‘A Poet Behind Bars’: A New Poem from Dareen Tatour

Next Tuesday, September 6, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour will take the stand for the first time in her trial, nearly a year after her arrest:

hqdefaultAccording to activist Yoav Haifawi, Tatour is expected to aknowlege her poem, “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” which was translated into English by Tariq al Haydar, “and explain that it is a legitimate protest against the crimes of the occupation and the settlers,” Haifawi said over email.

Haifawi added that a letter from the prosecution states “that Dareen has no right to pose alternative translation – on the technical ground that she didn’t do it yet. This way they want to force acceptance of  the much-misleading translation by the police.”

Tatour was charged in November and spent several months in prison before being placed under house arrest in January. She was confined to a Tel Aviv apartment as her trial ground forward, and only recently allowed to serve her house arrest in her hometown. Tatour was charged for Facebook postings and a poem posted to YouTube; her case resembles those against many Palestinians charged with incitement because of social-media postings.

Many have called for her release, including this editorial in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. Ahead of her September 6 hearing, another poem, trans. al Haydar, which Tatour wrote last November:

A Poet Behind Bars

By Dareen Tatour

Translated by Tariq al Haydar

In prison, I met people

too numerous to count:

Killer and criminal,

thief and liar,

the honest and those who disbelieve,

the lost and confused,

the wretched and the hungry.

Then, the sick of my homeland,

born out of pain,

refused to go along with injustice

until they became children whose innocence was violated.

The world’s compulsion left them stunned.

They grew older.

No, their sadness grew,

strengthening with repression,

like roses in salted soil.

They embraced love without fear,

and were condemned for declaring,

“We love the land endlessly,”

oblivious to their deeds…

So their love freed them.

See, prison is for lovers.

I interrogated my soul

during moments of doubt and distraction:

“What of your crime?”

Its meaning escapes me now.

I said the thing and

revealed my thoughts;

I wrote about the current injustice,

wishes in ink,

a poem I wrote…

The charge has worn my body,

from my toes to the top of my head,

for I am a poet in prison,

a poet in the land of art.

I am accused of words,

my pen the instrument.

Ink— blood of the heart— bears witness

and reads the charges.

Listen, my destiny, my life,

to what the judge said:

A poem stands accused,

my poem morphs into a crime.

In the land of freedom,

the artist’s fate is prison.

Written on:

November 2, 2015

Jelemeh Prison

The day I received the indictment

Translator Tariq al Haydar’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Normal School, Down & Out, Crab Orchard Review, The Cafe Irreal, The Los Angeles Review and others.