Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak

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Edited by Marc Falkoff

University of Iowa Press

2007

SKU: 9781587296062

 

Death Poem

by Jumah al Dossari

Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.

And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the “protectors of peace.”

Jumah al Dossari is a thirty-three-year-old Bahraini who has been held at Guantánamo Bay for more than five years. He has been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the U.S. military, has tried to kill himself twelve times while in custody.

***

Since 2002, at least 775 men have been held in the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to Department of Defense data, fewer than half of them are accused of committing any hostile act against the United States or its allies. In hundreds of cases, even the circumstances of their initial detainment are questionable.

This collection gives voice to the men held at Guantánamo. Available only because of the tireless efforts of pro bono attorneys who submitted each line to Pentagon scrutiny, Poems from Guantánamo brings together twenty-two poems by seventeen detainees, most still at Guantánamo, in legal limbo.

If, in the words of Audre Lorde, poetry “forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change,” these verses—some originally written in toothpaste, others scratched onto foam drinking cups with pebbles and furtively handed to attorneys—are the most basic form of the art.

“At last Guantánamo has found its voice.”—Gore Vidal

“Poetry, art of the human voice, helps turn us toward what we should or must not ignore. Speaking as they can across barriers actual and figurative, translated into our American tongue, these voices in confinement implicitly call us to our principles and to our humanity. They deserve, above all, not admiration or belief or sympathy—but attention. Attention to them is urgent for us.”—Robert Pinsky

“Poems from Guantánamo brings to light figures of concrete, individual humanity, against the fabric of cruelty woven by the ‘war on terror.’ The poems and poets’ biographies reveal one dimension of this officially obscured narrative, from the perspective of the sufferers; the legal and literary essays provide the context which has produced—under atrocious circumstances—a poetics of human dignity.”—Adrienne Rich