Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"...we will fertilize our orchards with the bones of our dead and we will endure, we will return."

Time to repost this.

There has been a vile betrayal of the Cedar Revolution and the future of Lebanon looks as fragile as that of a newborn with very low birthweight. There are solid and determined elements there, however, that provide real hope for the future. Nothing I write can add to the power of these words from Leila Abu-Saba. She and her family live in California but her life and values shine as an example of the best that grows from that ancient fertile soil.

My father, a poet, an engineer, a husband, grandfather and second father to countless cousins, was told by his oncologist yesterday that his lung cancer is inoperable and he has between six months to one and a half years to live.

My father loves Lebanon as much as he loves life itself. The land and the people and the language of Lebanon are as his own flesh. The blow to his country this week is a disaster for him (for all of us). He has been holding himself back from the news so as to steady himself for the lab results, all the while hoping that the mass would turn out benign.

After the first shock last night, my father got out his poems and began reading them in a voice newly revived. He still has air, he still has spirit, he still has lungs to recite his verse.
My mother and father decided that they will host a series of readings at their California home, small gatherings where he gets to read his poetry, others may too if they wish, and all can share food, drink and company.

This is the true spirit of the Lebanese. Life goes on. In the donut shop with my children this morning I saw the coffins of children in Tyre lined up on the giant screen tv. Sign of Armageddon? CNN asked in the next cut. As if Lebanon is the only country harboring religious fervor leading to insanity.

Anyway, we bought bagels and chocolate milk beneath coffins of the dead lined up beneath spray-painted numbers. Next clip, live children held Israeli leaflets warning them to flee for their lives, because their village will be bombed "for their own security." My children and I looked at the screen and then we went to a birthday party. My heart was sick and yet the children are children and must continue with their lives, plenty of time for war to blight them later, for now their routine needs to be as normal as possible. Mothers all over Lebanon, mothers in Syria, Gaza, Iraq, and Israel, are doing the same, to the best of their powers, though their hearts are breaking.

My father is going to host a party until he no longer can. Because one thing Lebanese know how to do is love life and love each other and recite poetry and eat good food, whether or not the bombs are destroying us, whether or not the cancer is destroying us, whether or not the rest of the world hates us, thinks we're expendable. We know how to live and we know how to laugh in spite of everything.

You cannot exterminate us. You can decimate our numbers but you cannot defeat us. We will plant a grapevine in the parched ruins of our houses and we will graft new olive saplings onto the blasted stumps and we will fertilize our orchards with the bones of our dead and we will endure, we will return. Whatever is left to us, we will celebrate, and we will go to our deaths with lyric poetry on our lips, watching the sun drop into the blood-colored sea.

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