on being, and nothing in particular.


for e.e. cummings

i have strange dreams about you, 
where you stand in such a darkness
and the light around you is dim;
unsmiling, you watch me
and talk about violence.

we exchanged voices, without a melody to our sounds
and once you turned your back with pen in fingers to paper on your lap, 
i only then understood what you'd been hammering on about.

your eyes have a silence, so tenderly lonely,
 like you know no other way to keep;
but your words i carry them with me like memories, 
they dance in my mental wilderness
all i can do is let them wander astray,
 for who could hold such beauty in its place

wall art in west beirut


الحي / the neighbourhood

All is a constant clamour in west beirut.
I wake abruptly to the blaring symphony of a traffic jam just outside my window. Large bosomed women in floral print lean against their balconies, smoking cigarettes at the sight of the city, while behind them an apartment sits empty yet suffocating within furnitured walls. old television sets rest on dusty kitchen chairs and i can hear the voice of om kalthoum or fairuz wailing about lost lovers and lost land.
I am outside hanging clothes to dry, there is no electricity in the morning.
The electricity is rationed around these parts, but Beirut has learned to share.
Sitting in bars, cafes, houses, one learns to sit through the dark and humid air of a boxed-in blackout.
My beer just gets warm in the fridge, a friend complains. So we drink it in the morning, while its cool, so that by the time we have no power we are intoxicated just enough to keep our ease.

Outside it is a boisterous cocophony, the old man in the orange stool sits on the pavement like it is his living room sofa, he smokes from a long pipe and watches us all pass by, walk back and forth. He is reliable and punctual, his presence looms like an afternoon prayer call - not distracting, but hard to avoid. I nod to him and smile as I do every morning, and the man with the cart of fruit holds fresh peaches at me as I kindly refuse and inch between him and an awkwardly parked taxi cab, forever insisting since the crack of dawn to claim that damned spot. He puts out his cigarette excitedly and asks me where i'm off to, as if i had intended to ask him for a ride.

My day is full of smiles and friendly apologies, no thank you's and that's alright, im fine.
The young dark-haired syrian refugees hang around the corner store. they wait for customers and bag their groceries, they'll carry them to your apartment for nothing, but a tip will buy them some warm doughed sandwich just down the road from the laundromat.
the old deaf man at the laundromat shows up early every morning. he grows nervous when i try to communicate with him anyhow, he flusters and stammers and blushes at the cheekbones, waving his hands at me, lips pursed in place to keep hold of the pins between his teeth.

I tip my hat although i wear none, at the old men outside the bakery. They too have their pavement stools and sheesha set up so early in the day, their conversation a strung out chord
played day to day for years since the war. they howl and yell, disagree over everything and come to an abrupt silence as i walk along and greet them, they do the same.
Well fed street cats scurry along my feet, they find shade under cars and groom themselves on patches of dry concrete. They have many a story to tell about the wars of Beirut, many of them have been abandoned like houses by people who ran away and never looked back. 

I went up north for a few days, to a mountain village by the name of Broumanna. Walking around I felt a presence-less air, empty winds passed through and around me, while I inspected the local flora and consulted my encyclopedia.
The air was cool but the sun beat heavy against my dark hair, and I sweat more than I was hydrated for, so I found patches of shade beneath clusters of unkempt trees and leaned against the stone walls of the village. There was a road behind me, few cars would pass and each one did with a sound like the swoosh of a lady's gown. I turned to make eye-contact with every other living being surrounding me that day, we were scarce but plenty on our mountain's edge. Funny how in the city I cant help but avoid recognition from strangers.
It felt nice to sit atop a hill on a mountain and dangle my legs against the steep slope of an endless downward sheet of thick straw-like grass and the tallest pine trees you'd ever seen.

A tree lizard sat right beside me, and when I wasn't looking he watched me and I felt he trusted me longer, as he sat by me and napped alongside my company. I picked some ripe figs from high places and split them open wide enough so that the insects scurrying around my feet could feast out of the open heart of a fruit they'd often wait on to drop from a picker's basket, if they were lucky enough.

