Friday, December 22, 2006

December Readings

Saturday, December 9th at 11:00 a.m.
Mad Poets Review Volume 20 Book Release Party
The Delaware County Institute of Science
11 Veterans Square, Media, PA 19063
www.madpoetssociety.com
Contributors and Winners of both the 11th & 12th Annual Mad Poets Review Competitions read. I read Life on a Beautiful Day which received Honorable Mention in the 2005 MPR Competition.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 from 7 – 9 P.M.
Celebrate the Winter Solstice with Poetry and Music
At the Belmont Hills Library
120 Marywatersford Road, Bala Cynwyd, PA
(Off Rte 23, Conshohocken State Road)
www.FriendsofPoetry.com
Host Poet Arlene Bernstein (Friends of Poetry)
Featuring
Eileen d’Angelo (Mad Poets Society)
Ashraf Osman (Philly Poets for Peace)
Bob Small (Poets & Prophets)
Annabella Wood & Joe Fanning (Singer/Songwriter/Guitarists)
***
Program:
1. Bohemian Dreams
2. Seasons
3. 'Tis the Season
4. Written Out
5. Café Lutecia
6. This & That
7. Autobiography

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Space Below Us

(To Roland)
 
The last time we stood together—
before it all broke,
before the silence was brand new again—
we were leaning over the railing,
an atrium of fresh empty floors cascading beneath us,
looking over the void in the same direction,
at the stage, pining for the same thing
that was singing over the music and underneath our reborn hunger.

The pauses that we cloaked with the strumming of our fingers
grew wider than we knew what to do with.
And every now and then the familiarity would drop
like a baby on its head—with a round thud
and the absence of a scream.

It was then that we first let our names
grow distant to our ears again
and the rest of the sentences to our selves.
It was there that I noticed the hair sprouting between your knuckles
and tried to imagine the taste of their brown skin on my lips.
And in that strangeness I almost loved you again—
the shade of your nascent beard,
the wickedness in your eyes,
and the look across the space below us,
always racing to where it shall never rest again…

Saturday, October 28, 2006

November Readings

Wednesday, November 1st @ 6 pm:
I will be reading at Robin's Bookstore in Center City (108 S. 13th St.) in an event titled 30 Poets Reading for Peace and Change, presented by Peace/Works & The Mad Poets Society, and featuring a stunning lineup of Philadelphia poets.

Friday, November 10 @ 7 pm:
I will be reading at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Mt. Airy (551 Carpenter Lane - Philadelphia, PA 19119) in another round of Philly Poets for Peace, with 5 other wonderful local poets.

For more details, please check out the listings at the PhillyPoetry calendar. I hope you can make it!

Ashraf

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Orgy of the Bards

The 18th edition of the Ringing of the Bards—poetry carnival—is here, and it's a special one! It is being hosted by the six "sexual deviants" of WetPoems© (may not be suitable for the workplace), and only "poems of the naughtiest nature" were considered. The challenge was to "unleash the fiercest pheromones" on the Ringing public, making it "the tastiest ringing to date"!

Due to the nature of this Ringing, the members of WetPoems tried to be especially accommodating to the participating blogging poets: "We realize that not everyone is ready to acknowledge their inner naughtiness, but we hope that by providing the option to anonymously submit to this ringing we give all of your inner sexuality and sensuality some room to play."

And so it was, a veritable orgy of poetry, that yours truly was certainly excited (and proud) to be part of! The poems are listed anonymously, but I would be more than happy to reveal, at a later date, which is mine. Till then, happy guessing!

PS: There is a new entry on Poetship, as well, that touches on the subject of eroticism in poetry.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pretenses

Her letter lay on the table, unopened still, for the third day in a row—
I can always pretend it took a few days longer in the mail.

Peace,
another word to ruminate over,
chew on it like cud, and regurgitate.
No, I won’t tell you what it is;
one of those things you know only when you lose,
like life, like happiness,
like your keys.

We were walking 'round the neighborhood when the weather started to shiver,
looking inside houses, cloaked in the night—
if people knew how much their chandeliers told about them, they’d lose them.
I was savoring the cold like I do my sadness—
silently, with nostrils open, and a smirk on the inside of my mouth.
I was pretending, when we buy a house, I can invite my family over some time.
But the thought got stuck, there, on a wooden bench near the back entrance,
damp with the evening’s breath, fibers gaping, ready for the frost.

Peace.
Should the peaceful even be allowed to talk about it?
If we could only will it, we wouldn’t be here.
Yes, let’s pretend.

Pretense,
that’s how people wait for peace, pretending that it was there.
And in the meantime, there are fridges to be cleaned.

We celebrated our seventh anniversary in front of the TV—no sex, just apple pie.
Our faces were beaming in the glow of having said it all,
or just enough—the rest is too boring anyhow.
These days I can pretend to devour him—he doesn’t even need to know.

Peace.
It’s like nothing, the anticipation of pain—
is good the absence of evil?
Abundance, time, they cost.
One of those things you forget about.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

miporadio

My poem, "A Dozen", is now featured on miPOradio's EPISODE 16 of THE COUNTDOWN, with Bob Marcacci as P.J. (podcast jockey). The episode is now online for your listening pleasure: "For your poetry fix. For your (h)ears only." Listen to it on iTunes, or if you must on ODEO.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Readings

I will be reading at Ursinus College's Literary Society tomorrow, Thursday, October 5 at 7 pm at Zwingli Java Trench. The formal address is 620 E Main St, Collegeville, PA. The Literary Society is an informal poetry group of the creative writing program at Ursinus. The reading will be followed by an open mike for students. I look forward to feeling older than I should be!

On Sunday, October 8 2006, I will be participating in the Schuylkill Valley Journal contributors' reading at the Manayunk Arts Center. The reading will be from 3:00pm to 5:00pm, and the address is 419 Green Lane (rear) Philadelphia PA 19128.

I will also be reading at Robin's Bookstore with Israeli poet, Hanoch Guy, on Thursday October 19 at 7 pm. The event is titled "Peace Through Poetry". I hope you can make it!

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Dozen

To Obe

I bring my arm close to my face
___to take another whiff of you;
it's yet another year
___I don't wish to celebrate.

The sun, as we lay beached
___in the shadow of the tower,
your eyes closed so lightly
___I could read them underneath,
remembered our faces
___from suns before.

And in the humid hum of the afternoon,
we conspired with the sun in our silence.

There was no one else then
___but the two of us,
like a dozen years before,
shedding the lives we accumulated since
___on the side
stashed like overcoats in the heat,
like old chips of paint
___from a room that crumbles still.

But in that moment,
___as you slept with your eyes open,
listening to me watching you,
___as when we used to kiss,
we dropped them,
___the years, the people,
the names we acquired in between.
The sky stood steely above our heads,
___watching us, wishing us,
missing in us the skies of another time,

when love smelled like fresh rain,
and the rain smelled of us.

© Copyright 2010 Obeida Sidani

Excuses

It's the roots that we grow
as we grow older,

It's wishing once again
we were fresher still,

It's the mother that we make
with a new hairdo,

And the noise of us
as we fall to sleep.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Help me pick a card

Since I have been completely uninspired recently, and I am trying to pick a card for my blog, I thought I'd ask for your input, hoping that that would make my decision easier rather than more difficult (though I should know better...). I had asked my brother for a design, and got 6 instead (don't ask me what happened to No. 2; I never saw it!). Which do you prefer?

