by George El-Hage

I am Beirut
Look at me
Don’t you remember?
I am Beirut
The Jewel of eternity
A boat of emeralds and rubies
A lighthouse built in marble
Don’t you remember?

I am the bride of all cities
Mother of ships and alphabets
And home for those
Who are homeless
Don’’t you remember?
Sole daughter of the East
Sun-colored daughter
Of the brown Levant.

I am Beirut
You know me
Don’’t deny it
I am springtime of play
And intellect
And I am pretty
Yes, and prettier too
You travel long distances
In sunshine and in rain
To sunbathe in my eyes
To play with my hair
To cry on my breasts
Don’’t you remember?

Yesterday when I awoke
Neither my face
Nor my name
Were the same
Neither my hair
Nor my breasts
Were the same
I saw fear wearing my face
Under different shapes and colors
And all I remember
I was punished
For no fault of mine
I was exhausted
They unrobed me
And plucked my flower
And claimed I was guilty
So they crucified me
Without trial
They wanted to make me
Mistress of the high priest
And wife to the red terror
But, God!
I am Beirut
Don’’t you remember?

I’ll always be Beirut
Despite my pains
And scars strewn
In my body and my face
I’’ll always love the East
Despite his caprice
And I’’ll always love
For to love
Is to be Lebanese.

[Translated from the original Arabic by B. Bennani and George El-Hage.]