The days we choked on rage and fed on tears,
that lit my guts with deep and purple flame—
but when they go, I wish they still were here.

Standing in line for bread, I feel it sheer:
the hunger, without eating, eats my frame.
Days that choked my rage and fed with tears.

Cops hid on every corner spit and peer,
and dance you off to prison—so they dream.
But when they go, I wish they still were here.

Topple the tower, built for thirty years!
Take to the streets and get what you can claim!
The days we choked in rage and fed our tears.

And as for friends we lost to gun and spear,
drink up their rich, full memory unashamed.
Now they’re gone, and I wish they still were here,

for hunger, prison, cops—all still appear
in emperor’s new clothing and new name.
So many days of choked rage and tears.
And when they go, I wish they still were here.



Kevin Blankinship is a professor of Arabic at Brigham Young University. His original poetry is out or will appear at Gingerbread House, The Ekphrastic Review, Poetica Review, and Lighten Up Online, and he has written for general-interest venues like The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Millions, and more. He lives in Utah.

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2 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Kevin, This is an intricate and well-wrought villanelle that (if I read it correctly) bounces back and forth with sardonic irony between what is gained and what is lost through revolutionary social/political upheavals. I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s conversation with a French peasant following the last in a series of 19th century revolutionary government overthrows. Chesterton asked: “Do you feel better off or worse off for the change?” “Revolution?” the peasant replied. “It is a word that means to turn like a wheel until it brings you back to the place where you started.” There was definitely something lost and something gained from the various manifestations of the Arab Spring. Egypt, it seems to me, came through it less worse off from it than a number of other countries. A very sobering, provocative poem, tinged with suffering, heroic sacrifice, “people power” vs “realpolitik,” and, in the end, far too many hopes and dreams left unrealized.

    • Kevin Blankinship

      Thank you for the kind words, James. The Chesterton quote is fine food for thought (and yes, a villanelle!). Given my work, I’m painfully aware of this buyer’s remorse among people in the region.


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