Muhammad Al-Shahat – From a prisoner’s diary

Shahat LE P&W 7 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Seven Nov-Dec 2023.

From a prisoner’s diary,  poems by Muhammad Al-Shahat.

From a prisoner’s diary

He kept resisting his desire
To leave his prison
He thought that night bats
Have wings
They will surround him when they see him
He will beautify the prison walls
He arranges some pillows
That he was collecting
From newspapers
And he draws on the wall
Some faces
For women
He was flirting in his dreams
So, she runs away when she sees him
He mastered drawing birds
And flowers and houses where he does not know who lives in
He only got to know them on the prison wall
He was crumbling pieces of dry bread
And spraying water
So, he hears a chirp
And he smells scents and feels the warmth of breath
The jailer sees him and gets angry
When he opens the doors
To tempt him to leave
He kept resisting his desire not to leave his prison
He felt like the walls were surrounding him
And he sees the jailer’s eyes in his bed
And he feels his palms turning him
To make sure that sleep encircles him
The jailer was
Trying to steal his laugh
I calmed him down

Moments of stillness of the soul
He bargained with him to own his prison
Thus, he tempted him
To leave him and loosen his chains
Or to exchange their places
He tried to steal him
And he tried to take him out
He resisted him
So, the walls moved
The chirping turned into the sounds of vultures
And flowers turned into thorns
His room expanded
He resisted him
And he managed to close his prison
He defended courageously
The jailer is irritated
And he tried to destroy
What he left behind on the prison walls
His room resisted
And the voices of latent anger rose
From the residents of homes whom he does not know
And the prison tightened for the jailer
So, he went
His revolution has begun.

Remember me when I am absent

Promise me
Do not let my face grow old
And draw his appearance in your eyes
And try not to stay far away
I am still trying to live
To touch your offspring
Will I see him?
Or will my train pass quickly?
So, you yearn for my face
When you bring him out from among the fragments of memory
And you tell your children
What I was trying to do
Do not tell them anything except the joyful things
And if any of them tried to ask about me
Do not tell him about me when I left you crying
I was trying to capture your desires from you
Do not bridle him
And let him grow up
Like clouds
That rain where they want
Will you tell him
What was I trying to do?
Promise me not to make him sad
And let him be proud
When he sees me on the wall
Oh, I will not be able to carry him
Or I do
What I was trying
When I was young
Do you tell him?

How did you draw millions of things with your eyes?!
And you blew the mud of the earth
And you made lamps
And houses
And you planted flowers and ears of corn
So, remember me with your children
Remember me with your children
If I am gone
And do not forget

© Mohamed Baraka

Muhammad Al-Shahat (1954) is an Egyptian poet and journalist. He published twenty-five poetry collections. In addition, six critical studies are written about his poetry. He is also a member of the Egyptian Writers Union – and a member of its Board of Directors in the previous term. His poems are published in most newspapers and cultural and literary periodicals in Egypt and the Arab world. He has participated in literary forums and cultural conferences since the early seventies, and has won several awards, the most important of which is the Egypt Youth Award in 1978.

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