What is to give light must endure
burning, a man once said [*]
Other men became the matchstick
that set a nation aflame
But fire, and its appetite, cannot be
calculated, like freedom
Injustice and desperation make men
combustible, like dry wood
When words lose their meaning
and an entire people their voice—
so they can neither scream nor dream—
death and life begin to taste the same
From Minneapolis, to DC, to cities nationwide
the light from a burning fire proved catching
And those with nothing to lose, or offer, but bodies
fanned the embers of their hopes into a blazing nightmare.
—Published previously in Queen Mob’s Teahouse (1 June 2020),
and in slightly different form in Poetry at Sangam House (August 2013);
appears here with poet’s permission.
an Egyptian American, is the author of eight critically acclaimed books of poetry and prose; his most recent is a collection of essays and conversations in which literature, social activism, and mysticism intersect, Revolutions of the Heart (Wipf & Stock, 2020). His Balancing Acts: New & Selected Poems (1993-2015) debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases.
He is also the author of two books of aphorisms: Signposts to Elsewhere (Hay House, 2019) and Where Epics Fail: Aphorisms on Art, Morality and Life of the Spirit (Unbound, 2018), the latter of which was featured on PBS NewsHour and generously endorsed by Richard Blanco, President Barack Obama’s inaugural poet.
Lababidi’s work has appeared on NPR, Best American Poetry, AGNI, World Literature Today, and On Being with Krista Tippett. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times, his writing has been translated into several languages, including Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Slovak, Spanish, and Swedish. Lababidi has participated in international poetry festivals throughout the USA and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East.
Never Forget, Never Remember, a short essay by Yahia Lababidi
for “One Small Blow Against Encroaching Totalitarianism” in
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (29 June 2018)
I Saw My Face,
a poem by Lababidi in Serving House Journal (Issue 8, Fall 2013), with
a portrait of the poet by artist Sarah F. Russell
Meditation on Murder, an essay in Serving House Journal
(Issue 2, Fall 2010), which was selected as a finalist for Best of the Net 2011