1 3 4 5 6 7

Friday, September 15, 2006

Tagged

I've been tagged, by Hashem. So, here it goes...

1- Do you like the look and the contents of your blog?
Yes... Sure, it's a template, and the buttons to the right are out of control and the links need reorganizing, and one day I hope to give it a rehaul... But it's kinda like me that way ;)

2- Does your family know about your blog?
Absolutely! Actually, my brother was my first reader and critic. I even made a blog of our correspondence (when we used to write more often) called "Dear Theo,". I also started a blog, "losing3it", of my sister's writings, hoping that she would catch the blogging bug and start writing again... But.

3- Can you tell your friends about your blog? Do you consider it a private thing?
Most certainly (not that many of them care!). I consider my blog, like my poetry, a private/public thing. On the one hand, blogs are as personal as they get, but in a way they are guaranteed anonymity by their sheer volume. Similarly, my poetry is often a way of casting some very personal thoughts in a very public light.

4- Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? or you try to discover new blogs?
I mostly read the blogs of those who comment on mine, and some of those who comment on those I read. Like most people, I imagine, it reaches a point where there are only so many hours in the day, and even those blogs I enjoy I don't always have the chance to catch up on.

5- Did your blog positively affect your mind? Give an example.
Most definitely! I was in a huge depression when I started writing poetry "seriously" and started my blog. Not to say that that alone got me over it, but it definitely did help.

6- What does the number of visitors to your blog mean? Do you use a traffic counter?
I do use a traffic counter, but I don't check it that frequently. Comments mean more to me, but the counter reassures me that there are more people reading than commenting...

7- Did you imagine how other bloggers look like?
Of course. And boy was I wrong in some of my assumptions! (For some reason, I imagined Eve to wear a hijab, and she didn't...). That's why I appreciate it when people have some semblence of themselves as their avatar.

8- Do you think blogging have any real benefit?
Obviously, or else I wouldn't be doing this, would I? Not that I think it will solve the world's problems, but--as much as I hate the word--it is "fun"!

9- Do you think that the blogsphere is a stand alone community separated from the real world?
Yes, bloggers only exist as figments of the imagination! What sort of a questions is that? A "stand alone community separated from the real world"? Like, whatever... Next!

10- Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them.
I guess I avoid the political blogs that would scare me. But I can certainly imagine their existence out there: right-wing, conservative, bigoted, etc.

11- Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?
Maybe. If you care to know my more detailed thoughts about the value of criticism, I refer you to "Back-scratching", a post on Poet`ship (a blog of poetic discussions, amongst other digressions, between me and my friend Katy).

12- Have you ever thought about what happen to your blog in case you died.
Yes, since I read this question, in Arabic, at MysteriousEve. Not that anyone can tell, or I'd care much once I'm dead, so I just brushed it aside... "and legion the things I would give to oblivion."

13- Which blogger had the greatest impression on you?
I have to admit, this is easy for me to answer: most definitely Katy.

14- Which blogger you think is the most similar to you.
I'd like to think--even though she writes in Arabic--it's Eve.

15- Name a song you want to listen to?
Fairouz's "Wahdoun".

16- Ask five bloggers to answer these question on their blogs?
Scheherazade
Ziad
Cecilia
Fouad
Katy

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Worst Is Yet to Come

Shed them one by one
like recent habits,
perhaps, or ancient loves.

Feel the world denting under your knees--
bury your face deeper in the pillow,
and let it out.

Listen to the grinding of Fate's stone
chaffing your thighs,
pencil a smirk across your face
and raise it to the light.

The worst is yet to come.


In lawns that knew nothing
but the breeze dabbling in poetry,
a hammock strung
like angels to the skies;

In dusks wrapped in their own perfection,
and beaches slumbering at the lap of forever;

You sat, eyes wide, words few,
absorbing the sand like it's all that is left,
spitting it out variations on the divine.

The horizon blinked under your gaze,
and repeated itself, fumbling and hurried,
waiting for reassurance
at the corners of your mouth.


Plunge it, once more, into darkness
and burn a sigh.

We make alliances of convenience,
greeting smiles with a stare,
showcasing the cleared lots
like something’s there.

But the words dim, and scramble,
and shift direction on the page.

They know, too, like I do,
like the night falls,
they sing it under their breath:

The worst is yet to come.

(To Katyssima)

RotB XII

This week's Poetry Carnival is in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at Russell Ragsdale's Yuckelbel's Canon; please drop by.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Never Forget

A new e-mail from my brother:
". . . Because in the past five weeks I only lost four, and I still stand poor.

Every story on this planet springs from me, and dies in my arms, Pietà. This story does, too.

I live in a city that is not a city, I live in city that does not love itself, in a city thirsty, hungry, and kissing.

I know everything. I know the dreams and the nightmares that attack you just before sunrise, I know of the sweat at my armpits, shit, and I know of terrorism and globalisation but I will tell you of the rest.

Of the words written at the margins, and of the margins yet to be discovered, of only the things that I see and feel, of the bad air that I breathe.
. . .
I live in a country that is not loved by anyone, and that is open to everyone's Freudian fantasies (in both senses; sexual and aggressive). It is okay if our civilians are slaughtered, and Israel may block gas, food, and air from us upon any whim. No one shall object, anyway, because we are wléed kalb [sons of dogs].

Shall I tell you of the monsters? The monsters are those who we leave behind once we decide that it is okay if we asked for a decent life, id est a life where we do not need to worry about not having enough water, electricity, units, money, or security to-morrow. The monsters leave once we realise that we do not even have minima, and yet we love this place.

The monsters spring from Mohammad who tells you that you do not need to learn everything from your own bag, and that he cannot live again; all Mohammad had was one life.

The monsters are very simple. When they have (Japanese) tea, the monsters make jokes about the Lebanese not daring to plan for to-morrow, because they know that whatever they plan, it shall not happen.

And I am not mourning here, and I am not sad and not complaining. I am writing to tell you of the monsters that live inside of me . . ."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

CEASE FIRE Video

Here is finally a portion of the CEASE FIRE reading/discussion (it took me a while to figure out how to edit the video to less than 10 minutes so I can upload it to YouTube):



(And I still hate to watch or listen to myself...)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Yoke (Concept of a Nation)

(To the Lebanese Bloggers of the War)

Hunched
in our corners of the earth,
holding down the fort,
pretending to do something.

Garbling
a code of song,
of longings of ten years ago,
and of love

to this concept of a nation,
this bowl of fire
in the guts.

This resonance of a woman’s voice
reverberating in the heat;
this prayer of desperation
that shudders under the familiarity of death;
this face, grown weary from
this concept of a nation.

The rhythm of days
has grown syncopated
in the largesse of your breath.

You, inhabiting the rubble,
the ghost streets and the night,
the night pregnant with the silence
of those who weren’t there.

You, parting the weight of the air
laden with age,
with truncated years.

You, carrying the clot of a promise
between your teeth
like a mother cat carries her young.

