Features, Poems

Zeina Hashem Beck: Two Poems, with photographs by Rola Khayyat

We Who Have Decided to Live in Autumn - Rola Khayyat

Photo Rola Khayyat

We Who Have Decided to Live In Autumn
Beirut, September 2012

The city’s raging reds, her bellowing yellows,
her greens, her oranges
are not autumn leaves,
for they don’t know the art
of falling.
She abandons these poster colors
peeling from her body
(only to be glued again),
she abandons them to nuance,
to a hint of melancholy on the top of hats.

She takes off her shoes,
her flip-flops her nightclub high heels her army boots,
tosses them into the Mediterranean.
She lets her hair down,
it’s long and loose upon her shoulders,
ready to resist.

We’ve been cold in the summer
with fear at the back of our necks,
we lay with blankets over our heads
instead of sleeping half-naked
on balconies.
We’ve burnt in winters,
listened to the shooting
of words, such empty bullets,
learned to stand
next to open refrigerator doors
to keep our hearts from melting.
We’ve known
springs springing
with cotton-candy hope,
with promises of pink gazelles
in the fields.

The city too has learned.
She knows
how to shed some bricks without breaking,
she hums
September, September,
all year,
to the fluttering sandwich papers on the streets,
lulls them, lures them,
into this wandering, this readiness
to lift and sink, to lift and sink again.

We don’t know which fickle gods
control the chronology of our seasons,
but we’ve decided to live
in this permanent autumn
that offers no flowers,
yet leaves space enough
for the breeze.

We don’t know when it began,
nor when it will end,
this un-season we’ve learned to savor,
this infinite in-betweeness.
We look at the sea. We imagine
seaweed sprouting out
of drowned shoes,
taking in the sunlight.

Bench - Rola Khayyat

Photo Rola Khayyat

Bench

This is the bench we choose
because it has more shade these
are the trees, this is the Mediterranean.
We sit here we fix the sea
with our eyes and it does not
fight back, it is wide and clear enough
to embrace our talk our illusions.
We talk. We have young hands
we move them
because we believe
they matter. We read.
Mostly the day but also poetry
we find out it’s better when it’s spoken.
People pass by, look, but we
are not being theatrical just
true. I inhale a cigarette perhaps
for show but also for the light
bitterness.

This is the bench it has a small
engraving it says
that someone relatively important
said this is the most beautiful
view in the Middle East. We laugh
at those Westerners romanticizing
our sea, and yet
we come back here every day
and yet we plan
to come back here when our hands
have bulging veins,
after all the distractions
of land in between.

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet with a BA and an MA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut. She lives in Dubai with her husband and two daughters. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in journals like Copper Nickel, Crosstimbers, Mizna, Nimrod, and Folio, among others. She performs regularly with Poeticians, a Dubai/Beirut poetry and spoken word platform. Her work has been nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize.

Rola Khayyat is a Lebanese artist and curator, currently living and working in Cairo, as an adjunct art instructor at the American University in Cairo. She has a background in History from the American University of Beirut, and artistic training from the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. She has worked with art spaces such as Art Laboratory Berlin, and has curated projects such as the BEYroute show for the Thessaloniki Biennale in both Beirut and Greece. She lives between Beirut, Berlin and Cairo.