Saturday, January 2, 2016

A new year

Whether we admit it or not, there is something special about the new year.  I am not referring to the eve, which I feel is far too overrated, over-celebrated, exaggerated and just plain pointless.  That celebration hints of gratitude that we survived another year, which, to be frank, I find short-sighted, and somewhat defeatist.

The new year, however, January 1, feels like the world’s birthday (and I love birthdays).  Think about it – you change calendars, remember what you did that day/night (more than the 2nd, 3rd, etc.), you reach out to friends and relatives you don’t often see/speak to with greetings of happiness and joy, and you almost always have some ritual attached to the day.  As I was reading the news paper today, I also felt like the day was one where you look away from the micro- everyday stuff for a moment and take stock of the big picture – the year in the market, climate change, fight against poverty, scientific achievements, Nobel prize winners, wins and losses, and so on. And I believe those reflections have great opportunities to teach and inspire us. What’s more, this wonderful, inexplicable ‘hope’ attached to the start of a new year emboldens us with a willful, can-do attitude.  And that is definitely worth celebrating.
So when we exchange new year’s greetings, we’d always be well-served to think of what we can change, transform, improve, sing, paint, draw to make our lives, and this world that much better.

Happy 2016!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

هادية



مرّ خمســون يوماً على فراقك
خمســون يوماً ... أكثر من دورة قمر وأقل من موســم
خمســون يوماً ... مدة بســـيطة بين زيارتين
أو مكالمتين
أو أغلب الأمور الطبيعية في يوميات حياتنا
لكن خمســون يوماً من غيابك
تكسّدوا علينا يوماً بعد يوم
أثقلوا كاهلنا
أبطأوا خطانا
ما هو سحر وجودك الذي كان خفيف كهمسـة النسيم
بينما بات فراغ غيابك ثقل لا يحتمل؟

خمســون يوماً
أعدّها كمَن يعدّ حبّات القمح في مخزن المطحنة
لا جدوى من العد ســوى محاولة حصر فاشـــلة
حصر للخســارة، حصر للفقدان
حصر للوجع
خمســون يوماً، ســيتبعها خمســون وخمســون
وخمســـون
أعدها لأنها ســتتزايد، بينما أيامي معك
انتهى عدّها.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

أميرة



غابت الحنونة
غاب حضن البيت الدافئ
الغرف الملأى بالأحباء والأقارب
والهتاف باسـم "أميرة" عن رأس الدرج

خلا البيت من مغزاه
انقضت أعمارنا فيه لحظة خروجك منه
باتت الجدران هشــّة، بلا لون
صغرت الغرف، تبدّل لون الشـبابيك
صفحات ذكرياتنا اصفرّت وتفتفتت واختفت
فالبيت ما حملها يوماً،
لم يحملك يوماً
أنت من كنت تحمليننا فيه.
وهكذا، انمحى عن عتبة البيت سـحر اللقاء
اندثرت خيطان الانتماء
وتغرّبنا بغيابك، يا غالية.

رحمك الله أينما كنت.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ask not what your country can do for you…



Today is my country’s independence day, but I have given it another name in recent years. A play on words in Arabic allows me to exchange one letter and turn it to ‘exploitation day’, though there are frequently times when I feel that exploitation is not commemorated just that one day a year at all.  I love my country and would hope to always call myself a patriot.  I don’t think that has changed in the last twenty years when I chose to end my expatriation and return to live and build a career ‘at home’.  But something has changed in me, perhaps an outcome of maturing or of circumstance, but I now find I interpret my relationship with my country in more practical terms.

As everybody posts photos or statements commemorating the day and expressing their undying love for our country, another post has also come up, noting that the date coincides with the birthday of our most famous and beloved singer.  How ironic, I thought, that the date set to conjure up our sentiments of nationalism falls on her birthday, the singer whose songs defined that emotional attachment and lulled us into its romantic notions for years.  Growing up as an expat, the plays she sang in were my historical and social context, my cultural underpinning for the country I had fled that appeared on my passport, in my parents’ dialect, and in their reflective sighs and smiles upon hearing her songs.  Growing up in a foreign country where we were taught nothing of my country’s history or geography, it rested in those tunes and those stories. So I loved the songs and loved my country.

A line from one of those songs has hit the social media outlets today, for independence day. Above a waving flag and clear blue skies the statement is made: I love you no matter how you are. I translate it literally for effect – “no matter how you are”, no matter how you act, feel, grow, ‘behave’… no matter what you’ve become, I love you.

For the first time in my life, I could not agree.

