The walk

January 2011

[English] [français]

Abdellatif Laâbi, a Moroccan poet, spent more than eight years in prison, his ’crime’ being his opinions.

He was tortured and spent five months in solitary confinement. He was released in July 1980. This poem is taken from ’Sous le bâillon, le poème’ (The poem behind the gag), published by Harmattan.

The walk

This morning
after a long time locked in
they let me out for a walk
fifteen minutes
on a strip of wasteland
strewn with broken glass and old, rusty cans
an ’official’ stood guard at the entry
at the other end of my exercise track
another sentry
his rifle on his back
all this in honour
of a sick man
exhausted by two weeks of hunger strike

But I no longer mind
being seen as a kind of animal
hatching some sinister act
whose least, meaningless gesture is suspect

I even know that those men
watching the direction of my steps
sympathise perhaps
or at least couldn’t care less
when it comes to hunger and too much distress
the sun was enough to blow your mind
the sky was blue

I didn’t know where to look, gazing upwards
so I shut my eyes
and I bathed my face and hands
in this disturbing marriage of elements
then my heart took up
its natural rhythm
the regular beat of hope.


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