The Good Arabs

By Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch
Book Cover of Translated from the Gibberish
The Good Arabs
By Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch
Metonymy Press (2021)

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Maa al Salama

With age, we become more intimate, something that makes us both sweat
if only we could speak more plainly, instead, we sweat and we sweat


the past becomes the present when we speak it into existence
my khalo tells me about the time he first came to Canada, sweaty


in the way I inherit, nervous in the way I also inherit
he took a boat and then a plane, and then a plane, dripping with sweat


sitting beside an Egyptian man, mouth hard with G. My khalo is kind but distracted
though the conversation gives him some lightness, a little bit of sweet-

ness lingering in the man’s mouth after they share chocolate, he looks my uncle up
and down and khalo takes a gulp, his body vibrating with a new kind of nervous sweat

at the security checkpoint, his armpit stains so wet the T-shirt looks
three times as dark, through his grey shirt he sweats and he sweats

staring at the tall back in front of him, he joins one of the lines, praying, Allah y saaedneh
when he looks up finally, he sees a familiar face smiling at him, drying the sweat

Ahlan! the Egyptian man says and my khalo passes him his passport. Barely looking at it
the man passes it back, my khalo replying with a hurried suite

of shoukrans with the most thanks he’s ever felt, maa al salama, waves the man
maa al salama says my uncle, his passport and palms dripping with sweat

We Are Not at Home Here

You sit in the country of your oppression. I, visitor, sit in the country I call home.
It’s complicated. Neither of us is at home here. Neither of us is foreign. Men look at
me like a melting piece of milk chocolate, lighter, filled with almonds, something
to crack in half, look inside of. They look at you the same way but you don’t notice.
We understand staring differently, though you are not so strange, not so queer.
When I go back home, I find it dull, lacking fresh bananas and jasmine. I find at
home the weightlessness of the English language, though I write it daily, speak it
daily, mix in words of French here and there as I climb the bus. I find comfort in
the glares here, they have less weight. They have seen many like me here, though a
glare is a glare and maybe I still don’t feel safe. When we send video messages on
WhatsApp, you say you went to the protests, and people leaving told you they were
being tear-gassed, to avoid going in. You and your friend entered and inevitably got
tear-gassed. The Montreal police are on very friendly terms with tear gas. We are in
different places but we are not. I video message you words of comfort and you say,
it is just the windows that are shattered, and Teta, she is a bit shaken up.

The Cycle

1.

these days, I see capitalism written plainly in every poem, though the poetry
masters say show, don’t tell, but if we were to show this indiscernible void, the make-
believe of pieces of paper, sometimes coin, that make the world go, not round, but
into the hands of the few, would this change how you see this intoxication with
power?

2.

he looks up from his food, a hamburger between two slices of bread, and asks as
though this were the most important question, will Teta have enough khoboz to eat
back home?

3.

article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits having sexual relations that are
“contradicting the laws of nature,” which is punishable by up to a year in prison. as
a practical matter, enforcement of the law has been varied and often occurs through
occasional police arrests.

that is to say, this law was put in place by the French government in the early 1900s.

they say a relic.

I say a shift in the century, a matter of public privacy.

she says aaybeshoum, which means, we have absorbed their respectability.

4.

these days, I see more people looking for work. it is unavailable. those of us in the
service industry must risk our lives or risk our lives. there is never really a choice.
one way or another, they will ultimately claim us. who are they? we don’t even
know. the facelessness makes them undetectable.

5.

I marvel at the care I find in my neighbours, in my friends, in the people on the
internet tweeting dark jokes that sustain me through another day. this weakness in
us, in you, in me, is not weakness but a sickness, not always of our own making. we
try our best to help each other, but they do not let us. tents are destroyed. shelters
must be sober. the snow falls for the first time, and though the streets glimmer
white, it is not a good omen.

6.

one day there is money, the next there is not. the value plummets though the pieces
of paper still look the same, the lira sitting in my old wallet, hidden away.

7.

the riots begin, a consequence of so much death. it only makes sense. we debate
whether this is the right recourse or not. this is not up for debate. what is the
difference between objects and people? when we turn certain people into objects,
we become monsters, ugliness seen not in the way we look, but in our hearts, drying
up yellow, quickly. redirect our attention.

8.

the death of one political man means nothing. i would say woman or person, but
it is almost always a man. they replace one man with another, and it is always the
same. this time it is in our faces. escalated, some of us adapt. the men are starving,
but not for food. this insatiable hunger leaves us wanting for more.

9.

but what is a homosexual who is not a homosexual outdoors, not indoors, not in
private? but what is an Arab who is not a homosexual who is not an Arab who is
not a homosexual?

read: you may only transition if you have the surgery.

that is to say, you must become one of us.

10.

read: a year in prison, read: the police are called, read: the bars are raided, read: acts
“contradicting the laws of nature,” read: at the hands of the police, read: and the
military.

read: I will not describe to you what violations occur, what a prison looks like, if
only to stop the violence from reoccurring on the page.

don't let me be lonely

after Claudia Rankine

she said don't let me be lonely

and i said, lonely? okay.

her meaning i meaningfully obscure

she is probably smarter than me

it's hard to admit as a virgo

i can’t tell if you hear what i'm saying

the absence is essentially forgotten

THE ONLY THING ON MY MIND IS FUCK ISRAEL

the only thing i put out into the world is don't talk to me

the only thing i reach for is your hand

if only I had a dollar for everytime i hear someone say ay-rab

i would not have many dollars because I don't have tv

I don't live in the states

I don't do many drugs

i did cocaine once, does that count?

those silly people don't know anything about anything

i am silly and don't know anything about anything

if we compare ourselves to those loved by many

we will always get hate on twitter

don’t give your opinion too loudly

don’t tell them that they're wrong

cancel culture doesn't exist for the privileged

we weigh in on matters far away

keep your six meters away from me

you might not be able to see it

but the only part of my nose that i love

is the part that's bigger than yours

Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch
Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch is a queer Arab poet living in Tio'tia:ke, unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory.
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