Neo-Beirut, Closed City
by J.D. Harlock
(This poem is best viewed on a PC)
Author’s Note: The Guardians of the Cedars (GoC) were a far-right ultranationalist Lebanese party that operated its own Israel-backed militia in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Ideologically, it advocated for the “de-Arabization” of Lebanon, promoted Phoenicianism, and was the only paramilitary and political organization openly committed to cooperation with Israel. Though the GoC was vehemently anti- Palestinian and its base primarily composed of Lebanese Christians, it was formally secularist, stressing a secular nationalist identity as opposed to a sectarian one that other right-wing parties and militias (both Muslim and Christian) advocated for.
It is these unique political positions among Lebanese militias that made them an ideal antagonist in my Neo-Beirut series. The series envisions a Lebanon so grim that though the sectarianism fueling us has been removed to deal with more pressing concerns, our proclivity for fascism and xenophobia remains. This is a rejection of the prevailing political narrative suggesting that the end of sectarianism in Lebanon will be the end to our problems. I believe the problems we’re facing are far more intrinsic to the Lebanese character than we would like to admit.
* * *
creeping silence, fleeting light—attuning the sky
to the dead channel, where savages
scour streets looking to loot
the spoils of Laodicea
once men—even friends, brothers . . .
Now they feast on us, subsisting on
the ichor of the old world before
devouring each other
Fire one shot into the air,
proclaim our presence,
that is all that is needed
Turning to face you—empty eyes trace up
what was once a shrine in holy land to
see and behold a
Guardian of the Cedar
At that moment, it is known
New Phoenicia has been tainted.
Stay—their heads will decorate the pikes of a rising power
Run—in time, the entire resistance will meet the same fate
All these creatures can do now is
through a world of darkness . . .
J.D. Harlock is a Syrian Lebanese Palestinian writer and editor based in Beirut. In addition to his posts at Wasafiri, as an editor-at-large, and at Solarpunk Magazine, as a poetry editor, his writing has been featured in New Lines Magazine, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, Nightmare Magazine, and the SFWA Blog. You can find him on Twitter @JD_Harlock.