Wandering round some more I found a series of abandoned homes. I knew visitors had frequented the premises because I'd seen some empty beer bottles and unwrapped unfinished hard candies and popcorn. I walked inside with a fearful caution that just behind that echo was a crouched boot waiting to pounce on my trespass and perhaps push me off that cliff. 
I kicked a couple pebbles around to confuse my phantom threat, then walked in with ease and fiddled about the place. 
Another house I'd found had a room with children's toys torn to shreds, dolls' heads everywhere. A t.v. set, radio and record player no newer than 1979 were bruised and banged up pretty good, and plenty of torn up footwear lay about, as if someone had messed up the place real bad before leaving it behind. Maybe this is just what was left of a loot. Lots of Syrians kicked people out of their homes to use them as military hideouts, I learned later.
I took a few pictures and my shutter-speed's clicking echoed against the trees surrounding me, so I scurried out of there deciding not to take a dusty souvenir with me. 
I took a staircase alleyway shortcut cause I couldn't dig my shoes any deeper into the dry sand to make it up the hill I'd slid down earlier, they were encrusted in a muddy ring that had dried into a clay at this point, difficult to chisel off.
I walked in between cottage-like houses, so silent, so quaint. I peeked through vine-tangled fences and saw old men and women smoking and drinking, sitting.
An eerie croak of a voice calls out behind me, I turn with a guilty conscience and blush in response, I couldn't understand what she was asking me.
Her thick village accent asks me if I'm from the neighbourhood, I say no and run off in a hurry.
I felt like I'd seen a ghost.

Back in west beirut, the noise is just as i'd left it, untouched, undisturbed, uncaged.
An old woman lets loose her head scarf, and fans herself in disbelief, as if the summer were new to her, she sits inbetween the flowers she sells. i've never seen her off her seat, and she watches me suspiciously as i leaf through the plants and petals surrounding her, i smile at her reassuringly. I pick a bundle of various flowers as i do often, and the young man who tends to them hands me some free roses, asks me to give them to a lover - all he wants in return is a smile, he defends as i insisted on paying and then thanked him graciously.
I walk around the corner to a cozy retreat and sit by the window. i'm given a jameson, sour.
Shirbil, my bartender begs me to quit smoking.
he tells me that he stopped smoking during the war -
how could i continue to smoke while everyone around me was dying, and i was spared that fate?
I put out my cigarette, so touched by his insightful sentiment, and find myself lighting another just moments after.
i dodge the traffic to an empty street where i hail several taxis - no one will take me to east beirut. finally someone agrees after heavily bargaining the price.

on the East side, I depart my taxi ride and find myself in a more tranquil, european setting.  i look around and there is no friendly greeting, not even street corner dwelling. All i see are suits and sunglasses, beautiful women carrying large purses. no bullet holes, no street beggars with missing limbs and teeth.
I sat on a pavement in the shade and smoked cigarettes, watching the beautiful people walk by.
A well-dressed woman comes and sits by me, asks me if i mind. I said nothing in return but smiled,
as she hesitated thouroughly to come out and ask me what it was she really wanted.
some money? she wondered, embarassed and ashamed. I noticed her clothing and hair were so well done, well kept. I could not imagine what she needed such petty change for, but I gave it to her anyway. Delighted and grateful she cut across the street and from afar I spotted her devouring an ice cream cone and walking into a shopping mall.
I am lost in East beirut, walking up steep hill streets in Achrafiyeh. This area is named after what it offers, "views", per se. In the poorer areas there are flags and posters everywhere.

I walk into a corner-shop to buy some water, I am out of breath.
The storekeeper stares at me with adoration and before handing me my change, as if to leave me no choice, he asks me where I'm from, with the most eager and unknowing expression.
I think twice before calling myself Palestinian, as I am usually warned. But this time I don't hesitate, especially since my accent has already given it away. I tell him that I am part Palestinian, part Lebanese.
For a moment I expected the worst, but he was quick to respond graciously that Palestinians are the most kind and beautiful. His neckline boasted a shiny crucifix, the heavy sunlight behind me reflected off his necklace against my skin, I felt the patch of light dance just below my eye upon my cheek. 
I smiled and wished him a pleasant day.
I found a bridge upon which I sat. To my left the west and a school of dirty pigeons, and just right of me, the east. instead i looked towards the sea. Several ants rest beside me, perhaps waiting for a crumb although I had none. I looked up for a fig tree, but found a flag whipping in the wind.
Side by side we watched the traffic below, a messy flock of headlights, like a pearl necklace come undone.