Lift the yoke of what remains
and trudge
_____forward, somewhere
the earth will exhale
and flatten her bust for you.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sentences

We kick them out so we can
fill the silence with nonsense;
_____a friendship dwindled
_____into the vestige of a dream.

The hallway stretches ahead
once more like a phone call
lagging a world in between.

Letters scratched off cereal boxes;
a life crammed into
the distance of a scream.
Replay the rhyme
like a country expecting
like the waiting,
____recurring
__________recurring
_____recurring,
__________recurrin'.
Welcome the words back
still dusty from the rubble;
the ones that made it will do.

Those missing, have done their job;
they'll remain somewhere
in a sentence, in a thought.

Incomplete sentences are sentences,
too, in some languages
where the dead have names.

But for now, only hint at them--
you never knew them,
they never knew today.

Stick the alphabet, one after the other,
down the graves
where the soil is supple still.

One day a sentence will begin again
written with characters
they once knew.

They spelled their names
with all the voices of the earth
in a corner where the shadows never heave.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Open Discussion

I will be reading tomorrow, part of an open discussion on:

CEASE FIRE: The end of the US/Israel War in the Middle East?
Date: Tuesday, August 22nd
Time: 7pm.
Place: 48th & Baltimore Ave. (Calvary Church)
Featuring: Sara Flounders, Co-Director International Action Center

I hope you can make it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Reading Tonight

I will be reading tonight at 6:30 pm in Center City at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia (2nd floor) on Rittenhouse Square.

Address:
1906 South Rittenhouse Square,
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone:
(215) 735-3456

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Willing Life Back to Normal

It's been strangely quiet in here, in my mind. I've been trying to will life back to normal, trying to shed the rigorous routines I've acquired in the past month. Exhaustion is evident in those around me, those that have been touched, even from a distance. My words seem trite and packaged to me; I feel like a news agency repeating the same tired script.

There's a strange quiet, a tangible vacuum in here. I want to pretend that this never happened, and it's easier for me to do so here. This is strangely reminding me of when my grandmother died. I wasn't there. Her death was sluggish to materialize. It took my going back home, to my grandparents house, for it to get closer to home. But even then she was simply strangely absent, like she just stepped out to get a bundle of bread and took a bit longer to return. Even seeing her grave didn't help that much in making it any more real. There was a marble slab with her name on it, her first name, which I never used anyhow. Just a name, and dates. But she wasn't there. I couldn't imagine her below, just like it was difficult to believe her to be dead. Her smell wasn't there, nor her ragged day dresses. There was just a strange absence, and nothing could be less tangible.

And here, I have only pictures. And voices. And words. There's the rubble, and here's my adamantly self-protective mind that wants to forget about it. And here's my world that is more than happy to conspire with me on pretending it never happened. Here's the concert in the park we went to last night, the refined string music, and the malevolently oblivious kids running around the pond. Here's this "civilized" culture that pretends it never killed anyone, it never paid for massacres, I never paid for massacres... It is easier to pretend that we're civilized when listening to violins in the night. It is too easy. I keep replaying old stale songs to remind me that this isn't it, that life is happening elsewhere, that life stopped elsewhere. But the songs with faded lyrics can barely compete with Bach. It is too easy to pretend we're civilized with Bach.

Yes, this is peace, this is serenity, this is affluence and plentitude, laying there, on the impeccable grass, pretending that it cost nothing. There's the rich of Chestnut Hill calling for someone to give their "meals on wheels" to. I pretend to forget my sister's message about the 500 or 5,000 that were stuck underground somewhere in the south of Lebanon without food for days, or the report about the people that had to drink from puddles of collected rain water that was closer in consistency to mud, and had started greening already with algae. I pretend this has never happened before, elsewhere, and will never happen again. I pretend that this is all there is, this concert, the good food, and my strangely silent company.

Mazen's mother's birthday was weighing on his mind. And on ours. He was supposed to be with her for it, in that World Before Any Of This Happened. There was the Peace my mother believed in in that World, the Life As It Was Happening Before. There was life as I remember it too vividly, as I try to will it again. The life with its infinite small details that have become strangely irrelevant now. And there's the silence, this unrelenting silence in my mind, that gets quickly filled, at the first thought of words, with old fragments of song, of Fairouz wailing, "Ya natreen el-talj, ma aad badkoun tirja'ou?" You waiting for the snow, don't you want to come back?

(Illustration courtesy of Ben Heine)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Sublime Robert Fisk Pieces

San Francisco Chronicle reveals...

A couple of distressing articles in the San Francisco Chronicle reveal that:
(And it is my tax dollars that are paying for it... Just a final stab in the heart!)

Comment

That same night they bombed the mosque at the cemetery at the end of our street in el-Dahyeh, where my grandma is buried; I have never been happier that she's already dead. (So much for "Rest In Peace"!) No wonder my mother and sister are starting to think they can feel her ghost sitting by their side on the bed in the mountains; it must have taken her a week or two to walk up there... In their hurry, people always leave the dead behind.

That night, they also created some new tenants for the cemetery, right from the buildings next door (though they have to dig them out of the rubble still). Forty of them, my sister said.

Yesterday my mom opened her pharmacy again, at the other end of the same street. Not all the neighbors, or employees, are back; but those there were happy to get some long-needed pills.

Today I heard a reporter on the radio saying that the Dahyeh smelled old, like an abandoned house. Or a woman by the side of the road.

A photo of what remains of a nearby pharmacy of my mother's colleague .
Click on it for more photos that my friend Eve took.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Literary Voices of Dissent

Here's an assortment of some literary heavyweights and intellectuals speaking out against the recent atrocities in the Middle East; certainly worth listening to:
  • Jostein Gaarder (the author of 'Sophie's World') has written a very courageous and outspoken letter titled "God's Chosen People" that you can find translated into English here.
  • Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Howard Zinn, Ken Loach, John Berger, and Arundhati Roy have signed a joint letter titled "War crimes and Lebanon" in The Guardian.
  • A Letter from 18 Writers, including three Nobel Prize recipients, has been reprinted in The Nation, as well as Le Monde, El País, The Independent and La Repubblica, amongst others.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006

FROM EXILE TO THE PRISON: What shall I tell Jana?

(This is a translation of a very moving article that a great friend of mine, Roland, wrote in French, and that has been published in Canada where he had recently emigrated. He is now back in Lebanon; I'll let him speak for himself... I have translated the article into English here; the original text in French can be found here. And I'd like to thank Eve, Delirious, and Arlene for looking over my translation.)


On Tuesday July 25, 2006, while Canadians of Lebanese origin and the Lebanese with dual-citizenship descended onto the ports of their "promised land", I did what my heart and convictions begged me to do: I took a Montreal-Paris-Damascus flight to join my family and my country that have been abandoned to Israeli fire and death. The road from Damascus to Beirut, in the middle of the night, was a true nightmare: the sound of the planes roaring above the taxi (the only one that was as insane as I and that had agreed to take the risk) seemed like the drum of death that I had to witness up-close.

I knew that I had come to help, but I did not know how. One week already and I know that I will never look at life the same way again. Last Thursday I joined a group of young people, between the ages of 25 and 35, who had decided to remain and face this atrocious war. It’s been one week since I’ve joined them, each day in a different school, where hundreds of thousands of displaced, dismembered and shocked families were piled up, families of which one or two members have remained under the rubble, these fragments of families a part of which has been lost for good under the shells.

