To My Son Upon His First Visit to Lebanon
by Hedy Habra
He wanted to see our summerhouse
in the mountains of Baabdat,
enter the pictures
where a young woman his age,
her long hair flowing in the wind,
guided his first steps on the terrace of the villa.
He wanted to dream in a language never learned,
see himself reflected in familiar faces,
recapture smells and fragrances.
He finally saw the orchard his father planted
tree after tree, green and black figs, cherries,
peaches, plums, pears, apples and almonds…
One hundred fruit trees
we would not see blossoming
spring after spring.
And the purple grape seeds from Japan,
the miniature green seedless Banati from Egypt,
covering the trellis, tempting clusters hanging low,
casting shadows on the shaded patio.
The cut stone house with its tiled roof
seemed out of place.
What ever happened
to the one in the family album?
No longer surrounded by green mountain slopes,
nor an open view to the horizon.
Erratic buildings sprouted like mushrooms
during the civil war.
Concrete was biting the flanks of the mountains,
spreading like a contagious disease.
He rang the doorbell.
The tenants were friendly, inviting him in.
They said the present owner was very proud
of his orchard, that he himself
had planted each one of these tall, imposing trees…
He called us excited, said he wanted to buy
the house back. We could spend summers there.
Time regained, he thought,
eager to relive our dream,
retrieve its lost broken pieces,
I tried to explain what does belonging mean exactly?
And does it really matter?
First published by Pirene’s Fountain
PHOTO: Mountain village, Lebanon, by Anna Om, used by permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We left Lebanon at the onset of the civil war and lived in Europe before coming to the United States in 1981.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Our summerhouse in Baabdat, Lebanon. Copyright Hedy Habra
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hedy Habra is a poet, artist and essayist. She has authored three poetry collections, most recently, The Taste of the Earth (Press 53 2019), Winner of the Silver Nautilus Book Award, Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and Finalist for the Best Book Award. Tea in Heliopolis won the Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes was finalist for the Best Book Award and the International Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Her book of criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa, examines the visual aspects of the Peruvian Nobel Prize Winner’s narrative. A 15-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the net, and recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Award, her multilingual work appears in numerous journals and anthologies. Visit her at hedyhabra.com.