On he who proposed to me at half-past a late hour;

I sat cross-legged on a barstool atop a roof which overlooked the poorest areas of Libnan while we sipped on our pricey cocktails, and impeccably sculpted bodies danced on stools and tables, set against the enormous sky, they made even it seem like a fake thing.

I delved deeper into my glass, and stirred the ice in my mouth to keep myself from inhaling yet another toxic stick, which in turn kept me from having to speak to anyone.

These fallen gods and goddesses, they don’t have room for sadness. They hold hands and dance passionately, with their backs turned to the stars and their faces turned towards one another. A lonely man carries a broom and sweeps in between the spaces which permit him do so, as the drunken mess of tossed cigarette butts and broken glass don’t hesitate to scatter their remains across the polished floor.

I’m going to be sick. I step outside and wait for a chariot, a horse, a skateboard.

Two men leaned lazily over the hood of a beat-up car; upon its roof was a dimly lit hand-painted Taxi.

This was not a regular taxi, I knew this well and was warned of taking such cabs at late hours. They’re known as service. They cost close to nothing and reserve the right to pick up anyone else on the way. There is no a.c. and there is an almost obligatory political discussion that comes at no extra charge – but you’d best have an opinion prepared.

I stumbled towards him and tugged down at my dress, he had his eyes fixed on my legs and opened me a door.

He drove a car so withered and tired from years spent choking on gasoline and dust. I held the back door tightly to keep it from falling off, and we drove into the dark night along the darkest seaside. He rescued me from a tumult of drunken haze

3amarat Bayoud, Shari3 Maqdise… - na3am, jamb il ta3awiniyeh….” My apartment, my street, and yes it is next to the co-op. please just take me there.

My tongue fumbled broken Lebanese; I just wanted to avoid any questions as to whether or not I was Palestinian because it was so obvious from my tongue, and my eyes. It’s a difficult thing to have to hide, to have to explain, you always have to hide who you are.

It reminded me of how when I was younger I could not understand why my parents always lied about where we were from – some men hate you if they think you are from Palestine. We are the black stain of the Middle East and it changes everywhere you go. In Jordan we were Lebanese, in Lebanon we are Jordanian if they don’t believe we are Lebanese – what an exclusive bunch; in America I am Kuwaiti. In my head I am nothing. How could I be anything at all.

Surely enough he could not be fooled, but did not think I was Palestinian, he figured I was jabali – from the mountains – and most importantly, of the Druze.

“Inti dirziyeh mish hayk?” He turned his head completely at me while he drove, and I watched the road for the both of us…I could not make eye contact but responded with an assured – no. I am not druze. Trust me.
I have friends who are druze, lovely folk they are. Kind and festive, they have a twang in their speech. They can only learn of their religion once they turn 40. Interesting isolationists they are.

He was looking for a wife. He was druze. Tradition and religion have it so that they can only marry one another. And this poor son of a bitch was pushing 50 and desperately pursuing me, the backseat rider of his pathetic little car.

We sped between broken roads and broken glass, he beckoned for my requital for he was professing devotion. Still eyeing my legs, telling me that I am natural and smart – not like other girls. I yell at him sternly only when I see other people on the road for fear that he, behind his friendliest eyes would turn on me, sin on me.

I yell at him when he drops me off, he asks if he can come up for coffee.

“you drink coffee at this hour? Shoo imfakirtni? I7tirim nafsak ya aleelit adab!"
I tell him to respect himself. And leave at once. I don’t even pay him what he asks. He waits for me as I unlock my door and I flick my wrist in disgust at his looming presence.

I realize that I yelled in perfect Lebanese – perhaps my rage is of Lebanese blood.

