Edited and introduced by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc

Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, Kifah Abdulla spent over eight years as a prisoner of war in Iran and now lives in Portland, where he is a poet, artist, activist, teacher and international citizen.

With Thanksgiving coming this week, followed by the winter holidays, Abdulla’s poem has a powerful message to deliver. Here, the imagination brings the speaker back to the natural world, back to sensory experience, and back to love despite anything that might have happened before. In times of personal and political turmoil, would that we could all tap into this reservoir of generosity that resides within us.

This poem was translated from Arabic by Brook DeLorme.

How Generous Is the Imagination

By Kifah Abdulla


I dreamt

That I was a sparrow, joyous

In a tree

In a field, far away

Follow me, little bird

Across the enchanted fields


I dreamt I am

On a green branch

In my blissful nest

I walk alone on a path

It doesn’t end

I walk, my eyes towards a gleam


Which doesn’t fade so I quicken my steps

That I might find the beginning

My ears are very tender

To hear pure sound

The first notes of raindrops leaving a cloud

And the first whisper of a breeze


Ruffling the tips of grass

The first sound of calm light

Revving the morning

Don’t narrow your hearing

Let it go deep

Until it explores the secrets


Those things

Present in the heart of night

They make my hearing soft

My spirit light

My body free

And the need for my beloved clear

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Kifah Abdulla. First published in the self-published collection “Dead Still Dream,” 2016, the poem appears here by permission of the author.

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