Monthly Archives: November 2012

Zeina- Delicious words wrapped in fire….


A few months ago, we welcomed an exciting new addition to the Poeticians community. Blunt, to the point, intensely reflective at the same time, filled with yearning and nostalgia, mixed with a hyperactive hyperverbal curiosity about everything and anything, Zeina Hashem Beck is no typical Lebanese woman.
Her work is cultivated by personal experience that resonates with so many in our region. Her scrutiny of what makes a poet a poet, a mother a mother, a home a home is fascinating. Add to that mix a restless spirit, ready to smile, and a voice that is strong, deep, and so sure of itself, the stage seems to exude radiating pulsating beats every time she speaks. We are super happy Zeina is a very active, vital and rambunctious Poet in our midst. Thank you Zeina, for always being there,
and writing, writing, writing, every week, when I am sure the world pulls at you in non-poetic ways all the time. Her more recent work is also very exciting. Below are some older poems of hers. Stay tuned to this blog for updates from her and other new poets, coming up soon. I have been so busy with the whirling world that this small safe space here has been relinquished for badass journeys, but the spirit is forlorn and a sojourn with my anonymous readers, poems from around the world, and the useless meandering of my brain is much needed. Thank you reader. Thank you, Zeina.

To Hamra

Every morning Umm Nagi
makes a lousy joke
and stirs our coffee.
We look at her dirty nails,
we hold the warm paper cups and
across streets that are endless
in their endless repetitions,
small labyrinths
we have memorized,
familiar labyrinths
in which we get lost on purpose:

Here is the yellow coffee shop
and another,
and another,
where our fathers curl politics
with their cigar smoke
all day,
and measure poetry
with their sugar spoons
and say,
“The situation is bad again,
it is bad again.”

Here is Modca ,
the ancient coffee shop,
where memories cling to the walls
like a wild plant that sprouts
voices and smoke and small conversations.
Here is Modca,
the ancient coffee shop,
turning into a Vero Moda,
no more spoons or cigarettes or the clatter of cups,
history buried in clothes,
outshone by Starbucks.

Here is the tiny cassette shop
in which the fat man barely fits,
in which the fat man sings and spits,
and nods and nods,
as if to God,
saying business is slower than old age,
releasing Arabic music
into crowded streets that move
to the inborn beat,
here is the tiny cassette shop,
and another,
and another.

Here is the flower shop,
and another,
and another,
they all have the same name
but insist they’re not the same,
a sidewalk of flowers and dust, dust, dust,
and we decide to buy the white lilies,
just because they’re flowers,
just because they’re white,
just because they’re lilies.

Here is the deserted theater
where the bald man sighs
into a red telephone,
then shouts at his wife,
and cries
his bills and anger away,
you’d never expect
inside the smell of old semen
and posters of movies that never really play.
Here is the deserted theater,
and another,
and another.

Here is the whorehouse,
where the fat woman gathers old age in a chair
and promises cab drivers a good time
with the worn beauties inside,
leaning topless on the bar,
on memories withering in the smell of cigars,
here’s another lost memory,
and another,
and another.

Here is the leftist pub,
where the grey man smiles
and plays the oud
(could wood and strings reach the soul like that?)
he sings,
and his rough voice sinks
into us like a rock,
Umm Kulthum and Fairuz and Abdel Halim ,
ya leil ya ein ,
the most famous words in our language,
ya leil ya ein
and we clap and dance and hope
the term papers will write themselves,
here is the leftist pub,
and another,
and another.

Here is Universal,
where Nagham the waitress knows
we have lots of lemon in our lentil soup,
lots of cigarettes in our pockets,
and tells us to smile smile smile,
“because smiling is such, such, a nice thing to do,”
and the black kohl on her eyes is thicker
than memories and Turkish coffee
and darker than
the street outside.

Here we are,
drinking sunset and soup again,
drinking time away again,
time that vanishes like a small white cloud
on a blue-sky day in Hamra,
here’s to another day in Hamra,
and another,
and another.

(published in The Arabesques Review)

The Nameless

What do you call the space between
the written word and the blank page,
names in the distance and distance without names?

I know forgetting. I know
forgetting happens before
But what happens after?

Give me a word
lukewarm and not so
a word that drops
like white shadows
from the sky.

What name?
Give me a name
that melts like rain
and smells like moonlight
on my skin.

(published in Silk Road)


Here in Beirut,
you do not stop
a cab. It stops

Money is negotiable. Silence
isn’t: small confidences in small mirrors,
you have to have time
for that whether you have it
or not. Conversations seep
through the heat, the rain,
along with hands (instead of
signal lights), along with
cigarette butts and

It takes time, it takes time
to master a driver’s technique.
You have to gather it
in your throat like
rage, and spit it out like
nothing, make it as ordinary
as a lemon on a table.