In the over-populated schools, these refugees survive under precarious conditions: the meager and rare food portions, some drugs for the cardiac patients and diabetics. We try to keep the children occupied, because they are hungry and, even more so, afraid: they cannot sleep, with the night being torn by the noise and vibrations of Israeli bombardments. Today we decided to make them dream.

With paints I drew on their small tired faces stars, moustaches, zebra stripes... And each one of them, for one afternoon, believed themselves to be a magician, a tiger or a lion, and could overcome their misery to spend the night on a small carpet on the ground with a bread crumb for dinner.

Jana is 6 years old. It’s been two days now that I’ve met her at the "concentration camp" (it is the best description I can find to describe these small rooms where the refugees pile up). Her father, who remained in Tyre to care for the sick grandmother, never returned. Jana is soft and seldom smiles. Today, she asked me to draw white flowers for her on her two pale cheeks. And, as if by magic, I also could draw for the first time a smile on her small angelic mouth. She did not let go of my hand for the rest of the day.

In the evening, when leaving, she looked at me and said: "If you come to our place in Tyre, I will give you a white rose from my rose tree which I planted with my grandmother." I looked at her soft innocent face as her words pierced my heart.

While driving home, I could not stop thinking of Jana, with her white rose tree tinted with blood, at her house crushed by missiles, with her grandmother and her father of whom nothing remains but ashes.

What shall I tell Jana? That the Grown-ups didn't want to stop the fire and that nothing remains of her childhood but memories? That the blood of her father stained the white rose tree and that he has left forever? That she has no one left anymore but her mother and her 2 year old brother and a few pennies, that she has nothing for shelter but a corner of the street without roof nor harbor?

What shall I tell Jana, that the grown-ups of this world claim that, for every answer, the response is "measured "?

I smiled to Jana and the broken heart I left in Beirut, a phantom city as of 3 p.m., not knowing if the night would bring more devastation and if the death of other children qualifying as "measured response" would be added to our misery.

I thought of Jana, while at home, waiting for the Israeli planes to release their beautiful gifts from the sky to the children of Lebanon... I thought of Jana and the other innocent children; I felt revolt at this cleansing blessed and legitimized by certain great powers. And I ask you to answer Jana yourself, you, citizens of the world spared of misery, because I feel ashamed to tell her what the Grown-ups approve still, until this very moment...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Thank God (/Apple?) for iPods!

A new message from my sister in Lebanon about the iPod Nano I got her for her graduation, exactly a month ago, just days before this nightmare began...
"I just wanted to thank u for the ipod. I listen to it every morning when I wake up, & at night (so that I don't hear the planes & explosions). I love it, & I LOVE U!"

Monday, August 07, 2006

Poetry Reading to Call for Peace

I'd like to thank everyone who showed up today and made it such a great success! We managed to raise $250 for charity, not bad for a poetry reading in a small cafe. I thank everyone for their generosity; InFusion cafe; Berta for the video; and our 3 wonderful readers! And I'll keep you posted about whether Al-Arabiyya will broadcast any excerpts, and if so when.

All my best,

Ashraf

PHILLY POETS FOR
P E A C E

Present
Ashraf Osman
Also Featuring
Laurie Pollack
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
Arlene Bernstein

WHEN: Sunday, August 6, from 4 to 6 pm
WHERE: InFusion Coffee & Tea
7133 Germantown Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19119

$5 Suggested Donation
All proceeds go toward the UNICEF Emergency Relief Fund

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

An e-mail from my sister in Lebanon

To Bouboo in war

. . . We’re staying here, where the war hasn’t reached yet, for how long, I don’t know. There’s no bombing here, no shooting, the children play football all day, and people are gathered on the balconies having coffee and argheeleh, and yet we don’t feel safe. Every night when we go to bed, we fall sleep on the sound of “ta2irat el-2istitla3” [reconnaissance planes], and on bad nights, the low flying of military planes. The sound makes you wonder whether you’ll be tomorrow’s headlines or whether it’s someone else’s turn. Most nights I wonder if I’m going to wake up the next morning, and if we’re all going to be OK. I got used to sleeping on the ground after we decided that the living room is safer than our bedrooms (since the bedrooms have a panoramic view whereas the living room faces another building). For 19 days now, every night, I pull down the living room “tara7at” [cushions], spread my sheets and my pillow, and gather the things that are dearest to my heart in a small bag that I keep right next to me on the floor. Every morning I wake up, take my sheets and pillow to the bedroom, make my bed, put “el tara7at” back into place, and hide the small bag in my closet. The lies we like to believe…I’ve watched hundreds of buildings fall since the war started, and not one, not one, had a preserved room. They crumble like sandcastles, and the waves make no difference between a living room and a bedroom, or between a mattress and a bed.

I’m not complaining. In fact, I thank God a million times for being so lucky. I’ve seen families standing on the pavement waiting for a ride to safety when the Israelis threw “manshourat” [flyers] on El-Da7yeh, but all buses were full, and everyone was escaping with no regard to whom is left behind. I’ve seen men leave their houses and their stores with nothing in hand except pocket money and ID (el-hawiye), and then sit in a stranger’s house watching on TV their lives’ work and savings getting burnt into pieces. I’ve seen children, women, and elderly stacked in school corridors, waiting for someone to pass food and water for them and their babies. I’ve seen youngsters in the prime of their lives, sleeping in gardens (jnaynit el-sanayi3), being photographed and videotaped like zoo animals, deprived of any form of shelter and privacy. I’ve seen doctors in the South screaming on TV that the hospital in their surrounded (mo7asar) village needs anesthetics because they ran out of drugs and they’re operating on lucid and conscious patients. I’m talking about living people since I started out by saying that this e-mail is not going to be about the massacres, it’s not about the dead. . .

(Please read all here.)

A Call to Action for All American Citizens & Residents

Tell your government that you don't support this!


Congress voted on resolutions calling for staunch support of Israel (see above). Here’s your chance to make your voices heard in Washington. Click here to tell your government what it should do with regards to the Israel-Lebanon Conflict, and that you oppose the resolution of support for Israel. Please make sure to invite your friends and family to do the same. Thank you!

"The darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
--Dante

The Last Lullaby (for Lebanon)

My dear friend Yasmin of Schadenfraulines has written a heartrending poem "in memory of the Qana Massacre" called The Last Lullaby (for Lebanon).

She has also written this touching poem of encouragement for me and Lebanon:
FOR BOUBOO AND YOUR LEBANON

there was a time
when a butterscotched tongue
was your candied retreat

now tin soldiers have sacked the sandman
and crept away with the last thick crumbs of sleep
sliding your peace under and out the door

where all the stars have fallen

but like Colossus
(remember, you towered tall like him once before
Bouboo)
you run on burning feet
scooping them up
and hurling them back into the sky
Yasmin, I thank you immensely...

Reminder:
Many great poets have also contributed to my dear friend Katy's poetic Call to Arms at Poets101. I thank them all!

Monday, July 31, 2006

A new e-mail from my brother in Lebanon

. . . When everything started, I was having my internship at a designer’s office near the National Museum, and I had to stop because commuting was dangerous. I was nonetheless accepted in a designer’s office in Dubai, and shall leave Lebanon in a week or so. I therefore had to visit my house in the Southern Suburb in order to bring my passport from it, and did so yesterday with my mother.

