Al Manara Dirge

by on Nov 8, 2010 in Poetry | 0 comments

By Sara Saab

Al Manara Dirge: Beirut, 10pm, lighthouse enduring power outage.

Twelve hours in the city of my infancy on a night endeavoring to portents.

Without its sweeping beam, the flinty stack of Al Manara lighthouse wears the night. It juts among seaside apartment buildings like stale loaves, but there is no pterodactyl wing of light to chase away the heavy shadows of these rooftops. Somewhere below, waves gnaw at Pigeon Rock.

I put the sea at my back. Contrary to rickety traffic, I head up Caracas Descent.

Beirut my precious and new thing, blood of my blood, you are more ancient than my bones and ashes, and I love you harder than my surprised heart could bear to admit.

I stride.

My legs tense against Caracas, muscles recalling this street, a remarkable paved cliff, a severe angle. My sterile everyday lungs are fierce and musical like twin accordions; I gain ground and grief in perfect symphony. When I tire I pause to mourn upon the shoulder of geography as though it were a reverend cassocked in decay. In the rubble of the cat lady’s estate I spy my own broken body, curled like a slug or a doused tabby.

This is my heart-street, its alleys aortas. Like this I seep at the center of the world, a ruffian, all my animal ducts stirred by the unthinkable silence.

Heartbreak is toxic in my plasma.

§

Beirut, your crevices and pocks dare students of science to enumerate them. There is a whole astrology of your bullet marks and crumbs, and it is through you that I come to know – love-letters are made for cities, not men.

I walk.

In a bull’s-eye the size of my heart sit an elderly couple in neon supernova, half-hidden by merchandise. Mayan pyramids of apples and oranges shimmer in tungsten, but my fingertips reveal that sticky dust blankets everything. Here I swap crumpled bills for brittle chocolate.

Beirut, your oldest lady turns to me.

“Track the tributaries of my cheeks, little daughter. Souls upon souls rest, fearful of rot, in a netting of cabbages and cactus fruit, powdered baby formula, mosquito repellent.” A smile ripples like a fish in two underwater irises.

“Go out into rivulet streets, turncoat princess. Seek penance, though you were born forgiven. My souls like housefly eyes forgave you the day your birth cries sanctified road dividers and clotheslines. That day you promised me a warble of suffering in the songs you would sing.”

“Grandmother, I’ve learned.” I say.  “Sadness grieved hard enough becomes solid and smooth, and when you cast these stones to bounce upon the rolling of the Mediterranean, what splashes up is not seawater, but a choir of reanimated tears.”

I gesture at boxes stacked behind the Marlboro Reds until she brings down a tin of pebbles with her ploughing hand.

I lay more alien currency on the counter, near coils of mosquito repellent arranged in point-of-sale displays.

Toxic heartbreak laces my plasma, nostalgia is ballooning in my joints. It is a night to be with the sea.

§

Oh my oldest friend, we never did save each other from the dark.

Sara Saab came wailing into the world at Al Najjar Hospital, Beirut, Lebanon, in the winter of 1984. The prime witnesses each recall a single stand-out feature of the event: her mother, the musk of hard liquor on the skin of the attending obstetrician, and her father, the worrying Klingon dent scoring the tiny nose of the ruddy and slick infant. This crease soon disappeared, but little Sara didn’t. Nowadays Sara works too hard and—embarrassingly—aches too much in the heart whenever confronted by rock anthems or perfect sentences. Aside from dabbling in software in San Francisco, Sara is one half of The Shuttertext Project (shuttertext.tumblr.com) and has recently had work appear in Arct, Fantasy Magazine, and Electric Velocipede. 

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