forget my clothes covered in blood?
Would you wear - over my blood - clothes adorned
with silver and gold?

This is war!
It may wear heavy on the heart
but behind you will be the shame of all the Arabs.

Do not reconcile.
Do not reconcile.
Do not try to find ways to hide.

Don't reconcile even if they said a head for a head. Are all heads equal?
 Graffiti in the West Bank, Palestine

Do not reconcile over blood
even with blood.
Do not reconcile
even if they say a head for a head
Are all heads equal?
Is a stranger’s heart
equal to your brother’s?
Are his eyes your brother’s eyes?
Is a hand whose sword was your sword
equal to a hand whose sword caused you to mourn.

They will say:
We came to you to stop the bloodshed
We came to you, o’ prince, to mediate.
They will say
'Here we are cousins'
so tell them
they had no such consideration
for he who has perished.
Instill the sword into the forehead of the desert
until the nothingness tells you
that I was for you
a knight
a brother
a father
and a king.

Do not reconcile
even if they bestow leadership upon you.
How can you step over the corpse of your father’s son?
How can you become king with such phony joy?
How can you look at the hands of those who are
shaking your hands, and not see blood on them?
If it was one arrow that stabbed me in the back
for you it will be one thousand
because blood has become a decoration and a badge.
Do not reconcile.
Do not reconcile
even if they bestow leadership upon you.
Indeed your throne is a sword
and your sword is a sham
unless it witnesses moments of honor.

Do not reconcile
even if those who retreated during the fighting said,
'We don't have the energy to wield our swords'
when the truth fills your heart
you will breathe fire
and the tongue of betrayal will be silent.

Do not reconcile
regardless of how much they talk about peace.
How can you look into the eyes of a woman you know you cannot protect?
How can you become her lover?
How can you wish for tomorrow for a sleeping newborn?
How can you dream about the future of a young boy
while he’s growing up in your hands - with a broken heart. 

Do not reconcile
and don’t share food with those who have killed you.
Water your heart with blood…
and water the sacred lands…
and water your ancestors who lie there…
until their bones respond back to you!

Do not reconcile
even if your tribe calls upon you
to be deceptive and show acceptance to those who came to you.
Your tribe will say
'You're asking for vengeance
that is quite distant.
So take what you can right now.’

Let us be honest
in these few years
this is not your vengeance alone
its generations’ after generations’
and tomorrow
there is one who will be born
who will wear full armor
who will kindle the fire fully
who will bring about truth
from ruptures in the impossible.
Do not reconcile
even if it is said that reconciliation is deceit.

It is vengeance.
The flames fade in the heart…
as the seasons pass…
the hand of shame will leave a mark (with its five fingers)
on the humiliated foreheads.

Do not reconcile
even if its written in the stars
and the astrologers break the news to you.
I would have forgiven if I died inadvertently.
I was not a conqueror.
I never snuck close to their trading post.
I never came close to the fruit of their grapevines.
I never came close to the fruit of their grapevines.
their verdant lands - I never came near them.
My killer never shouted ‘Watch out!’ to me…
he was walking alongside me…
then he shook my hand..
then he walked ahead
into the bushes to hide.

a shiver punctured me between two ribs
my heart swelled
then burst
I struggled until I could prop myself on my forearm
and saw my vile cousin
rejoicing over my suffering with a cruel face.
I did not wield a dagger
or even an old weapon
nothing but a rage borne of hunger.

Do not reconcile
until existence returns to its moving cycle
the stars to orbit
the birds to their song
the sands to their grain
and the martyr to his awaiting daughter.

Everything was destroyed in a fleeting moment:
youth, the joy of family, the sounds of horses, getting to know a guest,
the humming of the heart upon seeing sprouts in the garden,
the prayer for seasonal rain,
the elusion of the heart when it sees the bird of death flying over deathly duels.

Everything was destroyed upon a licentious whim
and the one who assassinated me was not a god
such that he could kill me with his will
he was not more noble than I
such that he could kill me with his knife
he was not more clever than me
such that he could kill me through deceit.

Do not reconcile
for reconciliation is nothing but a treaty
between two equals
(by the honor of their hearts)
otherwise it cannot be true
the one who assassinated me was just a thief
who stole my land right in front of my eyes
as the silence was sarcastically laughing!

Do not reconcile
even if all the sheiks stand against your sword
along with the men with no integrity
and those whose turbans dangle over their eyes
and their Arabic swords have forgotten the years of glory.

Do not reconcile
for there should be nothing but what you want
you are the only knight of this time
and the rest are ‘Musookh’.*

Do not reconcile.
Do not reconcile.
* For blood to turn to water: An Arabic saying referring to the impossibility of blood transforming into water, and the bonds of blood, family, and brotherhood being lost.

** Musookh (sing. Maskh): Creatures that are partially human, and part monster. Originally a term to describe creatures such as Dracula and Frankenstein, Maskh is used as a derogatory term to describe people - rulers, “Uncle Toms,” etc. - who betray their own people and humanistic values in order to attain fame, fortune, notoriety, etc. Also translated as metamorphosis and transformation.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful job.

Anonymous said...

Very moving.
I found myself looking for the foundation/ideology of the person speaking.