I was surprised at the fact that my house was still intact. Fortunately, the nearest bombings to my house were a street away, and my mother had opened all the windows of our house before evacuating. She had learnt from the previous war that that prevents their glass from bursting from the pressure created by the bomb, and it worked. Where I live is a very noisy area, and so it was strange to see it as empty as a ghosts’ village. I brought my passport along with a travelling bag and some clothes, bade my favourite cat farewell, and returned with my mother to our mountain house. It was important that we leave the place as soon as possible.

This is not to say that I am depressed. In fact, my first ten days here were rather calm; stuck between two mountain towns, all I did for ten days was sleep, play cards with my cousins, and read. Where I am you can hear and see the bombings on the Southern Suburb, but not so loudly that it scares you, and so with binoculars you can survey where the missiles are going with relative accuracy (that actually was yet another activity that my cousins and I did). The last couple of days I finally went to the village’s plaza, where there is an internet cafÈ, and sent a couple of mails that I had been typing on my laptop since the war started (that was when I read your e-mail). I also began my calls for an internship and a VISA, and designed a new logo for my aunt’s husband’s architectural firm.

Yesterday, my sister told me that England, the feller that the United Nations sent to Lebanon, announced that he was surprised to know that the Southern Suburb was a residential area of 920,000 citizens and not a top secret military zone. I wondered to myself; if someone at such a key position in the UN did not know something as simple and key to understanding what is really going on in the region, then who would? . . .
(read more)

(Ahmoudeh, look what Katy did for you...)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cats

And then there was a gap
where my life used to be.
A continuum of tedium,
stopped in its tracks,
a cavity blown
where the banality once was.

Now my life is much too serious,
and yet the world around me isn’t.

The light on Chestnut Hill never dims.
I hesitate to tell the people there
that somewhere else
the sun is broken.
That somewhere else
my dad tells me
--so earnestly he could almost believe it--
that it will be alright.
That, miraculously, our building still stands,
and that he ventures home still,
every once in while,
to feed my sister's cats.

I don’t tell him it’s the cats
that make me cry.
That the thought of them cowered
in the stairwell,
not even meowing,
as the world’s face is peeled
is all I can handle.
My aunt cowering in the emergency room,
I can’t.
Whatever lies next to her,
behind the curtains,
I don’t want to think.

It thunders here,
my cat is behind the toilet bowl,
inside the couch,
and underneath the bed--
all at once.
I don’t even want to think of those cats.

A cat wounded in air raids on Al-Ouza'i

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mama

Mama,
_____I am getting tired of my sadness,
__________is that okay?
Mama,
_____I am starting to pretend that you're fine,
__________do you mind?
Mama,
_____my anger has eaten the best of me;
now I am farther from who you are
_____or you'd like me to be.

Mama,
_____is it alright if I stop grieving for today?
_____If I stop thinking of your hardship daily?
Because, Mama,
_____they don't care,
and I'm getting tired of caring.
(But, Mama,
_____you know I do.)

_____Yes, I wish I were with you now.
I know you wouldn't wish it,
but somewhere you want me nearby too.
_____Wading the days with you,
_____waiting for dawn after we've counted
__________bombs like sheep.
Yes, we'll finish the wine off like there's no tomorrow,
_____because drunk, together, we wouldn't care.

_____But here I do, Mama.
I drink my wine in a pill,
_____tasteless as my sorrow.
Because, Mama,
_____here they don't care, Mama.
But I do, Mama.
_____I do.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From my brother in Lebanon

. . . The first seven days here, I would type whenever I could to Josef, my favourite cousin who lives in Germany. I probably have told you about him. Brief, he is a person who touches my inner waters, which is why I love him so much. I had started counting the days that stood between us forty days before he was supposed to come. That night, when we were done with (the exquisite) Fairuz, and when Ma called us, telling us to meet her and Pa at our mountain house because it was not safe to sleep in Beirut, I thought of Josef and asked God not to take him away. I repeated "please please please" fervently. The subsequent morning we were woken up by bombings, and the Israeli army was bombing the airport. It was six days before Josef would come.

I started typing to the boy that same day I guess. I made extra sure that I was not being dramatic. I wanted to tell him what was going on without big words, without "mourning" was the word that I used. Over seven days I typed four pages, by the end of which I had told him nothing. Something in me said that he was too young and innocent, that it was futile to worry him. By the end of the four pages, I had dropped narrative and levitated to shreds and bits. I told Josef, like I used to last summer, of the dreams that I had and the songs that I listened to in my head. I recounted to him a couple of pieces from a beautiful nationalistic song by Marcel Khalifé called "Rita." I did not tell him of the 300 citizens dead then far, of the 1000 people wounded, and the 600,000 "naazihine," people like me who had to leave their houses. I am very lucky to have a mountain house.

To-morrow I shall hopefully visit my house in order to get my passport, for Ma said that things might worsen and that the Israeli army might invade Lebanon. In case it did, we would have to leave, at least until things get settled. I shall see my favourite cat and would bring with me my corn badge and CD's. When we fly, I do not want to mourn. I just mourn my feeling of usefulness to my country.

When I see my country being raped and know that all I can do as a citizen of the glorious Lebanese Republic is flee and flee some more, I wonder what I am good for. I feel guilty because all I am having from this war is being trapped in my mountain house and hearing bombings on my home region from afar, but had I lost my mother, would it have mattered? Would I have loved Lebanon any better? Love is treatment.

I feel guilty because I miss Josef while people are being slaughtered, but I miss Josef. How many apologies do I owe my country? Before I started typing this, I stood at the balcony railings and thought that I am very sane although I have been bouncing between two mountain towns for ten days so far, then I thought of how sane I would be in ten weeks and in ten months. My God, people lived worse than that for seventeen consecutive years. How did they? . . . (more)

Piece of Beirut

I wear a piece of Beirut round my neck
And if Beirut is no longer
I shall remain
A piece of Beirut

I bear its anger in my womb
A discarded fetus
Of every bastard child
That choked on its breath

And I shall run in their blood
Twist like the bends
Under their flaking skins
And I shall cry its name
With every shedding piece of their scales

(Originally posted Apr. 15, 2003)

A Nation Amputated

(Initially dedicated to May Chidiac, but now--sadly--to so many more...)

Today, we all lost an arm and a leg.
Today, from a distance, I cry a nation assassinated.
Today, I conjure a tingle in ghost limbs,
A word stuck under my skin,
A moan, a whimper.
Today, I pity my nation like I couldn't pity myself,
For today I love my nation like I couldn't love myself.
Today, in still images, I saw a dark horizon;
In torn metal, a stifled smile.
Pixelated and faded, a smile now contorted.

But silence,
You shall have none of it.
Rest
Shall elude you in your sleep.
And they will haunt you
Like slighted gods,
Like echoes of a scream.

We shall be your Medusa.
We'll grow a thousand words
For every tongue you trim;
We'll sprout a million songs
For every throat you choke.
And we shall rise,
Like your worst nightmare,
As if from a dream.

