How To Start A Fire By Eli Binkovitz

How To Start A Fire

Heval, I’m so sorry that I don’t have
more fire inside me than your homeland,
sorry that my thoughts can’t be bristled
against one another fast enough to spark.

I’m sorry you’re in a cage in the place of my birth,
I’m sorry that I can’t break you out
of the place where I learned to be sorry.
Where I’m from, sorry is a permanent state.
Sorry is how you say help,
it’s how you say look at me
it’s how you say I need more than what is here
it’s how you say I am burning
it’s how you say I don’t know anymore.

Heval, I am so sorry.

Bree is in Chile and she says there is fire.
She says that Santiago burns with women
who are flames, women who are not yet sorry.
Heval, maybe if I was born in a fire I would know
how to become something besides fuel.
I would know what to do with oxygen.

I would know how to set an explosive
made of fifty thousand comrades carrying
fifty thousand sledgehammers to Berlin
the fuck out of every wall and border.

We won’t need any lighter because the fire will be made
of our hands and the roaring leaping crackling of
our love for whatever is left
of our future on this planet.

Someone in a black bandanna gave me a sheaf
of photocopied pages which I still haven’t read,
and I’m sorry about that too. I tried to read it
in a language other than sorry.

You tried to teach me your language, you lied
and said I was a good student, xwendekar baş,
but I’m still stained sorry.
I haven’t read the book called
how to start a fire.

By Eli Binkovitz


Eli Binkovitz is a Jewish, genderqueer emerging poet living in Chicago. They have a degree in German Studies from Oberlin College and in 2007 contributed to a translation of Thomas Brasch’s collection of poems “What I Wish For Myself” from German into English. Their favorite poet right now is Daniel Borzutzky.

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  1. Pingback: How to Start a Fire at Rising Phonenix Review – Eli Writes

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