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Poems from Guantanamo: Ode to the Sea

March 23, 2009

poems from Guantanamo

Ode to the sea by Ibrahim al-Rubaish

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.

“Ode to the sea” by Ibrahim al-Rubaish as collected in Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, edited by Mark Falkoff:

“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?'”

Most of the poems in the book will be read by poets and peace activists Monday April 13 at A Place for Peace, Ventura. TL Cabrera and I plan a duet of this poem which we intend to record and post on YouTube. Here are two other poems from the book plus background information and a link to NPR.

Another Poem from Guantanamo: My Heart Was Wounded by the Strangeness by Abdulla Majid Al Noaimi
poems from Guantanamo: the detainees speak
I Write My Hidden Longing by Abdulla Majid Al Noaimi

For more poetry, ride the train!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2009 8:38 pm

    Such sadness.

    Chris

  2. March 23, 2009 8:47 pm

    Incredibly heartbreaking and touching to read…

  3. March 24, 2009 6:12 am

    That’s a wonderful poem. I’m really enjoying this series.

  4. March 27, 2009 5:23 pm

    It’s interesting to me, the relationships these desert people develop with the sea. As someone from the east coast of Canada – to whom the ocean is the pulse in my veins – it’s fascinating to read these prisoners’ view of the sea as ‘bitterness’:

    ‘Your beaches are sadness, captivity, pain, and injustice.
    Your bitterness eats away at my patience.’

    Excellent series you’ve had for the Poetry Train. Can’t wait to watch you read this on YouTube.

  5. March 28, 2009 9:15 pm

    Julia, many many many of the poems in the book mention the sea. I want to find out the proximity of Guantanamo to the water–can they hear the waves? smell the sea? can the sea it?

  6. May 29, 2009 8:35 pm

    Hi, I sae this poem read by a famous actress and she told of Ibrahim story. I fell in love with the poem so I read it and posted in you tube and linked the info for this site. Thanks! Hope he was finally released…

  7. Greenclover permalink
    December 6, 2009 1:26 am

    This poet was transferred to Saudi custody in 2006. He escaped some time after, and is now a senior figure with Al-Qaeda.

    You can be sure that good people are now dead because of his release from Guantanamo.

  8. December 6, 2009 1:31 am

    Greenclover, do you have sources to cite to support your claim? If you do, please leave them in the comments so we can all follow them and see. Thank you.

  9. Greenclover permalink
    December 6, 2009 1:55 am

    His escape became public earlier this year when the Saudis put him on their most-wanted list.

    The Al-Qaeda activites are noted here.

  10. June 25, 2013 11:45 am

    HI, are you still in touch with T.L? I am an old friend passing by and wanting to say hello. Pass him my email if you don’t mind. gina.murpheyatgmaildotcom

  11. June 25, 2013 12:57 pm

    will do!

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