from Beirut (1982-84): a cycle of poems
By Michael Campagnoli
In the Bar of the Commodore
The shelling had gone on for 24 hours, but
Fouad was smiling. Coco, the parrot, was skilled
at imitating the incoming. She’d whistle and everyone
“At least they’re not aiming at us,” I said
(I was still young then).
“That’s precisely what does worry me,” Kittredge,
the Englishman, answered.
We couldn’t get our dispatches out. We couldn’t
get anything in or out. We couldn’t get food or mail or
those Turkish cigarettes Kittredge loved. But, somehow,
the bar of the Commodore was always stocked and Fouad
always smiled. “Tonight,” he said in his broken, unctious
English, “we ‘ave Bar‑r‑r‑Bee‑Kew,” and smiled broadly
(a mouth full of yellowed teeth like fat golden corn).
And Coco did her act.
She was very good.
And we all ducked.
The Christians waited until he got over the stone wall
in the garden, then shot him. He was carrying
a grenade launcher and it was heavy, clumsy
and he was having trouble getting over.
“Ooou-ah!” he cried and fell head-first,
then sat up and kicked the launcher, which
snapped back and hit him in the head.
He began to weep, violently.
It was embarrassing.
That’s when they shot him.
“I hate the ‘beards’,” the shooter said smiling.
That’s what they called the Hezbollah, the “Beards.”
But he was just a kid, really.
*The above poems first appeared in Rattle.
Michael Campagnoli writes: “My best friend, Tom Ehret, died in mighty silence one Tuesday night. He lived in a riot of sound and excess and ran, at times, from life but always in the end embraced it. Life’s terrible belly was as far as he could reach, yet most will never see as much nor live as long, and if they have the courage to kiss at all, must plant it somewhere further down. I should have known Tom would go to bed too soon, like Lear’s Fool, inexplicably at noon. I wrote these poems for him.” Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org