(Originally posted Sep. 25, 2005)

Life (Unraveled)

I unravel life
Petal by petal
And each petal
Wraps around my neck
Like a scream

How can you escape it?
How can you smile?
How can you sing it
When all it asks for
Is to be spat out?

I came here to praise Life
Not to bury it
Yet here I am
On my knees again
Weeping at the graveside

Choke on it
For I would never swallow it
And yet I shall die trying...

(Originally posted July 18, 2004)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

O Lebanon… My Lebanon

(This is the text of a moving e-mail I just received from my best friend in Lebanon, Khaldoun.)

I am not sure what I am going to say or write about.
Been more than a week unable to think straight or put two sentences together.

I can't define what I am feeling, that is if I have any feelings left in me.
I have definitely bypassed the stage of sadness and crossed the borders of disparity.
Is it agony? I am afraid not.
It is the feeling of desolateness where nothing really matters any more. No taste, no color, no sound, no form… too many No's to list.

I look around, into the faces of the people, I find a lost smile. A shadow smile was just there, somewhere, and now it is all gone.
What incenses me is my mom's tear that escapes her hand wiping it off, hiding it from the rest of us to share some strength into our falling-apart dreams and hopes.
What torture me are the black circles under my sister's eyes that keep me wondering whether they are from her dispersed cries or even from all the nightmares she has while she sounds peacefully sleeping.

What a joke?
Here we are all sitting in front the TV; the remote control in one hand flipping channels to get a better picture or image on what is going on… no where but in the same territory where we are living in.
Ya territory… I dare not say country, because I am too ashamed to identify it as a country when all of this tragedy is going on and there is nothing we, the inhabitants, can do or even say.

We didn't decide we want all of this.
No one consulted us or asked for our opinion.
No one forewarned us that this is coming.
No one explained to us where we are heading.

We were planning for our future with some hope and trust. We were going to attend all those performances brought from all around the globe to this great country.
We were planning to go to the beach and get a suntan that others could envy us for.
We were planning to travel for a short vacation and come back with a long list of shopped items for family and friends.
We were planning projects and programs for the coming few years.
We were planning how to study and sit for an exam or even find a better paid job.

We were never forewarned.
Now we need to prepare ourselves for the worse, for dark nights and gloomy days.
Now we need to think where to hide and which road is safe to take.
Now we need to think when to flee and leave.
Now we need to think if we are going to be short on diesel and even bread.

And I ask myself why?
Haven't we been paying our dues on time?
Haven't we been throwing garbage in their proper places?
Haven't we been trying to abide by the laws?
Haven't we been respecting our responsibilities?
Haven't we been going to work everyday?
Haven't we been saying good morning and good night in a proper way?

Why? I am not sure if I am looking for an eloquent answer.
Just few days before all of this started, the cities and towns were decorated with all those foreign flags celebrating the World Cup; the Lebanese flag barely made it to few cars or balconies, one of which is mine.

Few months ago, we attended Majida El Roumi's concert. There she was, singing Beirut Sit El Dunia*; there he was, our Prime Minister, up on his feet listening to the 10-minute-or-so song standing as a sign of respect not for the singer but for the great city; and there we were, the audience, the Lebanese, sitting throughout the song and standing up only when there was a beat or a rhythm, drawing hand-signs that reflect our inferiority as subjects and not citizens.

I don't know if I should continue to ask myself why?
But well, no one has the right to impose his opinions, likes/dislikes, decisions, and choices on me as an individual.
I don't want this war; I want to live in peace. I no longer believe in causes or care for others' misery; our tragedies have been enough. I don't want to defend others' existence or support their rights; I look around and realize that I am not getting anything in return except words of pity and sympathy. I don't need this. Well, the song says "La Shay'a Ma3i Illa Kalimat"**.

I am almost 32. I lived half of my life in a civil war; 15 years of being scared and frightened. I witnessed the Israeli attacks in 1993 and the Qana massacre in 1996.
I was there throughout the devastations of 2005 with all the assassinations and bombs. I was so scared to continue my life; I wanted to stay in, move around the minimum possible; I stepped away from my friends and relatives. I could not reach out. I was scared. But now, I am not sure what I am feeling, if there are any feelings left inside.

My apologies finally go to a great country called Lebanon. I am ashamed of myself and of others for what we have been doing or even for what we haven't been doing. How trivial are our lives, our needs and opinions, our differences, and even our religions, compared to the continuous rebirth of a phoenix that never gives in.
There is a piece of heaven on earth and I truly believe it is called Lebanon; there is where the whole story should be or actually is; where history instigated and where it will always end. And who are we and our trivials in the existence of a great nation or mission or civilization (or call it what you want to call it), that I am more sure now that we don't actually deserve.

O Lebanon… My Lebanon

* = "Beirut, Lady of the World"
** =
"I've got nothing but words"; the last line from Majida el-Roumi's song, "Kalimat" (Words)

Ringing of the Bards V

...is up at Ceclia's of ClearCandy Daily, this week. She wrote: "I have dedicated it to you and to my brothers and sisters in Lebanon, and to all those affected around..."

Beating Back Diplomatic Defeatism

My dear friend, Jon Frietag, has finally started his own blog with a piece in defense of diplomacy; I highly recommend it:

. . . For quite a while it has not been that difficult to criticize America’s Israel policy. The U.S. has continued to fund the occupation of the Palestinian people and has tacitly approved the expansion of Israel’s West Bank settlements. Still, one felt the scant belief that American bureaucrats, regardless of their intentions, at least respected the notion that things ought to get solved peacefully. These Americans were called diplomats. But today they are nowhere to be found. In this current Administration’s worldview of “existing realities,” where what’s done can’t be undone, diplomats are derided as nothing but a bunch of dithering elites. And that goes for Henry Kissinger.

America’s blank check to Israel to bombard the civilian populations of Lebanon and Gaza is appalling, but not unconsidered. The U.S.’s withdrawal from negotiations stems from a conservative philosophy which promotes the unbridled use of military force on the one hand and the joyful abdication of diplomatic responsibility -- Politics -- on the other. It is a philosophy which ushers in physical brutality by camouflaging its contempt for diplomacy beneath a supposed exhaustion of diplomacy. It is rooted in a belief that the world is wicked, that nothing but force can tame it, and that the best role for civil government in these particular circumstances is in the drain of a bathtub. It is a philosophy we should not misconstrue as one of blundering incompetence, or unspeakable idiocy, but rather the embodiment of mindfully agreed-upon, wrongful policy options. (more)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

An urgent message from my sister...

"Bouboo, there are 1500 people stuck in underground floors of a school in Bint Jbeil in the south. The Israelis are not allwoing them to leave, & aren't allowing the Lebanese RedCross or the international RedCross to deliver food, water or even drugs to these peopl, for 5 days now!"

I’m here and not here

(This is a translation of another touching post in Arabic by my dear friend, Eve, who is blogging from Lebanon, braving the terror of the Israeli offensive there... She wrote to me in an e-mail today: "i'm at a coffee shop, the connection at home seems to have surrendered at last. . . i dont know when i'll check my inbox again...")


I’m here now. From the other side of the sea, from the second face of the moon. Where everything is sweet, and calm, even if always cold.

