I shall imagine for instance

that prison is a café

And that my companions are patrons

hanging for longer than-usual-night

I am only sticking around

because you are late on me my love

I shall also imagine

that I am wearing jeans and a polo shirt,

sitting at a table right by the door -

with my coffee and watch,

my rolling paper and tobacco,

my long night and book -

overlooking the whole world

 

I shall add a piece of music…

anything that would add

some nostalgia to my scene…

“oh my beloved who I dearly miss…

I wonder who is on your mind…”

I shall stroke my own beard

that has grown so long

I shall fix my posture

and try not to reveal my belly

that started showing

as the waiting is getting longer -

it has been two years now

Oh my love,

last time I saw you had its details

that we can try not to reveal

 

I was younger than nowadays

I refer to my white hair

and I refer to how I believed

the world was fine

The state security have seized my passport

They took our engagement ring,

my address, my mother’s veil,

and my father’s Quran

They hunted all the neighborhood’s doves

and killed the dog

 

See what they did…

I suppose

you still wear your dress at night

and still draw the destinies of this world

with your mascara

I suppose you too are now older

and that the universe

is appreciating your vanity and femininity

Oh how beautifully you must be

adorning the night as it adorns you

A poet here in prison dreams

of brushing against the shadows

of your beauty

Without you

I am that doomed poet

 

I suppose

you remain untouched

I suppose

the moment we hug

still makes the world remain unsullied

I suppose

you still adore me

and that prison is not a prison

and that your conscience is not my warden

I have to pause for a second –

I feel like the reality is forcing

the scenes in my mind to drift away

and is spoiling my wording

 

Back to my unsullied scenes

and wording;

you are getting late

and my coffee is getting cold

I’ll just order another

 

I very well know

that things are busy at this hour

and that the overall situation is not safe

I heard that the dead

are asking for their shares of dreams

I followed the news broadcast –

their exchange prices were liberated

- those were the last things to be set free –

I heard the president has a flu,

does your father still detest my existence?

Do your hair braids

still have black and white strands?

Do people on the street

still check you out from their windows?

I do not mean to turn my wording

into an investigative text,

sometimes loneliness dupes me

into scavenging in the old graves –

like a dead man reliving his death scene

as he wonders in hindsight,

how death was institutive and predictable

and how the assassin is the most beautiful asset of death?

Is the world outside still busy and running?

I mean no matter how far

my imagination wanders away,

I still remain in one cell

I can tell you

that imprisonment is nothing more than a thought

and no matter how this thought is prolonged,

I know that I have a rendezvous with tomorrow,

I only fear that my words become cliché tomorrow

– between you and me –

I got used to prison’s contours 

Even my wordings’ very own shadow

is unrecognizable to me

 

My longing to you is a reality

Your visit to me is an odd assumption

This scene is what would happen

if the odd assumption occurs:

given that I would be leaving my grave

as I come meet with you

while being held in handcuffs

and escorted by an officer

who will be present in our encounter

He shall be transcribing

every word that I would be uttering to you

as I become required to speak to you

in high-pitched voice

– as they regard me as an active threat -

I will not be able to tell you

that I love you

and that you look more beautiful without makeup

and that you still taste like coffee

and that I love your butterfly lips

and that I love seeing myself through your eyes

I swear that you are more beautiful than opium

and that god loves you

and for you he had created this universe

 

I will only be able to tell you “hello”

- a cold, touchless hello -

as I would fear that the officer

would imagine himself in my position

and imagine himself hugging you

 

I will be able to ask you

if you would like something to drink

No, this is definitely an odd assumption,

not because I am stingy

or because I do not own a fine mug

The problem is that in actuality,

your visit is unattainable

as prison is an unassuming place

- which by the way has abysmal lighting

and an abysmal service

I would be very stressed if you visit

I would like to alleviate

the frightened bird in your heart

But imprisonment is hindering me from doing this

- It is my fault not yours

 

I will be able to tell you

that December started yesterday

and that January shall follow

I am afraid of mentioning January

which could be explicit

- the officer may relate the light in your eyes

with the month of January -

many things have happened in January

This poem cannot accommodate certain words

like the gunpowder in the square

and the refugees

and the slaughtered roses

that rose to the sky

with nothing being condemned

The snipers, hunters, bowlers and tanks

 

The homeland

used to have something discordant

This is a fatal offense to brevity

We are drifting away again,

let us get back to my wording

as I am afraid the context

would bring some aggressive cartridges

Or we get detained or suffocate

I feel the taste of gas in my throat

This is not a metaphor

The night is long

and the memories are not far

for those that stay up late

A house made of nostalgia

and another made of glass

and the night remains long,

it drags tomorrow and amalgamates with yesterday.

The sins get lost

between trace of decency and intuition

Who resurrected the forgotten from death?

Wait, I recognize this voice

 

This voice is coming from afar

and is dashing us,

it has chained my imagination

It is coming from the old prison guard

that is hampering my resurrection

and vanishing my cunning imagination

and my wondering about where the road is?

I shall imagine

that my imagination does not suffice

And that my poem does not help

And that imprisonment

is nothing more than a thought

that no matter how long it gets prolonged,

I know that I shall meet with tomorrow

Galal El-Behairy

Tora Prison, December 19, 2019

 

Translated in collaboration with Artists At Risk.

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