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


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


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

_____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.
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 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…

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


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


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



"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,
(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

Thursday, July 13, 2006

She said it when I could not...

I guess that's how you know a good friend, when they can fill in your silence, when they can give voice to the words stuck in your throat.
Please check out my dear friend Katy's poem, Ummi:

(Katy, I can't thank you enough.)

1982 revisited?

Last night the electricity went out in Philadelphia for a couple of hours. I was almost nostalgic lighting up the candles around the house. In the dark, anywhere could be Beirut.

But then one of the candles burst out in flames; the wax itself was on fire, the round top of the thick cylinder was ablaze. I tried to put it out, throw water on it, but that only made the boiling wax splash onto my hand. I tried to sleep, with my hand dangling in a bucket of ice water, but I just couldn't. Underneath the pain I must have sensed something in the air, a whiff of the news I was to wake up to.

Today my nostalgia took a darker turn...

Promises of the Storm وعود من العاصفة

و ليكن ..
لا بدّ لي أن أرفض الموت
و أن أحرق دمع الأغنيات الراعفه
و أعرّي شجر الزيتون من كل الغصون الزائفة

فإذا كنت أغني للفرح
خلف أجفان العيون الخائفة
فلأنّ العاصفة
وعدتني بنبيذ.. و بأنخاب جديده
و بأقواس قزح

و لأن العاصفة
كنست صوت العصافير البليده
و الغصون المستعارة
عن جذوع الشجرات الواقفه.

و ليكن..
لا بدّ لي أن أتباهى، بك، يا جرح المدينة
أنت يا لوحة برق في ليالينا الحزينة
يعبس الشارع في وجهي
فتحميني من الظل و نظرات الضغينة

سأغني للفرح
خلف أجفان العيون الخائفة
منذ هبت، في بلادي، العاصفة

محمود درويش--
So be it!
I must refuse death,
And burn the tears of bleeding songs,
And strip the olive trees
Of all their counterfeit branches.

If I have been serenading happiness
Behind the lids of frightened eyes,
That is because the storm
Has promised me wine
And new toasts and rainbows.

Because the storm
Has swept away the voices of lethargic birds
And the borrowed branches
Off the trunks of standing trees.

So be it!
I must be proud of you--
Oh, wounded city!--
You, a painting of circumstance
In our sad nights.

The street frowns at me,
You protect me from the shadows
And the looks of hatred.

I will serenade happiness
Behind the lids of frightened eyes
Since the storm began to rage in my country...

--Mahmoud Darwish

Unadeekum (I Call on You)

أشد على أياديكم
أبوس الأرض تحت نعالكم
وأقول: أفديكم

وأهديكم ضيا عيني
ودفء القلب أعطيكم
فمأساتي التي أحيا
نصيبي من مآسيكم

أنا ما هنت في وطني
ولا صغرت أكتافي
وقفت بوجه ظلامي
يتيما، عاريا، حافي

حملت دمي على كفي
وما نكست أعلامي
وصنت العشب الأخضر
فوق قبور أسلافي

أشد على أياديكم
أبوس الأرض تحت نعالكم
وأقول: أفديكم

توفيق زياد--

I call on you
I tighten my grip on your hands
And I kiss the ground under your heels
And I say I sacrifice myself for you

And I bestow on you the glow of my eyes
And the warmth of the heart I give you
And this tragedy that I live
Is my share of your tragedies

I did not falter in my homeland
Nor did I bend my shoulders
I stood in the the face of those who wrong me
An orphan, naked and bare-footed

I carried my blood in my palm
And I did not lower my flags
And I guarded the green turf
Over the graves of my ancestors

I call on you
I tighten my grip on your hands
And I kiss the ground under your heels
And I say I sacrifice myself for you

--Tawfeeq Ziad

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Hello everyone! And welcome to the third installment of The Ringing of the Bards. I apologize for the delay, but you should thank the World Cup. Were it not for the Final, this carnival might have been further delayed (for no good reason whatsoever).

Grappling to find a "theme" for this week's carnival (thank you very much, katy!), my slightly obsessive-compulsive mind--while trying to somehow "organize" the participants--latched onto the idea of mapping them on that most gorgeous of tools, Google Earth. Of course, there were enough lacunae (my brother's favorite word--I had to use it) in my logic to send a truly obsessive-compulsive person into a fit. But given that I am a sloppy-lazy obsessive-compulsive, I just made do.

We start here from Philadelphia with a poetics entry on Po´et`ship titled Back-Scratching. (katy, sorry for pinning the Ship in Philly, I just did it for representational purposes that hopefully will become clearer later--Lacuna No. 1) It seems there has been some discussion lately in this wondrous world of poetry blogging about the whole practice of commenting. So, katy and I decided it is only appropriate to comment on it; we hope that you won't hesitate to share your comments on ours, either. (Ok, I just overdid it.)

