Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak
Ode to the Sea
O sea, give me news of my loved ones.
Were it not for the chains of the faithless, I would have dived into you,
And reached my beloved family, or perished in your arms.
Your beaches are sadness, captivity, pain, and injustice.
Your bitterness eats away at my patience.
Your calm is like death, your sweeping waves are strange.
The silence that rises up from you holds treachery in its fold.
Your stillness will kill the captain if it persists,
And the navigator will drown in your waves.
Gentle, deaf, mute, ignoring, angrily storming,
You carry graves.
If the wind enrages you, your injustice is obvious.
If the wind silences you, there is just the ebb and flow.
O sea, do our chains offend you?
It is only under compulsion that we daily come and go.
Do you know our sins?
Do you understand we were cast into this gloom?
O sea, you taunt us in our captivity.
You have colluded with our enemies and you cruelly guard us.
Don’t the rocks tell you of the crimes committed in their midst?
Doesn’t Cuba, the vanquished, translate its stories for you?
You have been beside us for three years, and what have you gained?
Boats of poetry on the sea; a buried flame in a burning heart.
The poet’s words are the font of our power;
His verse is the salve for our pained hearts.
“Ibrahim al-Rubaish was teaching in Pakistan when he was arrested by mercenaries and sold to allied forces. A religious scholar who dislikes hostility and was once a candidate for a judgeship, Rubaish has a daughter, born just three months before he was captured, who is now five years old. During a military administrative hearing, he was told: ‘If you are considered to be a continued threat, you will be detained. If you are not considered a threat, we will recommend release. Why should we consider releasing you?’ Rubaish’s response was, ‘In the world of international courts, the person is innocent until proven guilty. Why, here, is the person guilty until proven innocent?’”
My Heart Was Wounded by the Strangeness
Abdulla Majid Al Noaimi
My heart was wounded by the strangeness.
Now poetry has rolled up his sleeves, showing a long arm.
Time passes. The hands of the clock deceive us.
Time is precious and the minutes are limited.
Do not blame the poet who comes to your land,
Inspired, arranging rhymes.
Oh brother, who need not be named, I send you
My gift of greetings. I send heavily falling rains
To quench your thirst and show my gratitude.
My poem will comfort you and ease your burdens.
If you blame yourself, my poem will appease you.
My mind is not heavy with animosity.
I will be satisfied once you are free, and I will embrace you.
There is nothing, brother, like a mild agreeable temper.
I will offer advice out of pure cordiality–
Advice from one who has experienced the impossible:
You will not gain everything your soul desires;
Some things will come to you, but others will not.
Forget what people say and be satisfied with who you are.
Patience, the bony animal, will lead you to meat.
Be generous to others, brother,
And leave behind your avaricious spirit.
If your brother has hurt you,
Recall his god deeds and the pain will go away.
Hide the sadness of your heart as in a valley.
Make it your captive; if released, it will make you suffer.
No matter how long our separation lasts, I will not forget you.
What is hidden in our hearts is expressed in my words.
You are precious and grow more precious.
He who has companions like you will never lose dignity.
I hope that your nights will always be cheerful.
May the Lord compensate you for what you have lost.
I ask the Merciful One to guide you to peace.
May the Lord keep you fast on the path of virtue.
I conclude my poem by invoking prayers and blessings,
On the messenger of Allah, Ahmed, his chosen one.
According to his biography in Poems from Guantanamo: the detainees speak (Universty of Iowa Press, Marc Kalkoff editor), Abdulla Majid al Noaimi is a twenty-four-year-old citizen of Bahrain who attended Old Dominion University in Virginia, but returned home after a year, heart broken over breaking up with his girlfriend. Shortly after beginning his electrical engineering studies in the UNited Arab Emirates in 2001, Noaimi traveled to Afghanistan to find a family member who had not been heard from in some time. After an unsuccessful search, he made his way to the Pakistani border and asked to be taken to the Bahrain embassy. Instead Pakistani authorities turned him over to the US military. He was detained in Kandahar, Afganistan, for about five months before being transferred to Guantanamo. He was released from the prison camp in November 2005.
Hunger Strike Poem
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif
They are artists of torture,
They are artists of pain and fatigue,
They are artists of insults
Where is the world to save us
Where is the world to save us
from the fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save
the hunger strikers?
Is It True?
Osama Abu Kabir
Is it true that the grass grows again
Is it true that the flowers will rise up
in the Spring?
Is it true that birds will migrate home again?
Is it true that the salmon swim back up
Is it true. This is true. These are all miracles.
But is it true that one day we'll leave
Is it true that one day we'll go back
to our homes?
I sail in my dreams, I am dreaming of home.
To be with my children, each one part of me;
To be with my wife and the ones that I love;
To be with my parents,
my world's tenderest hearts.
I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.
But do you hear me, oh Judge,
do you hear me at all?
We are innocent, here,
we've committed no crime.
Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still
Justice and compassion remain in this world!