December 28th, 2009
from BEIRUT (1982 –84): A CYCLE OF POEMS
In the Bar of the Commodore
The shelling had gone on for 24 hours, but
Fouad was smiling. Coco, the parrot, was skilled
at imitating the incoming. She’d whistle and everyone
“At least they’re not aiming at us,” I said
(I was still young then).
“That’s precisely what does worry me,” Kittredge,
the Englishman, answered.
We couldn’t get our dispatches out. We couldn’t
get anything in or out. We couldn’t get food or mail or
those Turkish cigarettes Kittredge loved. But, somehow,
the bar of the Commodore was always stocked and Fouad
always smiled. “Tonight,” he said in his broken, unctuous
English, “we ’ave BarrrBeeKew,” and smiled broadly
(a mouth full of yellowed teeth like fat golden corn).
And Coco did her act.
She was very good.
And we all ducked.
He was Hezbollah. But very young.
The Christians waited until he got over the stone wall
in the garden, then shot him. He was carrying
a grenade launcher and it was heavy, clumsy
and he was having trouble getting over.
“Ooou-ah!” he cried and fell head-first,
then sat up and kicked the launcher, which
snapped back and hit him in the head.
He began to howl, violently.
It was embarrassing.
That’s when they shot him.
“I hate the Beards,” the shooter said smiling.
That’s what they called the Hezbollah, the “Beards.”
But he was just a kid, really.
–from Rattle #31, Summer 2009