BEIRUTING

 

                           A Poem Sequence by David Erdos (12th-15th June 2018)

 

I:    ON A DELAYED AND SLEEPLESS FLIGHT TO 

 

If sleep soothes, then tonight

The thinnest bandage moves freely,

Admitting the wounds of the tired

After claiming their way close

 

To the stars. With clouds  underfoot,

One at the very least yearns for softness,

Only to be met by the fury

Of the body as it sets out its own

 

Downward chart.

 

Chance breaks the craft, necessitating

Another. The long wait between branches

And a sistering bird moving nests,

Leads to those on the ground

 

Watching the skies ever hopeful,

Forsaking satisfaction to place their

Descending hopes on the next.

Inside the head, the brain shakes;

 

Migraine’s yolk in a skull shell,

As distress and thoughts scramble,

Or evaporate in heat’s noise.

Bound by fate and cracked air

 

And the passenger polyphony

As it gathers, the aeroplane

Seeks salvation for the preening chicks,

Fat with glamour and sat beside them

 

The objectionable bastard/boys.

Hours now without sleep, and before

This crow of industry hovers,

Time in the sky sliced and sending

A signal mix beneath us. The vast plane

As a bird, with the sky as nest, fit for splitting,

And we, the sad hatchlings,

Expecting ascent, dead from trust. 

 

 

II:   THE (WE) CLOUD BOTHERERS 

 

Turbulance in the cloud:

 

The sky disapproves of our trespass.

The boat rocks, without anchor

As clipped wings shrug before death.

 

Or before the chance of death;

 

Look,

The sunset’s eye glowers,

As we proceed, steel defending

Yet daring the sucking sky to steal breath.

 

 

III:  AT 2am

 

 

Arriving late, drained of day, I set out to work in dark hours.

An expensive hotel, all provided, is a comfort for now unenjoyed.

But before me, light’s prayer from this high Hotel window

Of a seemingly dazzling city, with Arabic calls across midnight

And an uncertain dawn, I’ll employ.

 

The bathroom looks like a house.

The bathrobe is a book  of soft knowledge.

The water, warm. The air, heavy, as I breathe with the room

Unspent rain. For this a slow storm made from light,

And the potential of light, as it gathers,

 

With the approaching heat, an invasion

In which the inhabitants live with pain.

You can practically hear the heat here.

It comes with the shrieking cars of the city.

There are the birds and dawn chorus

 

As I lay and shut my eyes for a while.

A song from Beirut; and a route to a new chain

Of being as a once broken city replenishes quickly

By creating new shapes from the wild.

I day dream on the bed as Beirut comes

 

Into focus. What life I know I’m not scared of

As I set out  upon this new sacred mile. 

 

 

 

IV:  THE BEIRUT BIDET
 

 

Wash clean the stains

Of incarcerated flight and of

England

 

and allow

 

The soft kiss

Of new water

 

To bestow at one’s base

 

Fresh ascent.

 

 

 

V:  THE BEIRUT BREAKFAST 

 

Sujuk:  thickly scrambled eggs and spiced sausage.

A plate of smooth cheeses, another of round pitta breads.

 

A bowl of creamed dip like cheese and another of tangy humous,

Dark coffee’s clasp on refreshment, fruit juice that preens

 

In the glass. In a Four Seasons Hotel, a year of fruit, too,

Seduces, as I gaze at the parched land and the harbour,

 

While filling my frame, my mouth gasps.

This is not how the underprivileged live,

 

So this of course is exception. It will not last.

So I linger; and with each moment of taste;

 

Yes, I bask.

 

 

 

VI:  SKYSCRAPING 

 

From my Hotel window:

 

Here then, are the vistas as verse;

Lines formed by the angel grazed buildings before me;

 

The city’s sentences aiming their celebrations

Of self towards God.

 

Sat on a balcony raised at a vertigo level,

The slightest stumble, though fatal

 

Could prove to be an ecstatic return for the lost.

