Back to Issue Thirty-Nine

October 17, 2019



The way we climb up the stairs to see our world, how it glitters like granite. I touch your face, your hands, and yes all of it real. One flake after the other, then a city of hail and dust, my people and I, we dress the streets like blizzard. Your limb, my limb. All the streets, in the hours: ours. Have we always been related? My brother, my lover, my mother, my son. I watch myself dissolve the way sugar does. Dissolve the way faith does and it doesn’t matter who cries as long as one of us is. Every window a gaze, all the highways leading back, march on, you turn and say, we are past the finish line, and I am a photographer without lm, without memory: dazed. Listen, I want to be good for us. I’ll wake up early to block the roads. I’ll wash the dishes. I’ll graffiti every space in between, delicate the way patriots are. Who dreamt this, how we stand in a circle the way children do at breaktime, chanting and chanting, our breaths steady as lightbulb, and no one, none at all, turning back? Let’s take our wardrobes to the streets, let’s watch all that we own flutter as flimsy hearts to the wind. I’ll let go of everything. Listen, I’ve waited years for you to stretch your hands out to me like a pinion, for me to come closer, to see you, see what you’re seeing. I want to name every street in this country after you. I want to tell my father, here, baba, this, this is what you dreamed of. We walk into our homes as though they aren’t ours to keep, only a footpath of stone leading to another land. I can see the other land, don’t you. Dip your toes into the water, see how the ice straws its way into our chests? Baba, come home. Listen, I promise, nothing is nameless here. Here is a song not about exile or death. Here is a song.






“I am singing a song that can only be born after losing a country”—Joy Harjo

I give up. I want to give up but weeks later & my body,
singing to the full moon, eyeing it, divine. Thank god

the moon is so far away and is this why I love it so.
Tonight we give up on meaning. Tonight, I only trail you,

how you dance, hands hovering as mist, as prayer,
& before I join, I thank my soft body, alive to witness.

I thank my soft body for knowing when to numb,
how to sore. Here I was, thinking, after the explosion

life would stop (as it should). But maybe joy isn’t resistance.
Maybe joy is the body doing what it has to do:

disappearing. The first nuclear explosion taught us
something about how the moon was formed.

The night of August 4 we walked Beirut’s streets, drugged,
the glass like snow, like fireflies, like surface of a moon.

I give up. I want to give up but weeks later & how to,
when we are here. Both sinking & windborne, disposed.

Still finding shards in old books, plant pots, our pockets.
The sound of shoveling glass, air: everywhere nowhere.



To Live Here



You tell me this city has outlived itself,
that residue cannot be beautiful.
I stop listening. Like the headache after repressing a cry,
I walk until the streets are a highway in akimbo.
The figs, the lilies, the gardenias.
They are sick of this heat,
and my flatmates still want to save them.
I hang my laundry to dry.
I try to remember when I last wore this pink underwear,
the glittery halter top. Meanwhile the adhan calls us
five times a day and the concept of time:
what cruelty.
Even the birds feel forced to sing this morning.
When we dance at night, really, we are tiptoeing
around the wound, finding pleasure
in the periphery. Once the blister forms,
we’ll scratch it off like the children we are,
before tiptoeing again.
You drive through the city to give yourself permission.
Permission to numb, to pass. Meanwhile the cart-sellers
are piling their day-old watermelon and corn for sale.
Meanwhile the cat lady leaves a trail of tuna
on the stairs. I cannot stand to look
at the buildings and balconies, one long face
looking the other way. This city is a city of myth,
and is this why we cling to it though we’ve lost the equation
somewhere long ago?
Surely the memories count for something,
surely we are here not only to sleepwalk through
what once was.
All the shops reopening feel like betrayal.
I want to buy everything.
I want to disappear.



Nur Turkmani is a Syrian-Lebanese researcher and writer based in Beirut. Her non-fiction and poetry have been published in Syria Untold, Jadaliyya, London Poetry, Eclectica, Juxtaprose Magazine, and others. Nur’s poem ‘Body Parts’ was selected as a runner-up for the Barjeel Poetry Prize. She is the Managing Editor of Rusted Radishes: Beirut Art and Literary Journal’s website and is currently studying creative writing at the University of Oxford.

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