blackbirdonline journalFall 2009  Vol. 8  No. 2
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Old Country

The bomb went off in your day,
my night. I wake to deaths
not yours, for the newsman

doesn’t say American, doesn’t say
woman, and the words not said
are those that let morning begin.

Beirut was just a myth until you left,
a land my Sito fled, then closed
her mouth around. It’s different

from the rest, you said, as if
a country small as Connecticut
could ignore its neighbors’ knocking,

as if tribal feuds were not interred
in shallow graves, and I had not conspired
with the Maronites, the Shiites,

the PLO, on reasons why
you were wrong to go. When you
threw the ocean over your shoulder,

you vowed to stay a year or two,
just until his visa came through,
and he could wander Midtown

without his crucifix on show. Now,
every Saturday, his relatives
sweep you into weddings at beach resorts,

nights you fold into airplanes
to chiffon across my lawn.
But how can I revel in these brides

who arrive on thrones, or their hired
flame eaters, or their eight-foot
sword-cut cakes, or the seven hundred

shots of arak in their honor, when,
with every debke, you retreat
further into the dark’s full skirt?

They’ve taught you to smooth
into a leg, a kick, a forward
stomp, those same steps my mother

steps until her wedding film
unspools. My friend, time
runs backward to avoid its end.

It’s nearly Valentine’s again,
one year since the death of Hariri,
when the streets bared their teeth,

fossilized in the rubble. The protests
you pretended not to attend are over,
and the revolution’s ire has grown

as rare as the cedar. But don’t tell me
bombs are only for the marked,
for these days only begin that way.

Months from today, you’ll ride
sidesaddle to the cathedral, your train
gliding above concrete, fresh and taut

as hospital sheets, your diamonds blazing
above Romans fallen on Phoenicians,
above Arabs soldered to Ottomans,

their hoary cities all hot for resurrection,
one good detonation. I’ve heard among
these bones lie maids of old Rome,

who gave their lives as decoys
for their brides. How startled
they’d be to find you in strata

of lace and silk, no one to walk
first, no one to hold down the road
that tries to rise as you pass.  end

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