Thursday, February 2, 1984


—for J.H. Montrose, WWII fighter pilot 1923 - 1984                        
—With thanks to Mahmoud Darweesh.           

                  Child of Beiruit             
                  Barely ten years old             
                  Fleeing the bombings,             
                 Who can tell you of love           
                 As you delay your own flight           
                 To carry your younger brother?        
                                 —Jim Byrd  12/83 

1. The cedars of Lebanon are feathered
dust green against the deep sea cliffs.
The pungent odor of mhyrr and sea
lightens this winter landscape.

2. in Khalde, just south of the airport
a conference of birds flies at dawn.
In Khalde, despair falls from the wings
of planes, steel birds feeding on air.

3. In the central mountains a three week truce
is granted to Druse and Christian fighters.
In the central mountains
a call to prayer from the minaret
marks a certain passage of time.
This place, the land of the infidel.
Mountains bleed back into the sea.

4. This year, spring comes early to the desert
and blooms in the form of tattered clothing.
Spring comes in the form of a prayer wheel
that takes away the sins of the dead.
Bones reseed themselves and take root.
The sea is paying back the mountains.€

5.  Einstein said, "to prepare simultaneously
for war and peace is a non-sequitor."

6. A stillness in the air.
In Lebanon, the pause before dawn is sacrosant,
a call to prayer. The shores of the Red Sea
glitter with the feathers of doves.
A child said, "any step towards war is a wrong step."
Fish preen their young in the indigo sea.

7.  The village of Kabir Chimoun in the hills.
The village of Kabir Chimoun just after fire.
In the hills, after fire, what is the color of prayer, of death?

8. Bent in prayer over fields of rugs
wild tulips harbor an annual passion.
Everyone fights for their own square inch of troubled ground.
Stones break like laws inscribed in clay tablets.

9. The old man of the desert unrolls a tent of stars
and shakes clay dust form his stiffened limbs.
Birds confer to the east, towards the sun.
There are no targets for rebels here.

10. The road to Damascus is deserted.
The crusaders wore red crosses on white linen tunics.
War and religion intersect in the deserted shadows of a global highway.
In the distance a stacatto report announces the dawn.
This is how it begins: in the morning paper, with coffee.

Arabic: our numbers.
Arabic: the names of stars.
Arabic: fuel for planes.

The poet Darweesh said of Beirut,
"We've found nothing to compare with this but our blood."
What was said at the conference of the birds
is lost, buried in the streets of Beirut
where children play in the debris of war.
Lebanon, an oasis for the language of birds,
names of war, who can tell you of love
when the steps already take cannot be retraced?

2/2/84  US Invasion of Lebanon.

1986 Poetic Space
         Sacramento Spectrum? Poet News?

line breaks? another rescued poem.

I found a hard copy!