A Poem For The Prisoners

By Almog Behar

I wrote a poem for the prisoners and showed it to my father.
Said he: What good will poems do the prisoners, and who are we
To doubt the justice of the jailor, judge and lawmaker?
Said I: The prisoners of whom I write are us.
Daily I go back to my cell, await a distant jailor’s call.
At his command I’ll place my hands in manacles, and if he asks
I’ll strike the window-bars and beg for freedom.
Said he: This is all dreamy poet’s talk, but you, my son,
Stand this day well clear of jailhouse doors. I did not beget sons for prison, son,
I’ll send you to the Faculty of Law, perhaps, if you desire.
You might become a judge, instead of poems you’ll write sentences
To ease the world’s pain. I answered: Father, as I am your son,
I did not beget progenitors to cower afraid. The jail, you see, is bigger than us both,
It closes now upon us, and the jailor recommends
That you refuse to notice your incarceration, that you ask
To never leave the confines of your cell. Said he: Well then, we all
Are prisoners of God, my son, all bondsmen of His word,
His laws, pronouncements, righteous all, and not a one among us
Has not sinned, do you forget? Said I: This prison, father,
Was erected by men, and daily we assist them
In their work, we build new wards, we set up cameras,
And soon enough they’ll have no need of guards, they’ll all be fired
And then we shall all guard ourselves. I shall not attend
any Faculty of Law, but then I’ve already decided
To give up poetry. Said he: Decided what? But I’ve
Announced up and down the halls of our prison wing
That my son writes songs for liberation day; our neighbors, son,
Are learning now to sing your songs. Said I: I hear you, father,
But those are not my songs they sing, those songs were written by the guards,
From now on I’ll write sentences to rival theirs,
Verdicts to rival theirs. From my cell I’ll write letters too, to you and mother, in which I’ll reveal
That liberation will not come until your grandchildren have gone, long is the struggle
Longer than a poem can say, all poems fail.

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