Joyce Horkos

October 2020

A Poem in which His Name Is Replaced by Beirut

By Joyce Horkos

I met Beirut a couple of months ago.

I was passing by when I accidentally saw him.

I wasn’t supposed to look in his direction (he was forbidden property),

But I did- it’s the rebellious code in me.

I was raised on the idea that men, like Beirut,

Take away beautiful things.

I was raised on the idea that men, like Beirut,

Steal away innocence.

I was raised on the idea that men, like Beirut,

Are dark and monstrous.

But I met Beirut.

Beirut didn’t need to steal beautiful things;

He had a collection of his own.

Beirut had missing parts, stolen by other girls

Who visit cities for one-night stands,

Or even worse- for love affairs.

Beirut did have dark corners,

But he made sure to plant streetlights,

On every turn.

Beirut buckled the seatbelts of our imagination and took me places:

There’s this one time when we went up to Jupiter to pick a bouquet of scientific theories,

Or this one time when he insisted we jump off the boat and take a swim in the waters of Venice,

Or this one time when we met Hitler before he started the Second World War, cussed him out, and told him he’d lose.

“Beirut is nothing like us,” they said.

But Beirut was…

Or maybe, I wasn’t like them…

Because Beirut and I were the same.

Beirut showed me his tight humid tunnels,

The ones that suffocate him.

I hated it when Beirut went down the memory lane;

Beirut would have gloomy clouds in his eyes,

And deep lines drafted on his forehead.

Every time Beirut opened up to me,

Fear would haunt him down.

There’s this little kid that would peek through Beirut’s eyes,

And look at me…

As if begging for empathy and hiding away from pity.

I never pitied Beirut,

Instead, I pitied myself.

Beirut didn’t have parents who’d tell him that village girls, like me, are different.

Beirut had enough courage to speak about the past without letting it ruin his future.

Beirut trusted me.

“People usually get scared by my transparency,” Beirut once said…

“But you, you don’t.”

And that’s how Beirut cried,

And when he did,

It made him more of a man…

Beirut’s tears washed away my sins…

When I first met Beirut,

I thought he was just a floral wallpaper,

 And I thought to myself “DAMN! Beirut really isn’t like us!”

Beirut is spring and sunshine and noise and life…”

But Beirut wasn’t.

Beirut pealed the wallpaper bit by bit.

Beirut let me see his brick walls.

Beirut proudly showed me the street art

Written in bold red,

By his high school bullies.

Beirut let me step on the forgotten islands of his heart.

Turns out that Beirut had scarred wrists, just like me.

Beirut held my hand,

As I wandered through his dimly lit isles.

And I didn’t leave Beirut’s hand,

But neither did he when we walked through mind…

“Beirut is loud,” they said,

And Beirut was.

Beirut had a laugh that boomed like thunder,

And thunder isn’t blinding,

Until our fear of its light causes us to close our eyes.

Beirut knew songs that made every muscle in your body move,

And every vein pump blood,

Pump life,

Pump… freshness.

Beirut made silly voices like “gurgle” and “boo” and “aoouuhh”

But Beirut didn’t snore.

Beirut was silent at night.

Beirut hugged me at night.

Beirut moved his hands on my waist,

In patterns that matched my sleepy breaths.

Beirut was calm,

And peaceful,

Like the sound of waves that plays in beach shells,

Like the smell of your grandma’s clothes- the only thing left of her.

But Beirut is also crazy.

Beirut took me to tattoo parlors,

Places where,

Large and bulky men,

Drew unicorns.

But seriously, what’s so bad about unicorns?

Beirut was indeed different.

Beirut had stories to tell.

Beirut had songs to sing.

Beirut had places to go.

Beirut was different,

But not scary.

Beirut was not like my family,

Nothing like my entourage,

But Beirut was like my heartbeat,

Fragile, yet strong.

“Beirut is a cage,” they said,

But they forgot that the ribcage protects the heart…

To me, Beirut and alcohol were both an escape,

The latter to a deep hole,

Where the thought of going out never crossed my mind,

And the former to a high building,

To a skyscraper,

Where the thought of jumping off

Never crossed my mind.

At first, I thought it was just the

Rebellious code in me

That was so fascinated by Beirut,

Because Beirut was the type of man

That had no boundaries.

Nothing stopped Beirut,

Neither time nor place,

And I was just a village girl,

Raised on the idea that Beirut was different.

Beirut was indeed different,

For when the village people left,

Beirut was here to stay…


June 2020

Yet Another Love Poem - by Joyce Horkos (Photo by Eugenio Pastoral).jpgPhoto credit: Eugenio Pastoral

Yet Another Love Poem

By Joyce Horkos

And here it rains again

Bringing back that season.

