The first word my youngest brother said was rifle.
This was during the opening siege of the civil war.
Every sect was fighting every other sect, neighbor
against neighbor, tales of rival factions
and broken promises, lists of mysterious acronyms
scrolling on the news.
The boy who once coaxed me to the rooftop
to lie in his arms under a swell of stars
became the enemy in sweatpants and a leather jacket
AK-47 cocked to blow off our heads.
When the heavy shelling began, I was in a breadline
and flew through the streets like a mad person,
dodging mortar and slabs of cement.
What was normally a ten-minute walk took an hour
through roadblocks and back alleys, the cries of the wounded
marking the end of my youth.
My mother was laid out on the pavement under a blanket.
She had been searching for me in the rubble.
Sniper bullet, the neighbors said.
Smoke and dust obliterated the sky.
Before the sun rises, I ring the tower bell to call the Sisters to Mass.
The lemon trees are flowering. Grapes and almond trees
on the terraced slopes, honeybees zealous among the blossoms.
In a cleft in the mountainside, the bees
are building their mansion of wax.
I was young once, too, trembling with passion.
I had my dreams, but the war gobbled them up.
Now I have my rosaries and my memories,
my God and my sorrows.
I am neither violently happy nor violently sad. I wear a calm face,
and behind it, the faces of the dead.
Dale M. Kushner, “Myriam, Lebanon, 1993,” from M. Copyright 2022 Dale M, Kushner. Published by 3: A Taos Press. https://3-a-taos-press.square.site/product/m-by-dale-m-kushner/35?cs=true&cst=custom