Our buildings are face-to-face in ’88–
towards Al-Raouché, ours is the five-storey
apartment block my grandfather built
with Latin American money,
coffeecake cement pocked with bullet holes
that birds nest in, my verandah a playpen
of flaking paint & pollution grit. I’m 3 and my game
is to peel coins of rust from the railing.
My knuckles are still puckered with baby fat. Rust
is the brightest smell I know
in a world where I’m new dough rising
in the midst of death piled on
death, a layer cake of death.
Her building is taller and less ravaged by the war,
a throne in a Parisian style I don’t understand
in toddlerhood, the awnings green as the shallows
of a mighty nearby sea we’ve never saluted
together. I never knew
who she was. She looked so old–maybe 110–
I wonder now, was she
50? 60? wrinkled by burning rubber
and TNT, her hair a magnificent wheat-yellow beehive.
I’d wave to her, there shaded, top-floor balcony,
on her throne beneath her birdcages of vivid
canaries, her pygmy palms in glossy pots–
we would watch each other chronicling everything
the street carried for those breathcatching
moments of a long war.
I heard you died, tante,
We all died, but our pummelled buildings
by some miracle,
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