The Lebanese Restaurant

When the family came to Berwick they left
their Lebanon behind them, wherever it had been.
They settled in their restaurant, perched above theTweed,
feet only from the bridge that Edward opened as the king,
before he fled from conflict of his own. They brought
the fragrance of a culture that imbues the streets
of Asia with its fragrances, its noise of conversations,
its men with serious faces and with cigarettes,
and women, dark-eyed, emerging from the veil,
into the silky glamour of their headscarfs. They brought
the name “Delicious” and waited for the customers to come.

No one escapes, even in our chilly outback northern town:
the bomb and counter bomb; the threat of knives,
and vests that grip their owners in a one way journey
to murder and oblivion. Thus seized with vengeance
of his own, an unnamed crusader of hatred and despair
hammered through their windows, left our own dishonoured
flag across the damage that he’d caused. As if Tabbouleh
and Baba Ganoush showed support for blood and terror.

The blooms and fragrances of war that graced the boulevards,
the shattered streets and concrete scattered through
the thoroughfares of life; a land where years of war,
a hundred thousand dead, and yet more disappeared;
these stories, numberless, brought them to our lives.

Their restaurant is now closed, the “Lazeez” sign is gone.
Which part of that diaspora that spread out from
Bierut, from Druze and Maronite, from Israeli shells,
and rockets launched by Hezbollah – which marked a trail
across the eastern skies and seas from Canaan
and those proud Phoenician galleys, we will never know.

Berwick-upon-Tweed, November 2017

[“lazeez” means “delicious”]

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