People who died on his balcony

April 30th, 2010

by Maria Abou Abdallah

This poem is basically about being intrigued by, and falling in love with, someone from a completely different neighborhood of Beirut, and weighing all the societal complications and risks that come with that. Because it is so difficult and complicated, these individuals necessarily get to know each other in nooks and corners of the city, making one pay attention to beautiful things about Beirut one would otherwise not realise.

(NOTE: The title of this poem alludes to people “literally dying on a balcony…grandmothers, etc.” It actually refers to “a specific balcony that an ex-boyfriend of mine saw where apparently some people had been messing around with a Ouija board and were then haunted and chased by spirits, leading some of them to actually jump off the balcony.” We were discussing how closely the title relates to the poem, and Maria began re-thinking the title. I suggested that perhaps this poem also is about her, at 19 years old, dying on this balcony as well – being pushed past nineteen, growing up. Anyway, the title stayed, and it seems fitting.)

_________________

Lui, he sits across from

me with a local beer btirfa3 el

ras. My head rests

against the graffiti

of three-minute

testimonies, the only wall

I have against the slow intrigue

Of choice at nineteen.

My pupils dilate,

fixate on the shadows

those eyelashes cast on those

cheekbones, and the past

is brought back in candor

conversation. It is here

to make its presence known

in swirls of deeply inhaled and

relinquished cigarette smoke.

His pupils dilate, and with

focus lost and eyebrows

locked he stares,

with an unfamiliarity

reserved for looking at

orphaned children,

at a past

that made uncomfortable

the dream of coming home

to just take a nap

next to someone who

raises the dead in

you and for whom you

don’t need to tear abstractions

apart. Slamming down

years of cobwebbed cynicism and

maps of shadowed

self-handicapping nooks,

corners of comfort, I

say nothing works that way.

But then there is the

silent glare with which I

am met and I know, in that

moment, that I

will soon be taught how

to lie, how

to curl words around my

tongue and throw a

flaming cigarette at an apathetic

concrete sidewalk because this

truly hurts no

one, flaming

cigarettes that are

only accepted from

him, him and his

double-standard euphemisms.

With the extinction of

his smiles it was made

clear that upon the

materialization

of my mischief he

would stretch us to pained

blood-red-eyed insomniac

ends as proof that he

with his black stallion normalcy

crushing hoofs was always

bad enough for us both.

For a few moments under a

feeble sun, the end and its

threat are pushed up two-hundred

eroded steps that cut

between whispering

walls, cocooned from a mess of

noise and stains, stares

and acid rain, to end

up on the other

side where I say I’ve never

been as I clutch that

angle in a solid

arm that belongs to him.

Unable to yet foresee the dark

hurricanes of his unwavering

pride rooted in his

ancient inner city

pedigree, a soft,

soft hand accepts the weight of

his, the cloth before the

chloroform, and

over frozen sips of beer he

tells me of all the people who

died on his balcony, how their

veins dilated with

reason in the

heat of the dancing

flames of street

lamps and brake lights

igniting the wicks of bombs

they’d never drop, for wars

they could never win.

_________________

I met Maria at our first Wednesdays of the month open-mic poetry nights, a few years back when we held them at the Blue Note (currently held at Cafe Younes). She stood out to me because she reads her poems with conviction, a soft full voice with which she pleasantly manifests their melodies. And though she talks about accentuating beauty in her poems, do not mistaken her for a sunny writer, as her poems are often marked with the dark – which I’m often attracted to. Now that she’s in Melbourne studying social psychology, we only see her when she pops in to Lebanon, where she spent most of her life, and swings by to read us a poem from her reservoir. I asked her why she writes; maybe it’s an easy question, but I think not often an easy answer.

Many photographers say that they take photos to preserve snippets of time, to preserve the images and impressions that come with them. I write to bring attention to the mundane as there’s a lot of beauty in the world but we keep expecting glorious things to fall out of the sky with magnificient light so that we consider them to be beautiful. As cliche as it sounds, there is also beauty in sadness and in pain, in day-to-day bravery, in emotions both complex and simple, not just in great loves with music swelling in the background and William Blake’s pastures (although love is a common theme for my writing, of course). I try to be fair to the world and life…it’s not all good, it’s not all bad either.

So I write to preserve moments, impressions, smells, details, thoughts, feelings, associations between all of these things, encounters…mine and other people’s…and I try to write so that, for example in the case of this poem, people are transported to these moments, and are able to smell, see, hear, taste, think, and feel them. I also write about the antithesis of most Hollywood movies: loose ends. I write so that time is slowed down in a poem and because maybe there is poetry in the little things…even spilling a porcelain cup of coffee and watching it cracking on the floor…well there can be, if you want it.

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2 Responses to “People who died on his balcony”

  1. Alice says:

    This poem is stunning! Thank you for sharing it. (Came here by searching “poetry night cafe younes” on Google–second link!)
    Also, I’ve been reading some of your posts and am happy I found your blog!

  2. rima says:

    Hi Alice, thanks for reading! You may have just motivated me to finally write a new post… eek!

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