Footsteps – A Poem by Mu’in Bseiso

Palestinian prisoner Maher al-Akhras. (Photo: File)

By Muin Bseiso

(Translated by May Jayyusi and Naomi Shihab Nye)

Brother! If they should sharpen the sword on my neck,
I would not kneel, even if their whips lashed
my bloodied mouth
If dawn is so close to coming
I shall not retreat.
I will rise from the land that feeds our furious storm!

Brother! If the executioner should drag me to the slaughterhouse
before your eyes to make you kneel,
so you might beg him to relent,
I’d call again, Brother! Raise your proud head
and watch as they murder me!
Witness my executioner, sword dripping with my blood!
What shall expose the murderer, but our innocent bleeding?

At night their guns kidnapped him from his trench.
The hero was flung into the cells’ darkness
where, like a banner flutter above chains, he stayed.
The chains became flaming torches,
burning the ashes which coat our shining future.
Now the hero lives, his footsteps ringing triumphantly
within the closed walls of every prison.

– Mu’in Bseiso is one of Palestine’s most renowned poets. Bseiso received his basic education in the Gaza Strip, and later his university degree in Egypt. He was imprisoned four times, and each time he reemerged even more determined to fight for the freedom of his people. His poetry collections included Palestine in the Heart (1964) and Trees Die Standing (1966). He lived in exile following the Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1967. He died in London in 1984.

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