The Arab Revolt 2011

The story begins
with a song—
it’s stubborn,
breaks air
into history;
for a minute
it’s quiet
to allow everyone in,
and then it raises
to celebrate voices,
clears its throat,
says:
We will bury the smoke that blinds us,
plant our soul on every page,
we will divide our pain into towers
and fill our hands with rain,
we will arrive on time every day
to chase you away,
we will no longer be afraid
of what makes us shiver under the sun,
we will leave our names in every teahouse,
our messages at the bottom of every cup.

Light will no longer be illegal
nor will hope—
even the guards will count
the scars on their tongue
and prepare to heal,
even the children will keep
homeland in the mirror
and prepare to see,
even the women will turn
the fire inside the door
off, and prepare to live.

We will never whisper again.
There is evidence, there is evidence,
that now we can hear
the sounds that lift freedom
across a continent,
and say, Salaam to you,
welcome to my country.

 

Listen:

 

Nathalie Handal

Nathalie Handal’s recent books include the flash collection The Republics (Pitt Poetry Series), lauded as “one of the most inventive books by one of today’s most diverse writers” and winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and the Arab American Book Award; the critically acclaimed Poet in Andalucia (Pitt Poetry Series) and Love and Strange Horses (Pitt Poetry Series), winner of the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award. She is a professor at Columbia University and writes the literary travel column The City and the Writer for Words Without Borders.