Do you remember?

November, with a revolution

Burning ablaze,

With everything between us falling out of place,

With the moon, and that room

That I never dare to step in anymore,

I called you and said

وما الحبّ سوى تفاصيل صغيرة؟

،أتمنّى لو أنّ رذاذ عطرك عالقًا في الهواء

يراقص أنفاسي

،وأنا جالسة على الشرفة في تشرين

،لا يهم إن كان الأوّل أم الثّاني

فأنا ما زلت في أيّار

عندما كنت لا أعرف سوى

.اسم غريبٍ وصوته المميت المحيّ

وما الحب سوى تفاصيل صغيرة؟

أرتشف من كوب شايِكَ المليئ بقهوتي

.وأتذكر يوم قلت أنّي قهوتك

تصبّرني كلماتك على بعدك

.فأنا خير من يعلم بمرض الإدمان

لقد مرّ عامٌ يا حبيبي، وما الآتي بعد؟ وما قد مضى؟

سخرية القدر ارتطمت بالواقع، فكتبتك بكلمات

.أنت من علّمني أبجديتها

وصفتك ببيروت، وأنت تدري

أنني أرسل لك سلامي كل صباح

.مع أناشيد الطّيور، ونباح الكلاب وصراخ الأطفال

ألست أنت من علّمني أنّ الحبّ ليس الغرق؟

أنّ الحبّ هو تفاصيل صغيرة عمقها أمان

ودفئها رائحةٌ تفوح كالحبق؟

And the silence between us

Still makes me feel like home.

So today, when we watch the sun rise together,

I won’t tell you that

I am not afraid of the dark,

Or that I am not allergic to dust,

As long as you hold my hand.

I don’t want to alter the silence

With the truth

Or ruin this home that I built in you.

Today, when we watch the sun rise together

I will listen to your laugh

And imagine myself hearing your heartbeat

As I lay on your chest

And draw murals

Between the hairs.

And after you fall asleep

I will stay up a little longer

To thank the universe for

This good morning.

I will stay up a little longer

And watch

The sun as it beams down on the green meadows and hills,

And I will welcome the birds,

With open arms,

For maybe they traveled with you

Across the seas once.

وكما تتبدل الفصول

وكما تنجلي الأيام

،وكما يحلو السّهر

.تمرّ ذكرياتنا كلمعة في بصيص الأحلام

وهل كنّا سنبقى مستيقظين لولا إكسير الأمل؟

الوقت ما هو سوى بدعة سخيفة

،كان قد خلقها الأشرار

واعتاش منها مكسوري القلوب

.محطّمي الفؤاد

أمّا أنا، فأقف وبجانبي الموسيقى

،ألعب لعبة التحديق مع الحياة

،وأخسر في الثانية مرّتين

،وألعب من جديدٍ

،وأحدّق في وجهها بوقاحة

،مستهزئةً بها، ضاحكة

.فأنا لم أُخلق للهزيمة

،أنا عشيقة نسرٍ، صقرٍ، طائر فنيقٍ كبيرٍ كبير

،أنا حبيبة محاربٍ، سيفه قلم

.ودمه شعر، وصراخه موسيقى

،أنا تلميذة ذاك الذي لم يهزمه الظلام

فأليس استسلامي حرام؟

When one person teaches you

How to stitch,

The knives become your friends.

،وعندما ترميك الحياة بين قضبان حديد

حوّل حطامك إلى منشار

،ونادي بالهروب.” يا مواجهة”

You may not be permanent

But the gems you left here

Still flicker under the rays of my growth

To remind me of the power of creation

That I hold in the tips of my fingers.

You are a warrior my love,

You are a pilot,

So no matter how far you fly,

This homeland here in my heart

Will tidy up the place for you

In case you return.

،إن كانت هذه آخر مرّة

،تجلس فيها بجانبي وتسألني أن أقرأ لك الأشعار

،فليكن هذا الشعر الأخير

،وليكن هذا البيت القصير

.خاتمة أسطورةٍ خلّدناها

،حبيبي، إن عدت، فلتكن العودة جميلة

،وإن بقيت غائبًا، يكون الغياب من العودة أجمل

،وإيّاك أن تنسى أن حبيبتك تلك الطفلة المازحة الصغيرة

،تحولت لجبلٍ  يرفض الانهيار

،للهبٍ، لنار ترفض الخمود

.لمرأة ترفض الهزيمة

You once said that

I don’t seem to be Arabian,

،فسأقول كلماتي الأخيرة

وأغطّيها بهويتي، بعربيتي، وليكن هذا

The most Lebanese thing I have ever said:

حبيبي… بحبّك كتير


Return to the top