by Marie Baléo

I have a seat in the abandoned theater / in Beirut.
– Mahmoud Darwish

It is the landline that must have rung and let me know the war had begun.

We did not know – we were drifting beneath the open sky, notionless, seeing only the wrist that dangles out the window, the threaded jasmine hanging from the rear view mirror.

I picture my parents on a terrace on place Sassine, in sunglasses and starched shirts,

sipping wine in parallel motions. In the end, it takes no more than a slight,
imperceptible tremor in the fabric of our lives.

On the first night, I dream of two hands, exquisite, incorporeal;
too lovely to be attached to something as tenderly ridiculous

as the body. The hands are made of blood. They hover before
my eyes, and then, just as I recognize that there is beauty

in them, and that this itself is quite surprising,
they make for my throat.

There are no clouds on the day I see the fighter jets appear behind the mountains. I stand alone before the living room windows as they make straight for us;

I run to the other end to see them fly on.

This is it, we are leaving. (And it is like running from life itself, and I am reminded of the day of my childhood when, mid-anaphylaxis, I told my father I was leaving).

I must tell you, although by now you must know, that the end of the world is not surreal;
it is achingly real, disappointingly so, and it goes fast,

and what itched and annoyed before
will continue to itch and annoy as everything falls apart,

only now you exist only to hold everything in place,
and fail.

At the border, a human outburst flows into the night’s mouth.
A boy refuses to partake, lies down on a wall, head on a sports bag.

Silent screens spit out tangerine stills of Beirut, suffocating.
Foreheads glisten, cell phones die in their owners’ hands, fingernails reach for

bus doors, adults cry, children play, people eat, yawn, scream,
I go to sleep upright in a cushioned seat on a third bus, awake

an hour later in Syria, where morning has broken, leaving
Lebanon to be devoured by the night.

Some days, I close my eyes and step out onto the balcony. I yield
to the dust under the soles of my feet, to the warmth of the tiles.

When I get to the ledge, I bend to gaze at the street,
the plastic chair, our forest green car with the striped hood.

I look at the towers and the buildings all around, at the sea.
I look until my head hurts, until my thoughts burst and spring

out of me, drifting to the place above the
words, where nothing remains, only light.