Lessons from Lebanon: The Green Line

11 Apr

The second of a handful of poems in the Lessons from Lebanon series, this one came by surprise – the best poems do – in downtown Beirut. We were walking along the famous Civil War boundary when a security guard stopped us for a friendly chat. I’m not going to lie, I was a little intimidated… until he started showing us pictures and smiling a lot. 

We were standing just in front of this massive cinema, irreconcilably one of the most startling reminders in the immediate area of the war.

Lebanese Civil War, Cinema, Green Line

According to Wikipedia, the Green Line is: “a line of demarcation in Beirut, Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990. It separated the mainly Muslim factions in West Beirut from the Christian Lebanese Front in East Beirut. The appellation refers to the coloration of the foliage that grew because the space was uninhabited.”

Just what this poem is about.

The Green Line

There is a man who stands along the Green Line,

Security guard on the cinema side –

The theatre wrenched open splaying grey

 And thirty years of decay.

Juxtaposed with the beautiful blue topped

Mosque next door or the white

Of the churches down the road.

With a wave he invited us to hear

The story of civil war on the space I stood

Just one generation before.

He tells me through yellowing teeth

From many cups of sweet coffee

And with a smile, his story (with pictures).

And gazing behind him,

In the open innards of the edifice

With its metal skeleton bare

And its guts amiss

I see unfurled a single arm of green ivy

From somewhere deep within

Reaching up, up to the sky.


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