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Adele Ne Jame-ll

The Corniche, Now as Then


If you are a friend of God, fire is your water.





It’s the jewel of West Beirut—

moonshell of the Mediterranean

and at sunset  aglitter– even as


the bread peddler labors past you,

loaves hanging from his bicycle,

going who knows where with such a load—


even as the women walk leisurely

with their arms around each other— as if

out of an Impressionist  painting,


even as the young fellows

in sweats turn their backs to the seawind,

cell phones pressed to their ears


sweet talking their girls —you think

like any other beautiful place in the world–

Bombs falling like rain for years,


you never thought it could be like this.

The evening call to prayer, fish on a wire,

salt air,  an opal and mauve sky.




As the sun fires round— and falls

into night, waves hit the seawall and

collapse back into themselves,


you think of your father—

all our fathers— standing exactly here,

just  boys leaning over this railing,


looking out at the Bay of St. George,

imagining the world—

(France to the Americas,


those great clippers S-42s Miami to Rio)—

but unable to imagine the great war or

how much the leaving would cost them.





Later at a sea bar where you have found

a table on your own, and where

you drink red wine from the Bekaa valley,


the incoming tide washes over

the stone floor the way forgetting

washes over everyone—  now as then.


Young folks drink iced arrak and

smoke hookahs in the warm easy night—

as if no Skyhawks ever delivered


their whistling payloads here—

plumes of smoke spiraling

from the shoreline to the Sannine—


from Tyre to Jounieh, as if

no slick of sewage and human debris

ever floated twenty miles out to sea—


and then with the returning tide—

piled up on the sand,

waves thick as rancid butter.


As if no car bombs, one for every day of

the civil war,  ever exploded

steel engines flying—spent missiles


and moon craters everywhere—

survivors like Catullus weeping

graveside for his brother, inconsolable.





Ah–Beirut, they say, is like a bride

in a white flowing dress–running

along the Corniche—dodging death


mid-air—her dark hair flying

in the seawind. It’s the scent of

violets returning and returning


like her scattered children

who left their shoes behind.

It’s a beautiful elegy for


the snowy cedars of the Lord,

a dirge for the burned almond tree,

the pomegranate and the olive—


for the red earth, the desolate

and the yet unborn. It’s a mirror

inside a mirror, our lost ones


everywhere we turn and

ready for us the way the sea is ready

before we plunge into it—


into that dreamy underwater world –

into that wild and breathless current

that will, at last,  hold us steadfastly.






The image of Beirut like bride comes from Zena el Khoury’s, Beirut, I Love You

The fifteen year Lebanese civil war: 1975-1990