“Ghazal: Back Home” by Zeina Hashem Beck

Zeina Hashem Beck


for Syria, September 2015

Tonight a little boy couldn’t walk on water or row back home.
The sea turned its old face away. Again, there was a no, no, back home.

Bahr* is how we were taught to measure poetry,
bahr is how we’ve stopped trying to measure sorrow, back home.

“All that blue is the sea, and it gives life, gives life,” says God to the boy
standing wet at heaven’s gate—does he want to return, to go back home?

My friend who hates cooking has made that eggplant dish,
says nothing was better than yogurt and garlic and tomato, back home.

On the train tracks, a man shouts, “Hold me, hold me,” to his wife,
bites her sleeve, as if he were trying to tow back home.

Thirteen-year-old Kinan with the big eyes says, “We don’t want to stay in Europe.”
“Just stop the war,” he repeats, as if praying, Grow, grow back, home.

Habibi, I never thought our children would write HELP US on cardboard.
Let’s try to remember how we met years ago, back home.

On our honeymoon we kissed by the sea, watched it
rock the lights, the fishing boats to and fro, back home.

* Bahr is Arabic for sea. Also, in Arabic poetry, bahr means meter.

from 3arabi Song


Zeina Hashem Beck: “This ghazal is for Syrian refugees, whose stories this week (and every week) are heartbreaking and surreal. The poem refers to many tragedies that we’ve read about this week: the little toddler drowned in the Aegean sea, the refugees at the train station in Budapest, that video of the Syrian boy simply saying “Just stop the war,” and the video of the man holding on to his wife and baby on the train tracks.” (web)

Rattle Logo