Letter to an Uncle in Nabatiyyeh

by Tarek Ghaddar

Khalo Hassan,

            I was at your daughter’s wedding,

            and it’s the first memory I still have of you,

            and my last memory of you is at another

            wedding, it’s sad, that I can’t tell when

            I’m looking at someone for the last time.

            we were there for your granddaughter’s birth,

            my baby brother sings her name while he plays,

            “Chloe, Chloe, Chloe.” I wish you could’ve known

            them both. maybe they’ll ride bikes and skateboard around the old

            house in Nabatiyeh… I follow your daughter in law on insta

            she’s a wonderful mother. your son is in good hands. what else?

            like you always thought I would, I got into medical school.

            we only had one real conversation really. it was at the aaza

            for Tehta. i remember you saying, “Ma tibki, khalli

            dmuaak lil aayshin,” Do not cry, save your tears for the living, “Wa mat

            khalli eyya insen y shufak hek, rijjel inta. Ma maaneta ma tizaal,

            bas kun al-sakhr libtahdi al-bahr.” Let no one see you cry, be a man.

            That doesn’t mean you cannot grieve, but be the cliff that calms the sea.  I hadn’t yet read

            Marcus Aurelius, did you know you were quoting Marcus Aurelius? No— this was just your nature.

 

Sorry for not visiting your grave; the thawra closed the roads. Jnoub is always closed to me, even when I have nowhere else to go.

About the Author

Tarek Ghaddar grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. He attended the University of Miami for degrees in Biochemistry and English. He continued with a Master's in Public Health at the Miller School of Medicine, and will shortly be attending medical school. His poetry comes from his traumas, such as war and his sister's cancer, as a way of handling them. His work has been published in Eclectica and Mangrove.