“Redeyef: The Mother of Rebels” A Poem by Jamel Slii (Translated by Ali Znaidi)

[Video of Jamel Slii Reading his Poem in Redeyef.]

This is the original poem in Arabic:

قصيدة: “الرديف أم الثائرين” ~ للشاعر جمال الصليعي
الرديف ..
هذه الرديف
أرض أقفرت عشبا
لكنها أخصبت بالعز منتصبا
هذه الرديف أم الثائرين
أتت تعلم الغافلين المجد و الغضب
من قبل أن يعرف الثوار مسلكهم
خط الرجال هنا دربا لهم خضبا
السابقون الى الثوراة
مسكنهم حر المناجم
حيث الصخر قد كتب
لاشي فوق هدير الشعب منفجرا
بركان غيظ رمى النيران و اللهب
فاخلع نعالك هذه الأرض طاهرة
جرى عليها دم الأحرار و انسكب
مر النار
مر النار تكتب
تفاصيل اغفلها النائمون
و انت تراقص قد اللهيب على حشرجات السبات
و أنجز قليلا من الموت تحتاجه كي تفيق الحياة
قليل قليل من الزيت فوق اذا الشعب يكفي
لتأتي اذا الشعب رافلة مزدهاة
يواعدك الجوع بين الرغيف البعيد
و بين مواعيد عرقوبها خلبي اللغاة
ولست فقيرا لا لا لست فقيرا
ولكن نواقير مصرك أعطت عناقيدها للجباة
ونحن الذين استخضنا بشاعرنا اذ أراد الحياة
وجاء البغاة فقالوا له نرى خيركم في الممات
لنا الأرض قالوا و خيراتها من عليها
و شطئانها الساحرات
و نمنحكم قفة الفقر و الجهل
و الحزب و الصحف الكاذبات
مر النار تكتب
فقد كذبت هذه النخب المشتراة
تريك أناقتها في النهار
و في الليل تأوي
الى فرش الممـ….. الموميات
لها عسل الوهم في قطران الطلاة
مر النار تكتب
مر النار تكتب فان لنا من رصيد الدماء
كفايتنا دائما للنجاة
لنا فائض من كرامة شعب أبي
و لكن طيبتنا مدخل للطغاة
و في آخر الصبر مقبرة للطغاة
مر النار تكتب
مر النار تكتب فأمك حاضرة للشهادة
كانت اعدت بنيها لكل الدروب و كل الجهات
مر النار تكتب
تفاصيل….. يجهلها الساسة العابرون
و أهل الخراج و وفد الجباة
مر النار تكتب
اذا الشعب يوما أراد الحياة
فلابد ان تستجيب الحياة
ولابد ان يسقط الظالمون الطغاة

“Redeyef: The Mother of Rebels” A Poem by Jamel Slii (Translated by Ali Znaidi)


This is Redeyef—

a land devoid of grass,

yet, fertile with honour, erect.

This is Redeyef; the mother of rebels.

She came to teach the mindless

glory & anger.

Before the revolutionaries know their pathway

men, here, had traced for them a pigmented path:

The harbingers of the revolutions,

their home is the mines’ heat

where rocks had written,

Nothing is above the explosive roar of the people—

a volcano of wrath which spewed fire & blaze.

So, take off your shoes because this land is pure

on which the blood of the free flowed & spilled.

Order the fire!

Order the fire to write

details neglected by the sleepers,

while you are dancing with the blaze’s stature

to the hibernation’s rattles,

& perform a little bit of death, something you need

in order for life to wake up.

A little bit, a little bit of oil over “If The People” would suffice,

so that “If The People” comes swaggering & ceremonious.

Hunger is dating you between a remote loaf of bread

& appointments whose jam to-morrow is full of flowery words.

& you are not poor. No, no, you are not poor,

but the hearts of your land had given their grapes to tax collectors.

& we who fought an uphill battle/

& our model was our poet who “chose to live.”

But tyrants came & said to him, We see your good in death.

The land is ours, they said, and so are its resources

and whoever treads on it,

& its mesmerising beaches.

& we bestow on you the bag of poverty and ignorance,

the party, and the phony newspapers.

Order the fire to write:

These purchased élites have lied.

They show you their elegance in the daytime,

& at night, they shelter in

the mattresses of the mumm… mummies,

& they have not but the honey of illusion in the painters’ tar.

Order the fire to write,

Order the fire to write, we have enough blood credit—

always sufficient to get rescue,

we have a surplus of a prideful people’s dignity,

but our kindness is the tyrants’ gate,

but at the end of patience it will be the tyrants’ cemetery.

Order the fire to write,

Order the fire to write, your mother is ready for martyrdom,

& she had prepared her children for all paths and all directions.

Order the fire to write

details… ignored by the ephemeral politicians,

the community of land tax collectors,

& the delegation of tax collectors.

Order the fire to write,

If the people choose to live one day,

life can do nothing but give in,

and unjust tyrants can do nothing but collapse.

Jamel Slii’s Bio:

Jamel Slii is a Tunisian poet. He was born in the Tunisian city of Douz on November 25, 1955. He lived in Libya in the 1970’s. Then, he returned to Tunisia. He read his poetry in many Arab countries. He published his first collection in 1998 under the title of The Valley of Ants which is, in fact, a long poem.


About aliznaidi

Ali Znaidi lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He graduated with a BA in Anglo-American Studies in 2002. He teaches English at Tunisian public secondary schools. He writes poetry and has an interest in literature, languages, and literary translations. His work has appeared here and there and is scheduled to appear elsewhere . At moments of revelation, he smokes and drinks green tea with mint while pondering.
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