Last week I listened to the Poetry Foundation's podcast of a new book called Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak, edited by Marc Falkoff.
Most of the poems have been scrubbed and analyzed by U.S. attorneys and officials for terrorist messages hidden in the verse. But I was so moved by the podcast that I searched online for more information on the book, to be published by August 15 by the University of Iowa Press.
In addition to the Poetry Foundation's audio interview (podcast is on the homepage), you can listen the NPR story, or read about the new book at The Independent or Wall Street Journal.
Here's one of the poems from NPR's Web site:
Humiliated in the Shackles
When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.
The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely around the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.
Their temptations seize
My attention like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an empty snake,
Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom,
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.
America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.
The world recognizes an arrogant liar.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed.
Mohammad, do not forget me.
Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.
I was humiliated in the shackles.
How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?
After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,
How can I write poetry?
My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,
Violent with passion.
I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors'.
I am overwhelmed with apprehension.
Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.
Lord, grant success to the righteous.
— Sami al Haj
Copyright © University of Iowa Press.