Kaleem Hawa

Sons of Eve

The obituary wasn’t long. You were loved by many,
read by some, known by few. From your balcony,
you wrestled with the great texts, translated the canon,
the epics of love and blood and redemption,
inscriptions splattered on faded margins,
crumpled and thrown to the old city below.

Your letters rang bells across the sky, shaking from right
to left, unsettling the stillness of the camps, flooding
with noise the streets of Shatila, of Mar Elias—
solemn outposts built amongst the cypress,
once strangled in a foliage of sadness old,
now swaying to the winds of your mountain voice.

You were our national poet,
a myth imbuing his pain with a people, inscribing
onto yellowed pages, onto brown skin,
the story of Eden’s lonely exiles, those who
sang and danced and cried to share the night,
lest they stop to mourn the home they never had.

Your words hurt like his—haunting and harrowing
and heaving with energy, with pain, with the trauma
of the carousel, spinning visions of you, a boy,
eyes of submerged flame, half-drowned, walled up tears,
threatening to spill over—words to disquiet the deaf, and
blind the seeing, with their dust and dirt and dark.

I saw you the day before you died, bedridden in Bachir’s fortress,
an abandoned theatre—audience of two. We yelled out
to our God to fill the seats, to fill the villages, emptied.
We burnt that sour Book of Exodus, watching the people running,
grasping to taste the salt of the sea, to kiss the gates of paradise,
one last song from the sons of Eve.


Kaleem Hawa2


Kaleem Hawa is a doctoral student at Oxford University, who writes about home, loss, and exile from the perspective of a Canadian whose parents and grandparents were refugees. His writing has been previously published in the Oxford Poetry Society, among other local and regional magazines.