I had to leave, you know.
Everyone was taking a bite off this land. And I… couldn’t stand it anymore.
The scene at the border was painful.
They all wanted to stay; they all had to leave.
I wanted to call out to them, I was about to hold their shoulders, shake them like this, and yell at them: “How could you? Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?” I forgot that I, too, with the departing am departing.

The worst way for one to travel is by boat, you know? The plane, a few minutes and you’re flying. The car, a step on the fuel and you go. But on the boat, you stay standing, contemplating the marina, against your will… Looking at the land getting further away, at the people getting smaller, at a hand waving, and a hand, choked, that couldn’t wave. At a bag flying in the air, at a girl pinning laundry on a clothesline, at shuttered houses with no girl pinning laundry or clotheslines. Looking at your dream that they lost… At your dream that, maybe, you let get lost.

He didn’t understand me, my friend at the airport, when my head fell onto his shoulder, and I started to sob.

No, I’m not glad to be safe now. I am upset, I am crestfallen, I am choked from the inside…I am here in safety, and you are still over there. I am here a living illusion, no more, but you are at least alive. I am here but not worth more than five minutes of the news. I am a number. We are all numbers. Our identity is corpses and the stone that is shattering… Here were are barbarians, we don’t know how to live together, don’t know how to love. We don’t know that a homeland comes, always, before religion…

Me?
I’m here and not there
Here and not here
Here forgetting myself there
Never here
Always, with you, there

I’m starting to ramble. You take care of yourself. Do sing me that song from time to time… if you still sing.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ahmad


Photo of four-year-old Ahmad, who was murdered along with all his family on Sunday July 16, during operation "Just Reward" by the Israeli army.
"Oh my darling,
Did they hurt you?
When you called out for mommy, I wonder, did they hear you?
Did anyone sit beside you and kiss your forehead?
Did anyone whisper tenderly in your ear and close your eyes?
Did anyone sing you a lullaby and tell you that it won't be long before the fire goes out?
Did anyone tell you how cute you are, how clever you are, how brave you are?
Stronger than all their jets is your dream.
Higher than all their raids is your laughter.
Bigger than all their hatred is your love.

Oh my dear one,
Tomorrow you'll grow up and become a pilot. You'll fly far far away, farther than the sky and the roar of bombs. You'll grow up to be a fire fighter and put out the land from its pain. You'll become an angel, always laughing.

Oh sweetheart,
Are you asleep?
Cover yourself, I'm afraid tomorrow you'll get cold alone."

(This is a translation of another touching post in Arabic by my dear friend, Eve, who is blogging from Lebanon, braving the terror of the Israeli offensive there...)

After the silence...

So my partner finally decided to voice his views on what's happening in what turned out to be quite a compelling piece:

Till today I have resisted voicing my opinions about the escalating violence in the Middle East out of a fear that I would merely spew more emotional and thus unproductive words onto a landscape already littered with the debris of hope, democracy, and innocent lives.

Naively, I had hoped to find the words that directed at selected leaders here in the US would spark results. I had hoped to appeal to their own rhetoric to motivate them to see clearly the nature of this conflict. Its horrible injustice, outrageous futility, and destructive force. Like a newborn suckling on propaganda from Uncle Sam’s tit, I wanted to believe that the “West” wouldn’t let this insanity continue. Despite evidence to the contrary, I wanted to believe that this time around our foreign policy would be driven by long-term goals, peaceful ideals, and an understanding of fairness.

Reluctantly, what I have come to feel as well as understand is that the world around us operates only on selfish short-term goals. The US Congress passed a vote of confidence in Israel because many of its members want to capture the Jewish vote. Hezbollah provoked the conflict to prove their importance as the only force capable of defending Lebanon. And Israel, well their PM must prove to his people that despite his lack of military background he too can show an iron fist. The list goes on . . . Syria, Iran . . . and all the rest of us benignly watching from afar.

And although I am no populist I cannot stand to watch the destruction of people’s dreams and hopes. I’ve been to Lebanon and although I don’t think Beirut can be compared to Paris and although I couldn’t wait to get out of the Dahyeh because of the stench that inhabits those streets and although I wanted to hurl every time I was in a car because of the roads as well as the drivers and although I couldn’t live down the destruction of the landscape by uncontrolled building and development and although I don’t share the same fascination with eating constantly and then eating some more . . . I carry with me a glimpse of the destruction still being wrought down on the country.

He sleeps next to me at night and sometimes, sometimes I wish that I had dated and married Swiss, just to not have to sleep next to the weight of all these shattered lives. Just breathing the same air as one of you is enough to send me reeling into depths that I would rather muse over. Where once I saw glimpses of pride and a hesitant belief that the future may be bright, I now see confusion and such an unbelievable chasm of pain that I too resort to opiates, anxiolytics and alcohol.

Everyday I wake up hoping to hear good news. Till then I have to be his rock. That day I’ll have a very, very long cry.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

More dispatches from Mazen

Mornign Morning, thanks for the posting, it was a peaceful night kind off, I moved now to haykal Center, I guess u recall it, it is furnished apts near AUB, K might come from Shouf today, though am convincing him to stay there, more peaceful than Beirut

People are still leaving, am still confused whether tot ravel next week or not… btw how did u burn ur hand??

Today there will be a gathering at the ESCWA bldg then a march to EU offices in Saifi protesting against what is happening in the county, at 12 noon the AUB Almni is organizing a protest at the alumni headquarter against what is happening…and no need to guess, I was part of all the demonstrations before (those that called for liberation and not the other barbarian party who were/are pro occupation by Syria and not by other!!!) so I guess it will be a good move, hopefully there will a lot of people

I hope that there wont be escalation of violence after the evacuation of the foreigners…yesterday whn I was on my way to the office through Aley , It strike me again how beautiful our country is and how much this country is worth to live, with the view of the sea, the mountains, the scenery but with this beauty was shaded by grayish black cloud all over the cost line reflecting the burned building, people, souls, souls that want o live and be in this country no matter what, so they will be the ashes that will ever survive this country when it comes back to birth, Lebanon is passing though a tough labor, and I would love to identify my country by SHE, i hope her labor wont be long…fearing of uterine rupture that will render her from not bearing any future for its people…

Well here again am babbling my usually nonsense, I guess it is a “country in labor associated syndrome”

Hope to c u soon,

Take good care of urself

Xoxoxo

ma.zen (or as know by Ash, ma.jen)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Morning Ash

Here's an e-mail I got from a friend of mine who's a nurse at the American University Hospital in Beirut...

