Words Fail as the Bombs Fall

TV Blues”: Day after day/ we stay in front of the screen/ and we see our kids and our parents from the south and the suburbs of Beirut/ dying./ They are dying,/ and we see by Mazen Kerbaj. View more of his work.

I haven’t been able to write. Words irritate me these days. Words distorted and twisted by power, words re-used by journalists and analysts like parrots. A country waging a war becomes a country under siege, resistance groups become terrorists. I do not want to use the language the new rulers of the world are using. I get irritated listening to myself uttering a single word they use.

I haven’t been able to write also because words fail.

I sat yesterday in front of the TV set, watching a broadcast about the Shayyah massacre where 43 people died. It is at the funeral; there are interviews with bereaved mothers:

“They won’t scare us, I lost twelve of my family members, they are all martyrs but I say to the Israeli cowards killing us, we are not scared, I lost twelve, I am still here and I am and we are all for the resistance and for Hassan Nasrallah,” a woman said tearfully. Though how can I put in words what she was feeling, the mixture of deep pain over the loss of family members, yet the spirit of defiance, of steadfastness and the willingness to offer more of herself, of her family members for the resistance and for Lebanon? Words fail.

A father, holding his child — you know what I mean — his dead child, he refused to put him in the coffin, hugged him between his hands. He was walking and hugging the child wrapped in the Lebanese flag … taking him not to the beach, not to Luna Park, but to his coffin. Tell me please how can one put in words how this dad must be feeling? Oh, by the way, oriental dads feel the pain, they cry over the dead too in case you are told the opposite. Tell me please how can one put in words how this dad will live? Words fail.

Funeral procession, women sitting on the tombs of beloved people, crying silently, other women from afar waving their hands and saying goodbye. Words fail.

Funeral procession, a scream, and sounds of a bomb, people panic and leave their dead unburied. Israel hit Beirut with five raids during this funeral. How can one put in words their barbarism? Words fail.

Faint sounds of explosions, my friend Mona calls from the outskirts of Shatila Camp: “They’re dropping flyers over our area now. They are telling Burj el Barajneh, Hay el Solom and Shayyah residents to evacuate, saying they will escalate if Hizbullah won’t stop. The flyers end with a call to people to revolt against Hassan [Nasrallah] and his criminals.” “But what are these sounds?,” I ask. Mona says, “They put the flyers in missiles that explode in the air and make a firework sound. Then we start to see them coming down like drops of rain at first. Then you start to see the shape of the papers. People run into the streets to catch one, to see what awaits us. Is it an evacuation of our area? Anything other than that nobody cares, we read and laugh. They decide our destiny, you know. Where will we go if they ask us to leave? Do you think they will hit us here too, will they escalate?” Fears and worries … and words that fail.

US Middle East envoy David Welch is visiting, trying to pressure the Prime Minister to accept the US-French resolution on Lebanon, at a time when the Israeli government decides to escalate and enlarge their ground invasion. News Flash: Terje Larsen, the EU representative, is coming to Beirut on a mission to resolve the “conflict.” Georg Peterson, Kofi Annan’s right hand man is coming to Beirut to help resolve the conflict … Pressure and more pressure. Why is it they come here to ask us to accept and to sign for our colonization? Why is it us who have to accept? Why does no one go to Israel to ask its leaders to respect the law, to abide by the Geneva Conventions, to stop the war … to … Flyers … Bombing … Diplomacy … Psychological war … pressure and more pressure, from the air, the land the sea. How can one … words utterly fail.

I am sitting, reading news, a loud explosion, it was louder than the ones we hear when they are hitting the southern part of the city. I jump from the table. It is close. It is not close. They haven’t started to hit Beirut … It is louder, but maybe they are using stronger bombs, the biggest bunker buster ever. Ideas are racing in my head, people start to scream in the street below. I look outside. People throw what they were buying from the supermarket and run in all directions. I run to the TV, I start surfing … Al Jazeera, NTV, LBC, Al Manar … Back and forth, back and forth. The phone starts to ring, my parents from Bekaa … “They hit Beirut?” “I do not know.” Panic … fear … how … ? Words fail.

News Flash: The explosions heard in Beirut were caused by two “MK” missiles on the old lighthouse, between the French school, and the Lebanese American Univeristy — in other words, by the house of the former prime minister Rafic Hariri. A few more missiles to put more pressure on the government, more pressure on civilians by killing dozens of their loves ones, hitting the roads, committing massacres, and … yet … words fail. Twisted words, distorted words … terrorism is now called “pressure.”

The bombs hit just a few blocks to the right in a street I walked yesterday with my brothers … and an idea, a fleeting idea, that at any time the roads I have walked thousands of times, houses I have visited, people I know, might disappear in one blow. How can I … ? I have no words.

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Mayssoun Sukarieh is a native of Beirut