Omar Sakr: On Belonging to a Country that Cannot Keep its Children

Hassan Ammar (AFP), Beirut, 19 October, 2019. Source:


after & for Ghassan Hage


The day is forecast as catastrophic. Heat

strangles the sky. It bulges, a rotten purple.

Earlier, an old Greek and a friend unexpected

slipped into my sleeping throat to see

why I bulged, rotting within: a history

believed in, threatens to become faith

in a future―didn’t anyone tell you

never to eat a seed? Oh it grows, it grows.

You must lose this weight to be at ease.

I rode the wind to another city

to tell it to get off my back, out my belly,

& it swallowed me whole into its riot, or

Tuesday as it was better known, where

aunties & uncles circled to hold my nude

loving, my rude namelessness & we,

none of us truly family except in our living,

considered whether to kiss or kill

the soldiers in our minds. The country

burns still, and the smoke of it blurs blue ocean,

forest, fences. I mistakenly mow my neighbour’s

yard. I weep into a stranger’s handbag &

she says my son now is not the time for grieving,

it is the time for returning & this & this & this

is what bulges and burns: you refuse, again

to kiss your mother’s feet, to call her home.


Author’s Note: This poem was written for, and after, Ghassan Hage. The title is his, a phrase he used in a talk he gave in Western Sydney, upon his return from Lebanon, where he had been for the entirety of the uprising there. The uprising is ongoing. He spoke to a room full of the diaspora, among them those who left Lebanon during the civil war in the 70s, and those like me, who are their children.