“There, There, Grieving.” A Poem by Zeina Hashem Beck

From Her New Collection O

July 5, 2022  By Zeina Hashem Beck

Where are you from?
Where are you headed?
What are you doing?

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–Rabia Al-Adawiyya


Little brother, we are all grieving
& galaxy & goodbye. Once, I climbed inside
the old clock tower of my hometown
& found a dead bird, bathed in broken light,
like a little christ.

Little christ of our hearts, I know
planets light years away
lie under our tongues. We’ve tasted them.
We’ve climbed staircases saying, There, there.

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Little brother, we are all praying. Every morning,
I read out loud but not loud enough
to alarm anyone. Once, my love said, Please
open the door. I can hear you talk. Open the door.

Little christ of our hearts, tell anyone
you’ve been talking to god & see
what happens. Every day,
I open the door. I do it by looking
at my daughter on a swing—
eyes closed & crinkled, teeth bared.
I say, Good morning good morning you
little beating thing.

Little brother, we are all humming.
More & more, as I read, I sound
like my father with his book of prayers,
turning pages in his bed—a hymn
for each day of the week, a gift
from his mother, who taught me
the ten of diamonds is a win, left me
her loose prayer clothes. Bismillah

Little christ of our hearts, forgive me,
for I loved eating the birds with lemon,
& the sound of their tiny bones. But I couldn’t
stomach the eyes of the fried fish.

Little brother, we are always hungry.
Here, this watermelon. Here, some salt
for the tomatoes. Here, this song
for the dead birds in time boxes,
& the living. That day in the clock tower,
I saw the city too, below—

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the merchants who call, the blue awnings,
the corn carts, the clotheslines, the heat,
the gears that turn, & the remembering.


From O by Zeina Hashem Beck, courtesy Penguin Books.

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Zeina Hashem Beck
Zeina Hashem Beck
Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her poetry collection, O (Penguin Books, 2022) won the 2023 George Ellenbogen Poetry Award. She’s also the author of Louder than Hearts (Bauhan Publishing, 2017), To Live in Autumn (The Backwaters Press, 2014) as well as two chapbooks: 3arabi Song (Rattle, 2016) and There Was and How Much There Was (smith|doorstop, 2016). Her work appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation, and elsewhere. She recently moved to California with her husband and two daughters.

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