Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beirut Journal Day #21: "Beirut, I Love You"

11.28.09

I started reading this book today, after hearing about it from some fellow travelers here. It's just the tincture to heal the wound that is being so far away from the one's who've given me so much. Normally the holidays don't do much for me; they don't affect how I feel one way or another. But this late November night, when I know my family and friends are home sharing a meal and spending time with each other, the absence is tangible.

I'm here in Beirut.

NYC is over 5000 miles away. I am not friendless, but the warmest people here are not my friends. The christian shop owner, a hundred yards from my apartment, always treats me like a welcome guest.

"HABIBI!" He booms, in a voice that belies his diminutive frame, his frail walk with the aid of a cane. I asked him today what he felt of the government's recent statement, accepting Hezbollah's arms ("Hezbollah is Lebanon, and Lebanon is Hezbollah," one of the cabinet ministers said).

He said, with a wave of his leathery hand, "He can talk as much as he wants." And then the thunder of laughter.

It reminds me of the "political" conversations I used to try to have with my Amma and Umpa. Short, direct, they cut through it all and just make it plain:

"He can talk as much as he wants,"

Meaning, "I've had this shop, in West Beirut, for 37 years."
Meaning, "I'm a Lebanese fighter, too."
Meaning, "That'll be 2000 Lebanese Livres, please."

I left the shop, still by myself, but somehow buoyed by the exchange.

And suddenly, I found myself wrapping my arms around [Beirut] wanting to give everyone a big hug. I had made a connection to the city and did not feel alone anymore. It is amazing how it changes your perspective on everything.
*Beirut, I Love You. Page 36.


Indeed. Humdillallah.

-----
To Write in a Foreign City

I squeeze rose water
on the bleached pages
& wring blue ink
I tattoo my tongue
needle my lips
a language
i'm learning
leaks from this ball-pointed
pen
and bubbles on the end
like Arabic coffee
it stains my teeth
erodes enamel

in dim light
i squint
a cat licks tin cans
on the sidewalk.
-----

The web of wires
heavy with rainwater
drops a tendril to the alley
below
it sparks & slithers

This is not a metaphor

A young boy cuts the corner
late
to his lessons

This story ends here.
-----
On Writing (4 Val)

I can write
a book but it wouldn't stop
a war I could write
a poem but it wouldn't halt
a bullet or bring you any
closer

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