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Haas H. Mroue A graduate of the University of California–Los Angeles Film School and the University of Colorado, Haas H. Mroue authored or coauthored over twenty-five travel guidebooks. His poetry collection about the Lebanese civil war, Beirut Seizures, “is a powerful and artful response to a historical moment marked by elusiveness and pain.” With their “noun-centered syntax and a coded austerity of effect,” his poems redefine the lyric style and create an “esthetics of distance.” Until his untimely death in , he divided his time between Washington State and London. Beirut Survivors Anonymous My generation was lost. Cities too. And nations. —Czeslaw Milosz In Beirut on good nights I watch rockets fly over rooftops until my eyes hurt. I listen for names of the dead on the radio, putting faces to names, scars to bodies, burns to flesh. I remove my contacts by candlelight and flush my eyes with Dettol. Years later, now I pick up the telephone needing to call someone who remembers. I have always been alone. But now I sink and it’s not the Mediterranean. I fly coach cross-continent searching for someone 240 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 240 to recreate my childhood with. We are walking to school. It is May. It is sixteen years ago. Strawberries piled high on carts explode. Bits of cars and shrapnel and glass melt on our skin. I help the strawberry vendors pick strawberries from the gutter. Later, my mother spreads yogurt on my burns. We lived a war with no name and escaped. We now belong to a culture that has no name. My generation drives BMWs down streets in Los Angeles or Long Island popping ecstasy pills hoping to be artistic, chanting for Hare Hare Krishna on the corner of College and 13th, wishing for a flying roadblock, Howitzers, snipers, anything to replace the monotony of oceans for the rhythm of the Mediterranean. It is for nights of unrelenting shelling we long, for the calm of corridors and neighbors boiling coffee until dawn, for gunpowder seeping through shut windows and the wails of a single ambulance. We drink arak in Oriental restaurants in Denver or Burbank or Fort Lauderdale. We watch belly-dancers and vomit hummous with no garlic, hummous as thick as coffee at the AUB milkbar. We live in a daze Haas H. Mroue 241 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 241 longing for green plums and salt, the ecstasy of Howitzers on a school night. You can look in our eyes and see we’ve been to Beirut. We are not amiable to snipers unless they are aiming at us. Our eyes change color in the dark, the dark of basements, corridors and bathrooms with no windows. We are experiencing post-traumatic stress somewhere in Massachusetts, Colorado. We don’t attend Beirut Survivors Anonymous. We still smell the gunpowder and salty cheese bubbling on pastry for breakfast. We can still hear the wind hissing after a car-bomb. We are the remains of a Howitzer, a 155, of Merkavas and T-72s and soldiers at checkpoints who steal our Ray-Bans. We are young and need to shield our eyes. 242 Haas H. Mroue 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 242 Arabes Despatriados 1. No one believes me when I say my ancestors found America. Phoenicians in wooden boats sailed the Mediterranean past Carthage and Marseille, the Canary Islands and weeks on rough waters to America. They had olive skin, dark hair, one eyebrow. They could read and write. They traded with Israelites, Assyrians, and when they landed on the new continent did not cry out India! They did not run back for gold or black men. They had the alphabet. They had no use for chains. After years of sailing they always went home to Saida, Tyre, Byblos or Sarafand hilly cities facing the sea, facing west, where they built houses and pressed olives. 2. My ancestors built Granada carved water canals in the earth to feed the orange trees of Andalusia. When I stand on top of a mountain at Orgiva, Granada at my feet, Haas H. Mroue 243 2CHARARA_pages_165-334.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:39 PM Page 243 water from Esekiahs trickling down hillsides, I suck on a sweet fig and imagine my grandfathers planting fig trees before they discovered the New World before they were...


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