See how the senses now reel

 

When taking in the panorama presented;

A glorious and voluptuous centre

 

From which the ancient ascents are renewed.

This is the Lebanon sung, its founding words

 

Caught by mirrors, reflecting back

That first daylight, while scratching

 

The sky to seek truth.

 

 

 

VII:  AS BEFORE, A WAITRESS 

 

Through another window, once more,

The wanting heart stumbles,

As moving through between stations,

The answer to love graces by.

 

As I touch the middle east from the north

Of English limitation, I see her pass in fast beauty

The next in a series of momentary wives

Shaping time. There was the woman I loved

 

In Iraq and now another before me,

Unaware of my offer, while breaching

The still shattering love of the first.

I would try to win her with words

 

But am here for a day without language,

The small life I’d gift her will succumb

To the force of this heat on dry earth.

There is just the empty frame where she walked

 

And the wanting man looking through it.

When waiting in vain for a waitress

That infinite return makes time stall.

Fingers claw at the sun, as if dragging it

 

From the harbour, heeding without hope

The  far water and the boats in the bay

 

To love’s call. 

 

 

 

VIII:  ON GOD’S TEARS

 

The sea here is for God.

None born near may touch it;

The good or bad Lord’s birthing water

Into which the sadness at man

 

Can be wept.

 

Here, creation’s ruin is soothed

By sacrosanct limitation,

While the so called soiled sail

Across it, scorched by the sun;

 

Circumspect. 

 

 

 

 

 

IX:  ICE SKATING IN BEIRUT

On seeing this sign, I write the words;

 

‘Talk about baked Alaska..’

 

Possibly as a prompt for this poem,

Or a means to describe intense heat.

 

Do the skaters circle this cool

As the moths at bulbs do in Uxbridge,

 

Avoiding the burn, yet still powered

By the power and pulse at their feet?

 

It seems impossible. What?

A faintly ludicrous notion.

 

But they deserve their ice skating

As people in Norway would steak.

 

Or curry. They arc, as skaters do,

Leaving flurry; steam and air rising

 

From a war torn land

They’d remake.

 

 

 

 

X:  FRESH FORMS OF WORSHIP

 

Passing a temple that stands next to a car-park’s

Congregation, those knelt in prayer

And those breaking are each in desperate need of a clutch.

Beirut is now a branded building site framed by a walled Riviera.

As the incessant cars question is the room to breathe and believe

Quite enough? The religious outline drawn on is filled by HUGO BOSS

And his brothers; Gaudy colours bedecking

The expensive facade around faith.

And yet in walking past and around,

One sees that God can’t deny them;

He/She/It’s in The Yacht Club,

Drink, task and towel all in place.

 

 

Steps, minarets and vehicles that wasp,

Test the sacred. A thick sun burns.

The heat’s leaning while its maker reclines,

 

Saving face. 

 

 

 

 

 

XI:  AT THE BEIRUT YACHT CLUB

 

 The Muezzin call to prayer

At 4am

 

Scores all dreaming.

 

Yet walking through the day,

Its piped muzak,

With plastic and the Gods on guitar.

 

After a war comes the ease

Of western intervention,

 

You’re so Vain.’ Carly Simon

 

And as golden bodies

Bronze,

Thus, they are.

 

The former torture seems far,

The Hockney swimming pool almost singing.

Perhaps the gun runners

 

And the designers of bombs wear sun masks.

And so, before me the spread of Hotels

God could stay in. Los Angeles and Miami,

 

And Hawaii too, light this dark.

After suffering, sense allows for fantasy, always.

Troubles at home now seem cloudy.

 

 

Reclaiming all this: that’s the task. 

 

 

 

 

 

XII:  SUCK AND SEARCH  (or FISH AND CHIC) 

 

Fish in the marina suck sea

While an unblown man dreams desire,

Here, a woman’s touch and clear water

And the movement of a mouth

 

Crowns each kiss.

 

You certainly can’t get this at home,

Not with the rising mountain range

In the distance, the line of the peaks

Meet sky cover, making the souring air

 

The sweet this.

