Neil Flatman

For Mayssam and Beirut


Read by Mayssam El Kaii

We discuss what’s been mislaid
but never lost: from the view
across the bay and out to sea,
to the two-stroke city down below
the balcony. She says a heart beats
in the brick, even the trees now
gone to rubble on the street.
You find it too in memory:
Nobody eats! (says a long-passed aunt),
the way they did, and nowadays
it seems, we waste away.
It’s in the hummus and tabbouleh,
and the colours of the mountains
in the spring. Dust across the shoe’s
dry tongue. You can hear it in the tone
of certain words. Sahtein, sahtein!
And Smallah. For the baby
in her arms. Shokran, shokran gazilan.
For every kindness. Mabrouk!
for the rose gold ring. And the girls
say Wallah? Wallah. Like a breath.
And the Adhan calls for dawn, but not
for me, while the birds sing songs,
but none I recognise. And I can’t tell
if I’m mislaid or if I’m lost. Open-
mouthed I tilt my head back,
wait for rain.

Neil Flatman is an alum of the Tin House summer workshop and The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. His poems can be found or are forthcoming in Bombay Gin, Ithaca Lit, Palette Poetry, and The Paragon Press, among other journals. His poem “Objectify” was included in the anthology Written Here. 

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