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This poem is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

Letter to My Friends Overseas

translated from the French by André Naffis-Sahely
Abdellatif Laâbi
‘Letter to My Friends Overseas’ was first published in La Nouvelle Critique in August 1978. It was written during Laâbi’s decade-long imprisonment in Morocco for politically radical literary activities. Mailed piecemeal to friends on the outside, the poem was later assembled according to the poet’s instructions. A truncated and transliterated English version appeared in Index on Censorship in 1980 in order to bring attention to Laâbi’s worsening medical condition, by which time he had served seven years of his sentence. The poem appears in Beyond the Barbed Wire: Selected Poems, translated by André Naffis-Sahely (Carcanet, 2016).

you’ve become
one of those beacons of light
who help to defend me
from the forceps of the night
You find your way to me
through the mercy of the poem
and I’ll see you again
beyond the barbed wire of exile
in a stillborn continent
that never surges out of the sea or the sky
nor is fashioned out of clay
but by the hands and the fervour
of voices that plead and jump out of the window
to plunge into the swell of possibilities
A human continent

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