April 19th 1995. Tim McVeigh parks a rented Ryder truck loaded with 1 ton of Nitrate Ammonium in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, and ignites a timed fuse. At 9:04am, the surrounding area looks like a war zone. A third of the building is reduced to rubble. Floors flattened like pancakes. Dozens of cars incinerated. Over 300 nearby buildings damaged or destroyed. August 4th 2020. A container with 2700 tons of Ammonium Nitrate enclosed explodes in the port of Beirut.

Do the math
The glass
of a thousand buildings binding
in its frame
a million windows breaking
free. Glass a metaphor
for a torn nation searching
for its seams
grape leaves
وراء عنب
my grandma’s specialty
leaves bulging at the hem
Teta — why
do they taste different every time and
have you been skimping on the meat and
can we ever demand consistency?
That at least misery should come in a single flavor — where
do I file this complaint?
The department of plagues, the ministry of
curses. Glass a metaphor
for transparency
a careful exercise in keeping things at bay
a city bursting
at the irony
which of two hymns to hum now

[Li Beirut] meaning To Beirut sung by the grief struck voice of Fayrouz kissing the forehead of Beirut’s rocks, the ribs of its houses, eating the sweat-soaked bread of its people, picking flowers blooming in the slit a wound left in the throat of a teen, watered by the tears of their mother mourning a glory made of ashes.

بيروت ست الدنيا
[Beirut sett el dounia], Beirut lady of the world carried by Majida El Roumi. An accusation borrowing the voice of the perpetrators. A girl’s finger pointed at the nations whose envy fed the wars that fed on our city. A dagger where we thought we’d find a rose. An invitation. To rise from the rubble like a revolution born from the womb of sadnesses.

you sang the first one often
the second during bombings and assasinations
Fayrouz, the chronic voice of grief
Majida the acute screech of indignation
Both voices blasting the kitchen windows where Teta
folds the grape leaf over the filling
rolls, keeps tucking the left and right sides
until every grain is contained
This container
outdid every war we’ve known
Tonight, my city is
alone in the night
one with the night
The bed you tucked me into
covered in shards


Halim Madi is the author of “Flight of the Jaguar” and “In the Name of Scandal”. They write about queerness, plants that make you see colors and the immigrant experience. You can find more of their work on http://www.halimmadi.com.