 

Meanwhile the fish make a patchwork

Of themselves there beneath me;

Thankful for their surround

Or just hungry, they are blessing the blue

And life’s twist.

 

Lovers  undulate,

But the fish are still crossing.

Fast and desperate cars in the distance,

Each element here,

 

Seeking bliss.

 

 

 

 

XIII:  THE BEIRUT BURGER 

 

Their take on a classic; hell, yes,,

Something to breach the known spaces

Between a sleepless heat and an airport

Set to send the soul underground.

 

A Beirut beer’s brief repose,

Before it too turns to bathwater,

The fronting kick of it humbled

By an occupying force free from cloud.

 

A wall ahead barrs the sea,

As if every soothing force were prevented,

Inducing everyone’s face, through ingestion,

To the illusions of home in sweat shrouds.

 

It is almost too hot to eat

And yet one goes through the motions,

Forcing the place in and drinking

The sight’s heaviness, the slow sound

 

Of everything in the bay kept at bay

By a post war time now of plenty

In which prayers to the flesh

Somehow honour those lost to their God

 

And those found. An evening is therefore spent

Watching the yacht owners and soldiers,

Linger discreetly beside the pleasures

They fought for, that, seen from this angle

 

Make a standard meal its own banquet

And in this new site of leisure

A source of a pride and a treasure

Of the slowly gathering crowd.

 

 

 

 

XIV:  TEARS TO STEAM 

 

Nothing can stay cold here;

 

Ice shrugs,

Before my Miranda bath

Drags it under.

 

Meanwhile, God watches closely,

Scouring water’s weakening stone

Into steam.

 

Crying at the first taste,

I am soon a man in the desert,

Imagining sharp renewal

 

As the mirage in this meal

Becomes dream.

 

This lack of duration

 

Saddens; it is as brief

As my stay and its fading,

My fight for pleasure

 

In a once war torn place,

May confuse.  But the shadow of

The umbrella above is a frame

 

Within which I can honour

This moment.  Sip by sip

I will savour.

 

As the white day

Plays

I can’t lose.

 

 

 

 

XV:  SOLIDIERE BUILDING, BEIRUT 

 

The seeming riddle of this building, ransacked,

Removed from all visitation. The site of a notorious rape,

Or a people, sheltering here, since dispensed?

 

The building stands now in the  bay,

With the Millionaires’ gaze soft before it. And yet

Its paneless eyes are the windows glaring

 

At the cool of the night’s recompense.

Who suffered here? The waiter doesn’t know.

The Solidiere sign is giant. A face on the stone

 

Fit for shouting, while its arabic script makes

No sense. Who were the women raped here?

The persons unknown, forced in cupboards,

 

 

 

If this was a Hotel then which guests fell subject

To a devilish Maitre D? Did Chambermaid paedophiles

Twist strangling sheets in locked closets?

 

Did sunlight and sperm stain the curtains,

That being stronger than walls blocked release?

A pink facade and grey rails. Perhaps this was the place

 

They paraded; the debauched and the decadent, shining,

Along the darkest of halls with death’s taint.

Or is this another ruin, long bombed, where the just dressed

 

For dinner. A  politically (un) safe house where make-up

Required blood in the rouge and war paint?

The building is a remnant of course, from the war.

 

An HQ perhaps, or a prison. A conference hall lost to conference,

Has become a cathedral of air and stopped speech.

Amidst all of this plenty, it squats, staring blind

 

Through wrecked portals, daring those who walk past it

To remember the days war defiled.  It would have served biscuits of blood,

With small cubes of flesh in the tea cups. Handkerchiefs that in wiping

 

Broadened the stain to leave scars. The present preens on.

But this place is an advert from the past for the future.

As the ice in my orange juice bites me, I feel the crunch of those

 

Vanquished and the sting from old fires

As the smoke smears and blackens

Each separate hope to see stars.

