Abou Samra, Lebanon 1982


You only leave when the shelling begins.
Your sixteenth-story flat rattles
but you let your neighbors cut ahead.

Earlier you saw militias crouched in alleys
—a shame, you think, to fight your Muslim brothers—
and you raised your hands over your head

to show you are a civilian. How deadly
that makes you now, to take each flight
as a free man, to walk between party lines

and peeling propaganda posters
and the stench of sun-curdled garbage
growing yellow in the streets,

to take this time walking down each step
because your mind is made up
and you’ve lived this long.

Years ago when the power cut off
your family hung in the elevator
like a half-swallowed bite,

and you remember it now—
the dark holding you there, erasing you.
So when you hear drop your weapons

ricochet through the lobby,
you’d be forgiven for not feeling grateful.
The reeds will split and the bodies will bloat
and the mosques will call out for more.


Photo: Graffiti Beirut-style by Cazz


About Author

Ruth Awad has an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Republic, The Missouri Review Poem of the Week, Crab Orchard Review, CALYX, Diode, Southern Indiana Review, Rattle, The Adroit Journal, Vinyl Poetry, Epiphany, The Drunken Boat, and in the anthologies The Hundred Years' War: Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014), New Poetry from the Midwest 2014 (New American Press, 2015), and Poets on Growth (Math Paper Press, 2015). She won the 2013 and 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize and the 2011 Copper Nickel Poetry Contest, and she was a finalist for the 2013 Ruth Lily Fellowship. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two Pomeranians.

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