By Zain al-Abdin bin Bayyah
Translated from Arabic by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
Fifty stars in a flag I see
In every star conflict I find
In every star peace of mind
In every star an immigrant hides
Pursuing his desperate dreams
Dreams enveloped by America
Fifty stars all found in one flag
I took one star from among them
I searched in all of its brightness
For a red man among the natives
I wanted to hear the beat of his drum
I looked for the smoke of his fires
I found him embalmed on display
Unable to speak or be silent
His songs, his dance, his teepees
Snatched and sold by America
Fifty stars in a flag I see
I sought the black in its colors
I found him only a shadow
The bullets of police well directed
As if black was a crime
In the land of the free, in America
Fifty stars in a flag I see
In every star wondrous inventions
Moving our world ahead
In every star devilish destruction
Increasing the world’s pain and dread
In every star I see so much chaos
In every star order’s perfection I find
Contradiction: you’ve mastered it,
Zain al-Abdin bin Bayyah is poetic polyglot who composes poems in several languages and hails as one of the most popular poets in the Arabic world: his poems are often shared on Twitter and other platforms. Echoing themes in the poetry of the late, great Langston Hughes, Zain al-Abdin’s poem “America” displays his literary sensibilities wonderfully.