 

 

 

 

XVI:  AT THIS LEVEL 

 

I am reasonably complete in a plane

But cannot look at tall buildings;

 

Vertigo stains me and can be practically heard

In  my legs. Back in the Hotel for the last,

 

With the magnificent view spread before me,

I still clutch at the curtains, fearing the balcony’s

 

Powder keg. It could explode within me, at once,

That sense that at eighteen floors,

 

There’s compulsion, to cast yourself over

With no desire at all to seek death.

 

This is the world’s most comfortable bed

But I will derive no sleep from it, being up at 4,

 

The Four Seasons is all you might want

And expect from charmed breath.

 

And yet I cannot quite embrace,

Scared of the kiss it will give me,

 

As I strain and stumble

With the cough in my skin at this height.

 

I turn the TV on but still admire

The city painting before me.

 

I must allow it all now to ease me

And let these last few hours

 

Make each reason please me,

A tiny marriage of moment

 

In which each season combines.

Night as wife.

 

 

 

XVII:   AT THE AIRPORT (1)

 

The security guard’s manner appals.

As if yours was a favour he’d granted.

The brusqueness of word and persmission.

The granting of hand, stare and look.

I could  so easily shout and exchange

The answers of home for a prison.

And yet this beast at the gates allows open

The writing of this and all books.

 

 

 

 

XVIII:  AT THE AIRPORT (2)

 

At least I make the beauty at the check-in gate laugh,

As she tries to summon her supervisor;

An issue to do with my hard drive,

Due to my so called Government’s stringency.

She cannot summon him. So I project his name

Through the lobby.

“Dabir!”

Her embarrassed laugh is delightful,

Cupping her mouth, childishly.

At a possible moment of tension I crown

My usual intolerance wisely,

Engaging the day now with pleasure,

As that day removes me from seeing her again.

 

Real life’s fear.

 

 

 

 

XIX:  THE WOMEN THERE, THE MAN HERE

 

Each remains beautiful, these raven haired women;

Princesses of the Middle East, their prized glory

Spills from the palaces to the streets.

 

The smooth thickness of the eyebrows,

Pert nose, the smiling eyes, the kept kisses

Each aspect wishes you to them, granting

 

Your english discontent sweet release.

Their unique grace is contained, moving as they do

With slow rhythm, a result of the heat and their aura,,

 

As their religion and style hold them in.

Once given back to the world, their perfect design

Clearly flowers. In white shirt and slacks today’s wonder

 

Shows in brief moments how the promise of love can begin.

She reminds me of you, who will never answer this poem

And of a life I’d intended and wanted to seek

 

Or design. The woman here’s beautiful.

I watch her now with her daughters, no ring proffers freedom,

But there is a sadness of course before speech.

 

No ring means no thing. And how long anyway,

Will she be here? Looking at her I still see you

And through no fault of my own, I fall deep.

 

But only for now. An 8am flight to London.

The passing sight of this woman reminds me at once

Of before. In a modern age there’s no time

 

Despite the seeming distance of travel.

So as I leave I return here, perhaps walking with flight

Through love’s door, to rediscover the girl

 

For whom I wrote another book.

I’m day dreaming. The  Middle East takes me over,

As the sky becomes my new floor.

 

 

 

XX:  ON LEAVING HOME 

 

Travel broadens the waist as the thoughts

It entertains are enraptured by light’s slick sensation

And a more refined kind of heat.

 

In a new place you will gorge on this fresh

Presentation, as the food and drink charm the body,

So even the soul gets to eat.

 

It feeds on the land and the shadows curled

Like dark butter.  It takes a scent from the landscape

And the growing romance of the place.

 

Dreams of it nourish sleep in the self same way

That they colour.  So on returning home

I’m still with you, drawing all I can from your face.

 

I can taste the sea and the sand

As that part of the world is now my world.

It is only in leaving that I can at last understand

 

That having once what felt real, I am a part of the sky

Now forever, uniting all seasons between

The undiscovered girl and lost man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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