Moving east (sorry, North Carolinians, I had to pick a direction, and like cats I tend to head home, but we'll come back to you!) to upstate NY, not too far from where I went to school, to Amsterdam, with the non-average Average Poet, Bob. Bob writes with Resolve of "spew[ing] a million banal rhymes" in "this scarred container that I’m in". There probably hasn't been a more apt description of upstate NY!

Next is a stop on Cape Cod, with my dear friend katy in Sandwich (which for some reason always reminds me that I'm hungry--Corny Joke Alert!). Today we go to katy's experimental blog, pilot eye, with what I think is a gorgeously rebellious poem, the idiot box. The poem begins with one of my favorite images, "transcendental to the podium", and ends with... oh, I won't spoil it for you; I think the last two lines is where a lot of the poem's transcendent punch is. I won't say anymore about katy's work here because I am probably too devoted of a fan...

Crossing the Atlantic over to Brussels, Belgium where our dear friend Cecilia writes in clearcandy daily about something that you should know. As I told Cecilia elsewhere, I think her writing is very touching with its breakability, its fragility, that I value so much in poetry (as in humans), and this poem is an excellent example of that. (I won't quote anything here, or else I'll copy & paste the entire thing.).

Next we come to yours truly, where I decided to plug myself in if only to put my hometown, Beirut, on the map--quite literally. (Ok, so I needed an excuse for self-promotion; what else is the point of this whole exercise?). So, here is Not Now.

A bit further east (and south), hailing from Oman, is a newcomer to the carnival: please welcome Nasra from A Window Within Myself. Nasra writes in The Butterfly Story a parable "to every vulnerable woman [heck, and vulnerable man, too!]: Let go of your fears… Push yourself forward".

Going back north (and continuing east, of course) to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where Russell of Yuckelbel's Canon strips us of our defenses right on his doorstep in the ravishing Four Postcards. (I'm sorry, katy, but I think this is the best erotic male poet I've ever read!)

And then, way further east and further south, out in the middle of the green and the blue, to Aukland, New Zealand, where next week's carnival will be held. Glenn of Crunchy Weta writes a powerful Mad Woman and Dobermen (Apologies to Joe), that won me over even before it began, with its dedication line, "For Leigh Who Was There."

Back to this continent, to North Carolina, with two dear poets. First, from Monroe, is the lovely Erin of Poetic Acceptance with Fluent, our first entry with audio for this week, and a poem that is very a propos this week's theme of location and identity. Not only is it great to hear Erin's poetry, I think with this one it is necessary to do so.

And next, from Greensboro, NC, is our dear mayor, Billy The Blogging Poet with A New Era-- Maybe Not. (Sub?)titled Goodbye To Kisses Forgot, this bittersweet poem is a nostalgic personal riff off Supertramp's Goodbye Stranger. (And Billy, I think they all will care...)

Now, for the poets from "an undisclosed location" (and no, thankfully, it's not the VP--second Lame Joke Warning; one more and I'm out!). From a place she calls Sandburgs Shoulders, Scheherazade of Schadenfraulines reads her stirring ecclesiastes (for her mother), a reading guaranteed to make you melt! (There is something that is just tantalizing about audio; maybe I should get over my aversion to hearing my voice, get on that bandwagon, and try it!).

And last but certainly not least, from a "State of Delirium", "15 miles east of somewhere" (which I took to be Sandburgs Shoulders), US is Ozymandiaz of "God's favorite poetry blog", Paper Tigers. Ozy brings us the breathless Dime Store Skeleton, which comes with an incendiary bonus poem, The Day I got Gangbanged. (An obvious word of caution, Not for Kids, not that I think there are any kids reading...). Ok, now I am really at loss for the best erotic male poet I've ever read... Maybe we should have a contest! Katy? Billy? Anyone?

I hope you enjoyed this week's edition of The Ringing of the Bards. Please make sure you send your submissions to Glenn of Crunchy Weta for next week's carnival. And The Ringing #6, week of July 29th, is still open. So, as I wrote yesterday, if you haven't signed up already, please do so soon. It's simple, easy and fun (and your Frequently Asked Questions are probably already answered). Let's keep this going!



Saturday, July 08, 2006

Going Once, Going Twice . . .

The Ringing of the Bards begins here on Sunday! If you'd like to join the Carnival, make sure to send me a link to a poem you've posted within the last 2 weeks by midnight Saturday. The e-mail is archmemory @ yahoo . com (make sure you remove the spaces).

Also, there still is no host for next week's Carnival! So, if you haven't signed up already, please do so soon. It's simple, easy and fun (and your Frequently Asked Questions are probably already answered). Let's keep this going!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Celebrating in New England!

Writing from the impossibly green Vermont, from the lovely Stone Boat Farm, where we're celebrating the 4th of July...

And not to far from here, from her post in Cape Cod, the amazing Katy (henceforth known as the Katyssima) is celebrating this week's Carnival, with all the flair and drama she could wring out of it!

Next week's carnival is right here, so please send me a link to your best (from the last two weeks) to archmemory (at) yahoo (dot) com. I look forward to reading it!

Have a happy 4th!