Day 44: Burning Freedom

14 Feb­ru­ary 2011

The 44th Day of 2011:
The Life­cy­cle of Free­dom and the Power of Words

On the 11th day of Feb­ru­ary… last Fri­day… after 18 days of a deter­mined, often angry, but con­sis­tently peace­ful mas­sive resis­tance and protest… Egypt was lib­er­ated from dic­ta­tor­ship.  The mod­ern day Pharaoh, Pres­i­dent Mubarak resigned.  The mes­sage deliv­ered by his vice pres­i­dent announc­ing Mubarak would finally step down after a 30-year rule over the peo­ple… took about 30 sec­onds to announce.

30 sec­onds of words artic­u­lat­ing the real­ity of the people’s tri­umph… 30 years in the mak­ing… in a civ­i­liza­tion that dates back 6,000 years… an ancient place that has not known true demo­c­ra­tic representation.

And in Alexan­dria where the great­est library of the ancient world once stood the chant was heard “Egypt is Free… Egypt is Free”.

The library was built in Alexan­dria in the 3rd Cen­tury B.C. This is sacred ground for many writ­ers, read­ers, thinkers, poets, and schol­ars.  It is that for me.

Now Egypt begins its birthing process.

The world watches and hopes for orderly tran­si­tion and demo­c­ra­tic par­tic­i­pa­tion of its cit­i­zens. The rest of the Mid­dle East­ern world has taken par­tic­u­lar notice.  They move toward the artic­u­la­tion of their human­ity in one uni­ver­sally under­stood word.


The power of words brought Egypt into the life­cy­cle of free­dom.  Words sim­ply and rapidly com­mu­ni­cated to thou­sands and thou­sands with the effi­cient use of very mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.  — Inter­net, cell phones, Twit­ter, Face­book — but it was the power of words that brought peo­ple together and brought Mubarak down.

Some­times it takes many words writ­ten over a long period of time to achieve results and the desired actions.  Our Founders ago­nized in let­ters and papers we still can read.  The Egyp­tians will have those days and weeks and months ahead of them as well, for con­sid­er­a­tion, for debate, for reform, and there will be frus­tra­tion along the way. Now we cel­e­brate the moment of this begin­ning of hope. And filled with won­der that the 21st cen­tury deliv­ers to us the abil­ity to bring peo­ple of good­will to one place at one time within moments.

The ghosts of those who once moved among the trea­sures of the library of Alexan­dria must have been smil­ing and also chanting…Egypt is Free.

As I watched the events unfold over the days, my thoughts con­tin­u­ally turned to the Russ­ian poet, Anna Akhma­tova.  Sur­viv­ing the worst of the Soviet oppres­sion, endur­ing the losses of hus­bands, lovers, friends and the repeated impris­on­ment of her son, she never stopped writ­ing. Her poems could not be printed, and when printed, cen­sored almost beyond recog­ni­tion.  Yet, even when silenced by offi­cial res­o­lu­tion of the regime, she con­tin­ued and was never silent.  Friends gath­ered in her apart­ment, her poems recited, mem­o­rized, and then burned.  I felt Akhma­tova hov­er­ing over the protests in Egypt. Hers was the pro­tec­tive power poetry offers to sus­tain human­ity in times of hope and hor­ror.  It is this one poem that kept com­ing back to me, from mem­ory, as I watched Egypt. I began to recite the last line as my prayer for all Egyptians.

Alexan­der at Thebes

To be sure, he was fright­en­ing and fero­cious, the young king
When he announced:  ‘You will anni­hi­late Thebes.’
And the old cap­tain beheld that proud city,
Which he had known since the olden days.
Every­thing, every­thing com­mit­ted to the flames!
And the king enu­mer­ated:
Tow­ers and tem­ples and gates – the won­der of the world.
But sud­denly he became thought­ful, and bright­en­ing, said:
‘Just be sure that the House of the Poet is spared.’

Anna Akhma­tova, Octo­ber 1961, Leningrad, The hos­pi­tal in the har­bor
(Judith Hem­schemeyer translation)

On the day a new Egypt came to us, another woman’s voice was heard, using the Internet’s global cir­cu­lat­ing library. The Women’s Media Cen­ter pub­lished a poem by Egypt­ian fem­i­nist writer, Mona Helmy, translit­er­ated by the poet Robin Mor­gan.  An excerpt follows:

…Still, Egypt, alive now though frag­ile,
alive now though now banned,
alive now though for­bid­den,
drew that first ragged breath burn­ing
into its lungs, and Egypt
let loose that first raw cry so wild and free
the strongest rock began to frac­ture at the sound,
crum­ble, and then melt,

as if ancient stone stat­ues of the kings were
filmy sheets of wax, melt­ing, pool­ing,
van­ish­ing in the desert air.

For the full text of the poem visit the Women’s Media Cen­ter

For Egypt, and for the world, “Just be sure that the House of the Poet is spared.”

The life­cy­cle of free­dom and of poetry — inter­twined through­out eternity.

©2011 Alida Brill From This Terrace


Filed under Community, Hope, Inspiration, Poetry, Politics, Relationships, Seasons, This Moment, Women, Writers

4 Responses to Day 44: Burning Freedom

  1. The whole web­site, and this post, are amaz­ing and won­der­ful. The pho­tog­ra­phy is stun­ning and per­fect. I love how all of your words blend and reach and link with each other. They really are paint­ings and songs.

  2. I love your web­site and your post. Such pow­er­ful words. Thank you.

  3. Katie Bamberger

    Con­grat­u­la­tions on this stun­ning new web­site! As always, your words have a pro­found mes­sage. Thank you for all that you do and say. Look­ing for­ward to future posts!

  4. Leo Knudson

    Brava! The words are touch­ing and thought pro­vok­ing. The pho­tographs are
    at times hyp­notic. Thank you, thank you, and again I thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>