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Poetry in English

Poems by Ali Al-Sabbagh

In a Time of Need

What is it that haunts?
The children, the mothers
Of men,
In the space of perpetual grace
That seems to never end

Many left by nature…
To be over exposed by malice.
Nudity is evident when the help
Is clothed

Doors of administration are not open
When cooperation is co-opted
The people which live for self-determination
Are minimized to see their family

Buried into mass graves.
Honorably mentioned by whom?
In a time of need
Where are the machines that
Take away our work?

In a time of need
Where are the ideas that
Take away our work?

In a time of need
Where are the people that
We used to work for
Where is the compassion?

In the souls that wage
Perpetual war
What is it that haunts?
The children, the mothers
Of men,
In the space of perpetual grace
That seems to never end

A master’s plan.
Yet what is the people’s plan?…

The Maroon in the Room

The Earth sleeps.
Shed, tear
Shades of nature
Cover those
Like trees that weep

Water drew
Living fish,
The shore revealed.

Then some traveled
With the ocean to a far
Then some traveled
With the sun to a far
Then some traveled
With the wind to a far

Still in reach
The maroon
Inspired by the…

—Ali Al-Sabbagh

Poem by Tontongi

The Water That Nourishes And That drowns

(The majestic Eagle and the return of the angelic Rooster)

The slander, high-aiming and majestic Eagle
Criss-crosses and flies over hills and mountains
Smiling in a conquering gait, while the people
Happily celebrates the Rooster’s return;
The whole thing wrapped in troubling surreality.

Magnificent scenery as was the divine protection
Of twenty thousands marines with delighted gaze;
Magnificent scenery still conscious will remain
Those who transcend the moment and see the beyond,
Defeating the conditioning of a violated conscience.

The president is returned, celebrated by his people
This was its great demand and a great victory
On this unsettling, anxiety-fraught regime of shame.
The president is returned, and the people sings and sings;
Let’s hope again the dream doesn’t change to nightmare.

Alas! the people’s temporal throat-cutters
Hailed from almost everywhere, from fortified barracks
As from data-resplendent, air-conditioned offices;
They are from deforested mountains, the universities,
And from the ocean’s other side infected by our dead:
They are reincarnated today as well greeny greenbacks!

The Eagle of great sentiments, of conquering glories,
Unique super-thief of the fair, beautiful angel of hope
Bursts irresistibly in the heart of the valley of pains;
It has regained its soul in Port-au-Prince’s belly. Princely.
The wealth of the place sold by auction. Cheaply.

The president is returned, and millions of broken backs,
Badly ripped open chests, families and women violated
March on the Champs-de-Mars, breathing refreshing air;
This victory is theirs despite the powerful Eagle.
Fruit of their smarting in turning the 82nd Airborne.

I am afraid they may dupe them again, oh great people!
Bare-footed from thorny path sacrificing the symbol
Like they once burned down the city in defiance to horror
To save hope and drink a bowl of milk, well rested;
Tranquil rest of the sleeping bear. Domesticated.

This was stressing my heart deep under my bones
For not being able to celebrate my people’s joyful defeat
In this Pyrrhic victory that smelled the poison,
I fear they don’t betray again its dream of liberty!
Let’s sweep and sweep away all the soil’s toxicants!

The ceremonies are just exorcisms and blindness
Masking the macabre behind smiling faces.
After the performance, after the melodious clarion,
After the mediatic hype announcing highly dreams
Still will remain a great need for the air and the sun!

Just like the oppression and the terror inflicted
By a horrendous regime have bestialized humans
The State of law that accepts willingly being enchained
By a cajoling Empire that is trampling its ideals
Enjoys the nourishing water forgetting the drowning one.

While duped and mistreated the people is never blasé;
It holds still even when mystified by the enchanting oracle
Of the guardian angel-like Eagle and the virtual reality:
If it contents itself of the crumbs from this unjust sharing
It would wake up in a vast tyouboum! *

Victorious is the people that sows its freedom from the sap
Of defiance of its own resistance to oppressive forces.
Against fear, against terror, against servitude’s emptiness
It holds its principle, its intrinsic rebelliousness, red blood,
To reinvent ecstasy, to regain the liberated space.

On the run, defeated, humiliated, and booed by the people
A clique of the horror squads takes the luxury exile road,
escaped away in the failed dictators’ in-service jet,
And the people sings and sings, and thus life continues.

They kill us with intoxicating savior preaches,
With the sword inspired by the cemetery peace;
We are dying sacralizing our own strangle-hold
Of shadowy images embellishing the living nightmare!
If they are really gone, why have we lost our vision?

Let’s watch the spaces conquered from burnt lands;
The great joyful day is a great funeral wake
Of futures trapped in the instant’s euphoria;
Let’s watch the enslaved’s fair chained up to the soul
In Big Brother’s dogma passed for miracle-maker.

The horror is replaced by charming deception,
The great stoup of rebel is now great advocate
Of order nicely officiating to reconciliation
Between the good and the absurd in a huge mirror play:
We are being sold cheap charity for our own mercy.

A look from afar, over the dense frog of the view
Is our only light in the quest for meaning in the abyss;
Free are the woman, the man or the rebellious child
Who look for answer in the audacity of risk:
To those who look for their souls the path is often full of thorns.

Yes, we will be free tomorrow on a plain purified
Of marines, and of the thugs and throat-cutter classes
That obscure oppression under the guise of ideal
In a theater of the absurd and mystifying scenes:
Free we will be one day—free as the torrent’s wave.


* Tyouboum means trouble, serious problem, calamity.

Cherry blossoms on rue des Barres in Paris.

Cherry blossoms on rue des Barres, Paris. —photo by David Henry.

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