by Fouad M. Fouad, translated from the Arabic by Ola Abdulla
Our nightmares do not fit all this hell
Their terrified eyes leering at the emptiness of our souls
Their stares clotting out of fear on the sidewalk
How can the world fit all this wailing?
4000 dead in one month
20 thousand liters of tenebrous blood
No longer a metaphor
We prepare for the worst, upcoming
Then the worst happens
And we wallow
Then we begin again,
Preparing for the worst, upcoming
The books are also refugees
Thousands of books arrived today from my library in Aleppo to Beirut.
The books that I gathered in the span of 40 years
arrived in white and brown boxes
to the American University of Beirut’s storage
And they parked there
awaiting their new home,
atop the shelves of this honorable library.
The long journey they went through,
the bitter negotiations to get them
out of the house and the clinic to Beirut,
It deserves a long conversation and less agitated words…one day.
The books also ask for refuge,
and take risk
To arrive at a safe haven.
The home library
Memories, stories, small notes hidden within pages,
Doodles in the margins.
Books not opened yet,
Books damaged from re-reading,
Books like secret treasures,
Books smuggled under seats and inside scrubbed clothes.
Thousands of books arrived to me
In a truck
Like the one in Austria with tens of Syrian families
My books I abandoned
Like a heartless father who did not know how to protect his children.
My books I gave away
Like a tender father who knows the adoptive family will care for them with love.
My books I glanced over
From in between the cracks of the boxes like a futile lover.
My books now sleep in storage rooms, bodies in a morgue.
My books are now in the shelter
Bastard children between thousands alike
This morning, another old friend left Aleppo.
Whether his migration be permanent or temporary
Forced displacement or somehow voluntary
I ultimately lose
Another friend lost.
Losing – especially that which resembles extraction –
Is a form of death
A kind of death in light doses
It doesn’t change any of the pain
It only makes it quieter and slower.
Friends meet their exile
Their new home
Most hurtful, are those who sneak out the back
Door of the friendship garden,
Leaving behind a gaping mouth
Hands reaching out
And a bite mark on the fingers.
One after the other
They become suitcases, waiting halls, and a text message saying
“We arrived safely”
This is some sort of mistake
He must leave
I bury my face in my palms to cry
I remember the beheaded child that can’t
There is hope
But not for us
History will not find
The time nor pages
To list the names of the half-million dead,
But certainly will name the killer.
Even in death, history isn’t just.
I do not know what the detained remember of days
Their birthdays, do they remember?
Yet, the eldest sister
– of course –
lights one candle after another
So that he does not get lost on the way back to her.