• The Beggars of Beirut

    A Poem by Philip Metres

    scroll through dumpsters
    like daily digital feeds,

    translating trash to dinner.
    This auntie doles out

    packages of napkins,
    searching my face

    for a smudge of compassion.
    She adjusts her hijab,

    collapses in shadow
    of a highrise naked

    of windows. This boy
    sells gum—no, a smile

    that pleads for keys
    to the house

    of mercy. That one
    extends stubs to a ballet

    once featuring her
    lissome legs. Today,

    she prays aloud for me,
    imperturbable god

    with the leisure
    to ignore the cries.

    My lost sisters, my dear
    sons, my done uncles

    and drained mothers, my
    beloved broken

    fingers, you tap me
    to the spine, column

    climbing my clouded
    sight, and past, rising

    to a place so high
    and so far, we can’t be told

    or held apart.

    Philip Metres
    Philip Metres
    Philip Metres is the author of Ochre & Rust: New Selected Poems of Sergey Gandlevsky (2023), Shrapnel Maps (2020), The Sound of Listening (2018), Sand Opera (2015), and other books. His work has garnered fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Lannan Foundation, NEA, and the Ohio Arts Council. He has received the Hunt Prize, the Adrienne Rich Award, three Arab American Book Awards, the Lyric Poetry Prize, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University, and Core Faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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