Verse Sanctum: Write your way to healing
By: Carpe Diem
Welcome to issue #4 of “Verse Sanctum”: The Carpe Diem team will dedicate the segment's upcoming issues to encourage everyone affected by the tragic Beirut blast to find psychological sanctuary in written verse. Submissions of either poetry or prose with a word count of 300-400 words will be compiled and shared with readers of Carpe Diem after being reviewed by the team. Through the "Verse Sanctum" initiative, we want to listen to your emotions, and provide for them a safe and welcoming haven.
Ode to the Mad Composer by Assem Bazzi
The matriarchs of my family
As all things do
One missing a leg
One missing an eye
Both still cursed with functioning ears
The Mad composer marches on
To the tune of beer bottles crashing on asphalt
Merrily flailing his arms about to the compositions of his mind
Ushering in the perpetual glass shards that rain on us
Clouds are taunting in the orange blazes of sunsets
Buildings have been ransacked of life
Homes are cathedrals to dead things under the naked sky
I despise the heat
I despise the people who defend the sun
I despise the pharmacist without change
I despise the gas station boy who won’t look me in the eye
I despise the smiles of those filled with unquestioning certainty
I despise the police, the military, and the boy scouts
I despise the traffic and the car’s broken AC
I detest the news and the talking heads
She runs around
Holding out her hand to help others
She runs around
In the midst of the destruction to feed
She runs into my arms
But the weight gets heavy and we both let go
We are all alone
We are all dying alone
While some breath still exists
While fingers keep flipping cigarettes
While the ones whom I love still cry in the corners of their rooms
While we go through the turmoil of feelings drowning us in inactivity
I will go through the motions as best I can
There is no cure to life
Except in momentary lapses of reason
So if you will excuse me…
I shall be following the Mad Composer
As we both usher in the naked sky with endless bottles.
Assem Bazzi is a Lebanese poet who has been contributing to the Beirut poetry performance scene since the summer of 2011. At the time of the explosion, he found himself in a state of quiet desperation and carried on with his day “bitterly accepting the absurdity of it all.”
After the Dust Has Settled by Racha Mourtada
It’s been over a month, and the blast has sunk into our skin, permeated our pores,
crawled into the corner, an uninvited guest we mindlessly feed our stale grief.
It is a multi-layered thing: the cataclysmic explosion, its searing aftermath, muscle
memory triggered by the pop of a balloon at a birthday gathering that was meant to
evoke some semblance of normalcy. It is an efficient executioner: three or four cozily
co-habiting generations felled under each roof, family histories and homes
telescoping and collapsing into the dirt.
It is the residue of thousands of hearts splintered, hundreds of bones broken, dust
we still find in dark corners of rooms we thought the reverberations hadn’t reached.
Fine, powdery glass glinting on the sidewalk, ground into the asphalt by people
desperate to keep up the pretense of going about their lives. It is the indignity of
trees that have bowed down, violently shedding their leaves, disowning summer.
It is the dichotomy, the duality, the unholy mirroring of teenagers dug up from
beneath rubble their classmates scoop up with shiny new shovels. Of wounded
doctors treating the wounded masses. Of teary-eyed residents telling their stories to
teary-eyed journalists. Of people trying to start new lives amidst death, babies born
under scattered debris, wedding dresses fluttering like white flags of submission. It is
volunteers surging through blood-spattered neighborhoods like blood re-oxygenating
It is the atrocity, the avoidability of it all, the apathy that rings louder in its murderous
indifference than the explosion that decimated half a city. It is the altruism of
strangers, the heroism of neighbors lifting each other up onto broken backs and
shoulders when they have been so brutally let down.
It resonates, the relentless echo of horrors counted and recounted in infinite
patterns, yet everyone looks the same in their grief, their rage, their helplessness,
their stoicism. It revisits, a shadow across each sunset, a breath involuntarily caught
at 6:08 every evening.
It is one heart, one month on, still beating, faintly flickering under the wreckage, a
testament to a collective spirit that will not be broken.
Racha is the founder of Luqoom, a boutique publishing house for Arabic and English children's books, based in Beirut. Her first collection of flash fiction, “55 Slightly Sinister Stories,” was published earlier this year by Andrews Mcmeel Universal. She was at home with her family at the time of the explosion and they were luckily at the far end of the room when the windows blew out.
Welcome to Carpe Diem, Annahar's new literary section featuring prose and poetry- old and new, published or hidden within the nooks of unveiled pages of Lebanese writers. We welcome all contributions with the caveat that the section hopes to see rawness and authenticity in thought and emotion. Please send inquiries to Carpe Diem’s executive editor [email protected]