Maybe we can be things after all. Maybe this place is just getting to me.

pretty boy guthrie

"Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
some will rob you with a six-gun,
and some with a fountain pen".



Lebanon is an old man. He is wrinkled and creased, his eyes blink desolately, but gently squint to reveal the peaceful
intentions and beautiful fruit of the land. he is freckled with flowers, they grow from the sun. the sunlight blankets the cities
like a grandmother who pacifies sadness with warmth and love, but nothing much else at all.
He is built strong, like the smooth back of a bricklayer or farmer, mountains roll throughout like great muscles ripple along
the skin of a caregiver, one who gives to the earth with heart.
The heart of his body is a woman, Beirut is a tired old hag. She is beautiful, and vulgar all the same. She is a virgin and a whore.
She has been raped, she never lets you forget - her scars and bruises remain visible and she flaunts them like a soldier his badges.
But she is not proud, she is bitter. and to this end she sings of her bitterness with a whiskey rasp. She smokes her cigarettes and
drinks her wine and people's words and criticisms run through her blood with every sip. she boils only when erupted by
fire , and at the tip of her cheek where she looks to the west, she leaks an ocean of tears, she hasn't stopped crying since the day
she was torn apart at the dress and ravaged at the bosom of her virgin skin. she lays here undressed and exposed for her blood
to run at a feverish rate.
Beirut moves and breathes to a rhythm only her language can sing. No one belongs here unless they understand this sound
and syncopated they become these many faces and names. A man who sells you bread wants to know what you eat it with
and the woman you ask for directions tells you that you could use the exercise, so she gives you the longer route.
the street is the vein of the body of Lebanon. Like a heavy smoker, the walls of his blood vessels are coated thick with unfinished
business, grudges, love, indulgence, deprivation..along his walls lay the overconsumptive, the lethargic and dissatisfied.
along his floor the destitute children with soiled faces laugh over adult conversations, they sell flowers in the mess of the streets
and curse at you don't buy any. They smoke cigarettes these infants; they think with the energy a child their age would otherwise
expel playing basketball or watching tv, something involving helmets and sofa cushions.
They find comfort on their pavement seats, and protection beneath the shade of their mimosa trees.
The shy plants of the city whither when you whisper in their ears, they are old and wise - they have stood througohut war,
they will probably stand until turned into a parking lot.
There is a mutual understanding between Beirut and her land. These sisters of brick and soil are far too beautiful to damage one
another, but a cancer pulps beneath them both and stunts their growth alike.
Like an antfarm the people work. They walk, they talk and they work. The people of the land are the lowest caste - they are inferior
to the skies, the breeze, the mountains, the trees and even the concrete that winds along a complicated path. They know this
and they submit, like befallen gods and goddesses of some mythical mountain on a cloud.
They are beautiful, they know it. Their olive skin and pale eyes, dark thick hair and sharp noses, downturned eyebrows
and healthy lips pursed and prepared to speak in the many tongues of which they pride themselves.
A city of fallen angels, they wear their sins on their sleeves. there is no shame or secrecy, only the pride of a mountain and the
grace of a silky river.
I smoked along a busy path, an ebb and flow of love and hate, shrieks and laughter, flooded over me.
And a god in a parking lot made a vulgar gesture, he was beautiful and charming but needed to be tamed. I stepped on a cigarette butt. I crossed a crowded street, and a dirty little boy cursed and spat as he waved flowers in my face.


My friends

my friends like doing things with people who sit on the ground and hold cheap bottles by the neck.
my friends like to sit near people who yell about their countries and laugh about their lovers and at others' large behinds
my friends like to wrap tobacco shreds neatly and share their supplies when I don't have mine.
and when my friends are confronted with obscenity they laugh with their heads back and their cheeks red like wine.
my friends like to say things that sound absurd to the commoner, those who dress typically and have common things to say.
my friends often disagree over opinions on poetry, people's looks and on the accuracy of accounted memories.
my friends ramble and shuffle their feet when they spy dirty pigeons or grotesque expressions on the faces of strangers aboard filthy Paris trains.
my friends walked me to the cemetery to smoke cigarettes around our heroes' graves.