Tag Archives: Bekaa Valley

The Fires of Baalbek

19 Feb

My first post! But first, a story:
This poem was requested by Lebanese poet, Hani Ali Awada, just this last week. I was travelling through Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley and spent the afternoon in awe of the enormous and stunning Roman ruins in Baalbek. My three friends and I stayed at the Jupiter Hotel and met Hani, the owner. I was absolutely delighted to find out that he was a poet (first) and hotel owner (second). A surprising treat that Hani showed us the memorial room he had set up for a late Lebanese poet, Khalil Mutran, and another room dedicated to monthly poetry readings (hot tourist tip). As the evening ensued my friends and I spent three hours being entertained by Hani and and another artist (Tamer Chreif) around a much appreciated wood fire in Hani’s lobby (one of my friends was a fireman so no worries there) sipping Lebanese coffee (think cinnamony sugared espresso). Hani was persuaded to give a dramatic reading of a recent poem in Arabic – and it was beautifully moving. In exchange, he requested that I write one for him – which I did.

He gave me the title of the American Poet.

Therefore, a blog was necessary.

Here is the poem:

The Fires of Baalbek

How little has changed
For the Lebanese of Sun City:
Millennia may pass
But intricacies remain.

I don’t just mean the ruins.
The smiling eyes,
The jovial, amicable welcoming in,
And the fire, the fire, the fire.

There is nothing like huddling
Round a wood-burning stove.
Our poet host, Hani, feeding the flames
Log after laugh after story after log.

Even when the electricity cuts out.
But remains are not ruins;
What remains, stays, endures.
Another log.

The people I have met
Are these beautiful pillars:
Weathering the dearest storms
And standing.

What we have come to learn:
We are intricately connected.
How little things have changed.
And the fire is still young.