Lebanon, I love you, I will always love you, but I don’t think I can love you the way you are any more.  There is a spot in the mountain that is carved out in my shape, there are roots to my family tree that run through your veins deeper than my little leaf on a branch, there is a part of you that will always be for me, and a me that will always be for you, but I don’t think I can love you the same, not any more.  The rest of you has tipped the balance… You have broken our hearts as a generation, have humiliated us as a people, have left us with so little to enjoy that we are constantly angry, frequently at each other.  You have shattered our dreams for you, for us with you, and beaten us down with our own hope and civil action, you have changed us, broken us, and left us lying in a pool of cynicism and despair.  We hold onto that last flicker of hope like a swimmer coming up for air – because there is nowhere else to go.

We are a bruised and broken people because of our love for you.  Candles melting at a restaurant table remind us of nights in the shelter, fireworks – which we can distinguish from bombing – have their own silent soundtrack, and bribing government officials to obtain what is rightfully ours has become the norm. We don’t even flinch.  You have broken us, and it takes every ounce of our will and energy to hold on to you, to hold on to our dream of you, as if saving you from drowning.  But you have developed a liking for those dark depths and are pulling us down with you.  What should we do then? Hold on and slip into the darkness?

I love you Lebanon, I will always love you, but I can no longer love you as you are, and I fear the day will come when I will let go – an act that will break me even more.  Happy birthday.

Monday, February 17, 2014

أحبك كما أحب فلسـطين



أحبك كما أحب فلسـطين
وطن فلت من بين أيدينا ونحن نائمين
حلم يعيش وينبض في ذاكرتنا
فنلويه كما نشـاء
ونغضب عليه ولأجله كما نشـاء
ونبكيه ونبكي غياب المثال عنا
ذلك الذي رسـمناه في شعرنا وأغانينا

أحبك يا وطني كما أحب فلسـطين
رومانسـية حبي تحميك من كل بشـاعة
وكل ذل وكل عيب أو خطأ

يا ترى يا وطني
هل ضعت مني
كما ضاعت فلسـطين؟

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A note to my unborn child


This note is for you, my sweet unborn child.

You may or may not come, God only knows, but I have imagined you for too long not to write to you.
You should know from the start that I love you – whether you remain imaginary or become real – I truly love you.  This longing for you over the years, though sometimes frustrating, has always also brought me joy.  I love you for being with me and my delays.  I may have not always put you in consideration as I went about these grand decisions in my life, but I hope and pray that the outcomes of those decisions serve to make me a better mother to you.

There is one decision that did concern you, in a big way, and that was when I chose your father.  He is a good man, and he will be a wonderful father to you, of that I am sure. Marrying him brought me one giant step closer to you –whether you come or not – and I will always love him for that.

Meanwhile, my sweet lovely child, we will deliberate on suitable names for you, we will pay close attention to other parents’ anecdotes, and we will spend time with children we adore – don’t confuse this with practice, for nothing will be the same when it’s you, when you arrive… We do this out of joy for the children we’re with, and we do this as we imagine and hope that doting aunts and uncles will do the same for you one day.

You see, even in this move as with all others, you have brought me joy… how can I not love you?
And, my darling, if you do come, know that I have lived this life preparing for you, and preparing the world for you.  Forgive me for the compromise this has brought about. Forgive me if I leave before you reach the age at which I met you, forgive me if there weren’t enough years left for me to be by your side through your great triumphs and crises. Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me… You may think it selfish of me to want you so badly if I knew I was leaving sooner than other mothers, but believe me it is not.  Not completely.  It is not selfish because it is beyond my control to want you and love you and cherish you as I do, and because it would be selfish of me not to bring the wonderful being that you are into this world.  For whereas I am fully yours, you are not mine alone.

So let me end this note as I started it, with the one sentiment that I cannot express enough: I love you.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

'Ammi on my mind


You were here again today. Not in Abu Dhabi, where you spent most of your life, not in the café where you spent every afternoon in Beirut, or the suites where you used to say. You were here again exactly where I last left you, at the hotel I visited when delivering your invitation to our wedding.  After we sat there for a few minutes, smiling sincerely and uttering niceties that don’t really amount to a conversation, I took my leave in order to continue with my long pre-wedding task list.

I was happy to see you, touched that you were in the country and could attend my wedding, but I remember walking out thinking how you have not changed a bit, how you will always be the same.  I wonder now if that was the whole point, and if that was a point of pride for you; that you ignored people and even circumstances, and proudly held on to your quirky individualistic antics no matter what.  You were such a character, Ammi, that we remember and recount so many of your stories.  Stories that were first told in frustration became amiable references to your quirkdom.  

I love that I have all these stories with which to conjure you up, because it is odd, Ammi, how you so seamlessly removed yourself from this world, from our lives.  We barely knew how to mourn you when you passed away… It may be why I held on to that last hotel as your persistent mark, a fresh memory to preserve.  It is now over a year later, and every time I think of you, it feels unreal that you are truly no longer with us.  That thought is accompanied by a little smile, and a whispered “may you rest in peace”. Amen.