Morning Ash,

It was a long night, I slept in Beirut last night at my friend’s house, the bombing started after midnight, pretty frightening, today is another day, I am trying to make use of my time by studying, my friend Nancy from Philadelphia contacted me yesterday she asked me if I am interested in a vacancy she has so I said YES, so I guess if K and I manage to leaven here, it will be for good

Ash I cannot tell u how much I want this thing to stop, 3anjad it is beyond my comprehension to grasp that this is happening to Lebanon and the innocent people

We are still not receiving casualties at the hospital but we have our disaster plan ready, there no casualties in Beirut Thanks God and most probably because Daheyeh is empty and casualties from other part of Lebanon cannot arrive due to the disconnected road network that was bombed in the since last week, tomorrow it will be a week I guess on this barbarian acts against our peaceful Lebanon, while I was driving to work yesterday morning I saw crowds gathering in Ashrafieh, in Hamra, and in Verdun all getting ready to leave this country, it was a heartbreaking seen, yesterday I had to say c u, and I insisted on c u to a very dear American friend of mine who will be evacuated today I guess, she is nearly 67 and she insisted on leaving most of her stuff here because she want to come back to Lebanon

I submitted a manuscript early last week before the attack on Lebanon to a journal of Nursing Administration in the US, and my introduction talked about Lebanon and how this country suffered and is “now” (at the point of submitting the manuscript ) land of beauty, culture, survival and , and , and, … was I blinded that such future was destined for my country, or is Lebanon as the phoenix bird that has to go into ashes every now and then to be able to get back into life, so we are now in the death phase of this wounded bird and I trust deeply that it is a matter of time that this bird will fly high again, but I hope that this bird wont be forced to go into ashes again by “other” and others include not only the enemy for me at least

I guess I bothered you with all the “nonsense I am writing” but I just felt like confiding through writing

Hope and to c u sooooooooooooooooon

Kisses

Mazen

"Go to hell, Lebanon will stay"

(This is a translation of a touching post in Arabic by my dear friend, Eve, who is blogging from Lebanon, braving the terror of the Israeli offensive there...)

The raids yesterday exceeded thirty. I toss on my bed. The counting exhausts me. My tossing is almost in synch with the repetitive rhythm of explosions. For a while I imagine that I am no longer shaking with their roar. It’s been four nights now, four nights and I don’t want to sleep, and sleep in turn doesn’t want me. Four nights and the call to prayer at dawn finds me awake… When its sound mingles with the chatter of the nearby Dahyeh suburbs and the noise of my thoughts, sleep sits at the edge of my bed, and we go on chatting for what is left of the morning hours…

Ambulances, the panting of the TV, the voice of the newscaster sobbing at this very instance. It is all in the background. I look at them picking up the corpses. They say they burnt alive. Somehow, I smell burnt flesh.

I walk constantly. I can’t sit for long. I turn around myself. I look through the window. I look above. “God, love us a little. A little more!”

I want my silly life back. I want to get back to my desk that’s drowning under translation papers. I want to wake up in the morning and mull over what dress to wear. I want to match the color of my makeup and the color of my skirt. I want to go back to writing frivolous posts about love… To organizing the trip to Italy again… To tease the fans of Germany for the loss of their soccer team… To execute my postponed project with Maysoun… To go and take pictures of Beirut , Beirut smiling… To enjoy quarreling with my colleague at the office… To dance with Rima… To get angry at Wadih… To make you understand that I am not budging from here, whether we are at peace or at war, in festivities or in silence… And you’ll smile because you know that I won’t budge.

The world is silent. The losses, we have stopped counting them. Some are busy pointing the fingers of blame. And in the midst of all this? The lighthouse, the port, the bridge, the stone, the word, Fairouz, the airport, the child under the rubble, Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, el-Jiyyeh, Tripoli, Baalbeck, Chtura, el-Naqoura, and Lebanon! And Lebanon ! And Lebanon …

And the human being.

And the remaining human being whose voice rises, between one hit and another, whose voice rises, “Let Fairouz go back to Baalbeck!”

Lebanon, green beautiful Lebanon… What rape is this… What rape…

Not Funny



Sunday, July 16, 2006

Messages from my sister

I have posted messages from my sister in Lebanon on her blog, losing3it.blogspot.com.
(Translations to follow, when I have the energy again...).

Part 2

I have tired of all the screens,
I have tired of looking at the dump
where I grew up, billowing smoke
like my mother on a bad afternoon.

I have tired of looking at the waters
where I learned to ride waves
being parted by a grey barge
spewing quick bitter ends.



Someone on the screen insists on telling me,
“You asked for it, now you pay the price.”
I must have forgotten
when and where and how we did.

I am sure it is the fault
of whoever is dying right now
because the New York Times says it is.
When did the right to kill become a matter of polls?



How I wish I too could kill so many
and call it self-defense
and have the wilting world
believe me and cheer me on.

I try hard not to will what’s happening
on the rest of the world because
in my desperation it seems like only way to empathy.



I tell you, if my family wasn’t there
I wouldn’t give a damn
like a hundred places before,

I would shake my head
with a somber look on my face
and tsk-tsk-tsk disapprovingly
like a hundred times before.

See, I am petty like you,
I care about what’s mine like you,
and like you I am human at the core.



I have waited and waited and waited
for a better poem to present itself,
for others to say it more delicately than I;

to keep me sane,
I have translated all the songs of war.

I have waited for words
more lyrical, more eloquent,
more subtle than this.



But there is no lyricism in death,
there is no eloquence in death,
there is no subtlety in war.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Part 1

It could be worse,
it could be worse,
it could be worse,

I type with one hand
a mantra that has a hard time
believing itself.

My mother tells me,
"Talk to your aunt, lie to her,
tell her her son will be alright.

Tell her you heard on TV
that there'll be a cease-fire
so he could cross back to her.

She'll believe you,
she wants so much to believe.
She's tired of crying."

She hands me the phone,
my throat dries up again;
it's hard to lie to a crying woman.

My mother tells me,
"I'm all out of clean underwear,
I didn't think it'd be so bad.

When I was in my twenties
I could run far," she says,
"with my children flailing under my arms.

But I'm not so young anymore.
Son, don't tell anyone,
but I celebrated thirty a long time ago.

I don't have another war in me;
I didn't think I needed one."
She takes a long puff at her cigarette.

"One can start a new life only once,"
she says, "and I've had mine.
I'll see you in the fall," she says,

"I'll see you in the fall."

Friday, July 14, 2006

“They barricaded the streets” (Sakkarou el-shawari’)

سكروا الشوارع
 عتموا الشارات
زرعوا المدافع
 هجروا الساحات

وينك يا حبيبي
 بعدك يا حبيبي
صرنا الحب الصارخ
 صرنا المسافات

إشتقنا للإيام السعيدة
إيام السهر عالطريق
عجقة سير و مشاوير بعيدة
و نتلاقا بالمطعم العتيق

يا هوا بيروت
 يا هوا الإيام
إرجعي يا بيروت
 ترجع الإيام

إجا الصيف التاني
 و القمر مكسور
قولك رح تنساني
 يا حبي المقهور

رجعت على بيتي
 ما لقيتو لبيتي
دخان و زوايا
 لا وردي و لا سور

عم بيروحوا متل رفوف سنونو
تحت نجوم الليل مشردين
قولك الأصحاب وين بيكونوا
وين بيكون الدمع و الحنين


They barricaded the streets,
they darkened the signs,
they planted the cannons,
and emptied the places,

Where are you my love?
You are still my love.
We have become the piercing love,
we have become the distances...

We miss the happy days,
the days of staying out on the streets;
traffic jams and long promenades,
when we would meet in the old café...

Oh, air of Beirut!
Oh, air of the days!
Come back, Beirut,
so the days would come back!

The second summer came
and the moon is broken;
would you forget me,
my bitter love?

I came back to my house,
I couldn’t find my house--
smoke and corners,
no rose or fence...

They are leaving like flocks of sparrows,
scattered like the night stars--
where do you think the friends are?
Where would the tears and the longing be?


- The Rahbani brothers