The car is the streets’ old mistress.
It trembles, it swerves,
it dies little deaths along the way,
as the man behind the wheel adjusts
the word Allah or the cross
hanging from the mirror,
tilts his head towards
the sky inside the puddles,
towards a girl in tight jeans,
offers you a zaatar manoushé , insists,
and tells you to forget
air conditioning.

(published in Quiddity)

I Call It Home

This place where
electricity and water
take turns,
I call it home.

This place where
earth matters,
where we’re dust and sand,
and slip right through
the enemy’s hands,
I call it home.

This place where
we die and rise and
die and rise
every few years,
where we fold and
unfold peace
like a paper boat
(and hope it floats),
I call it home.

(published in Quiddity)

Peace Oil

I know what oil is and I know what it means.
“Eat oil and rub yourself with it”
were the Prophet’s words. This sounds
sexual only in English. I don’t know if the quote
is accurate, word per word, but I know
olive oil has healing powers.
Only olive oil. And the olive tree
is mentioned in the Koran, along with the fig tree,
but that is another discussion.

I don’t know what peace is and I don’t know what it means.
I know the world wants peace, and so should I.
I know now that peacemaking involves
olive oil, and I know it is as harmless
as knitting a jacket on the sofa or frying
an onion with hot olive oil, which smells
as good as olive oil and onion does.
I wonder if peace smells the same.
I know we say “Peace Be Upon You” for hello and goodbye.

I know what Peace Oil is and I know what it means
because it is right here in British Homes and Gardens:
three bottles with different sizes and shades of green,
perhaps to indicate the nuances of the olive tree.
(My grandmother says olive trees cannot
have nuance. They have roots and history.)
English, Arabic, and Hebrew inscriptions,
too much writing for an olive oil bottle if you ask me.
What Peace Oil means, and this time I quote exactly, I am accurate,
I have even kept the line breaks to be faithful to the poetry:
“Produced in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druze, and
Bedouins, with profits for reconciliation projects.
Peace Oil, £9.95 for 500ml olive oil, Good Gifts.”
Just like the Prophet said, healing powers for 9.95 only
peace for 9.95 only, although I still don’t know what peace means.

I know I imagine a world with many kinds of Peace Oils.
Can you hear the music I hear in my head?
Olive oil in Lebanon and Palestine. In Iraq
the black kind that explodes from the ground.
Imagine that in a bottle, I mean imagine
all the colors, the possibilities of Peace Oils,
one could even make mugs, recipes for
peace with parmesan or lemon, advertise them on Facebook
for 9.95 only, with profits for reconciliation projects,
although I’m not sure what reconciliation means.

(published in 34th Parallel)


For Palestine, those who love her, and everyone who remembers.


And old poem I thought I would share again today, as the situation around us escalates into a spiral, enlarging violent connections, deep despair for the future of all refugee children. This poem is a love letter to Damascus, where I was a child in the 80’s and remember Palestine. Remember crying when I knew Israel was the future.
It is a love letter to all the solidarity movements around the world who stand with us. It is a love letter to you, reader.
For the victims of the mass murder in 2009 of our people in Gaza. Murdered again, as I post this.

Dubai, 22/4/2010

What is it this intake of breath
the word fuck hissed as if shock was
new to this body
as if this news was new to this body
what is it this slight widening of nostrils flare, tongue bloated inside
lips drowned in despair, too laden with history to
envision present, what is it, this gaping stare at jumbled remembrance-
deported from west bank to gazaIDF pass lawapartheid
state blossoms
– this bodies shoveled by bulldozer to mass graves– this
girl, 12 yrs old,
found dead on way to marke
this sniper tshirt draws belly of arab womb is target
twice successful

Where do all the tents go?
land grab graphswalls through a father’s face
sullen concrete of his seed

what is this plume of
white hides shadows of the daily exterminated we-
from where does it rise up, like bile, like vomit, like
acid- this surprise?
This has always been the way it is,
this has always been.
In 1983,
a 5-year old refugee slams her body on a warm bed, revolts a tantrum when
adults kindly confirm…”They have to call it Israel now, honey”… what does that child
know of stolen family?
Children learn.
What is this
this intake of breath at headlines gaza ramallah jenin
netanyahu dines at white houseclinton says security firstabu mazen seeks presidencyold man dies of lack of electricity
I have heartburn where I once had pulse, I have
spasms of stomach too full to chew this new
news I digest no more,
what is it, this surprise…”how could it possibly get worse”