"Walking: Beirut and Paris, 1974 - 1987" by Terri Brint Joseph


I had taken this walk so often
I knew every paving stone by heart:
Straight down rue Mahatma Gandi,
Past the Grand Mosque where
Shy students chanted the Koran,
And then Mustafa at Sidani suk
Who'd smile and say, "Good morning

I was always glad to reach
The little Turkish palace
Amid the new apartment buildings
And loved for being different
The palace's three arched windows
And orange tree in the garden.

I would pause at the corner
of Bliss Street,
Turning away from the university
For my first glimpse of the sea,
And to the east: Blue mountains
ridged with snow.

It was so familiar
I had almost become inured
To the sight of the lighthouse
Rising sharply from cliffs
And the sea spread suddenly
Around me on three sides.

But this time,
Beside you,
Crossing the Corniche,
I saw it as if for the first time,
Startled by its beauty.

A few yards into the sea,
We discovered a curious grotto,
half-filled with restless water.
As you watched, silent,
I sat on its mossy ledge
And seemed to breathe the sea itself
As it crashed about us.

You spoke at last,
But your words were caught by the wind
And I by a fresh vision of your face.

Your skin seemed textured as the cliffs
Which rose above you:
Your eyes took on a greenish cast
Straight from the sea.

I was mostly silent
(10,000 words between us;
And what had they accomplished?
We love — or we persisted —
In spite of what we'd said).

But I did say as we rose to go
That though I'd taken this walk before,
in many weathers,
in many moods,
Until today, I had lacked a companion.
You smiled, but as usual,
Did not address my loneliness.

And — how sad for both of us
That I must write this line —
You never again
Accompanied me on this walk,
And I did not know how to ask.


Now, more than a decade later,
Beirut lies in shambles,
The Corniche one of her worst battle zones,
And we?

After our own civil war,
We are expensively divorced,
And following separate paths.
Each of us end up sojourning
In Paris, where we bumped into
each other
On your forty-ninth birthday,
In the eglise St. Germain-de-Prés.
Although I declined to give you
my address,
I trust we will heal
More quickly than torn Beirut.


For more of Terri, see my page: Tribute: Terri Brint Joseph