The Mediterranean sky smears wispy clouds
like textured paint with dried bubbles
across the Beirut beach horizon line.
The warm salt mingles with the fragrance
of humid-city, and the sun
glinting off the windsurfer’s masts
shimmers on the cool-sanded coast.
Lebanese boys – like my father
and his brothers – learn windsurfing to forget
the untimely deaths of their fathers.
The fathers of most of the boys slipped away
to the all but civil war, raging
in the streets of the 80’s. Some returned
to their boys – my grandfather did –
but they were all battered,
bloody and gasping.
It wasn’t the gunshots that swiss-cheesed
my grandfather’s lungs, it was the black-tar
tissue feeding too-late malignancies.
Coping with his death
meant the boys started sucking
cigarettes and mint leaves at thirteen
to pay respects, to be just like him.
At sixteen, they plop down,
spread their legs in threadbare recliners,
hiding their spoons to ensure
their friends and uncles don’t notice
they stirred sugar into their black,
Coping meant slipping away too – America.
The boys dispersed and grew
like the Cedars of their land – strong
bastards – coarse, knotted, crooked and branded
from their uncle’s batons and belts.
They do their best to raise American sons
and daughters who don’t need to learn windsurfing,
But my father, among the cigarettes
and mint, ate lemons whole,
skin and all, just to spit
the sour into my eyes with every word.
Coping meant at fifty-five,
my father keeled over, just like him.
My father’s blood sludge
like his coffee, sugar and fat
crystals coating his veins. My sister and I paid
respects to his malignancies while the ocean
glint disappeared from his eye.
I’ve never seen the Beirut horizon,
or smelled the city, but the sickly nostalgia
of minty smoke lingers,
and my eyes no longer lemon-burn.
Emerson Kurdi is a Master’s Student at Texas Tech University, studying Poetry. He is originally from Allen, Texas and spends his time training his dogs, playing guitar, or hanging out with his friends on a restaurant patio.