Different Skies
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PositionH. K.

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Beirut 2013

He sits on my wall.
Now always.
Just watching, staring
at least he has been,

since hanging on the wall of my grandfather’s house, his warm very English house, at Christmas. The clear sense of which now remains hazily obscured. Except through a strange sensory portal, where the particles that formed the air filling those rooms, a unique combination, interrupts my breath with its scent. So opulently thick, with a violence it drowns, first by entering the nostrils, then engulfing the lungs, passing finally, as a transcending force to that distant warm English Christmas had as a child.

Painstaking hand painted gestures form the clusters of his gleaming white curls. Which partially divert attention from the deep fractions now marking the landscape of what in my child mind’s eye will always be his cheerful disposition. Testimony to his degenerating material effects; the incompetent flaking poster paint and disintegrating sugar paper now bear witness to his near forty years of age. A truth supported by the hidden signature in his fur trim, quietly proclaiming ‘Suzanne 74’. Conjuring a second image, of the author and the sentiment of their intentions, far exceeded now by his languishing presence on my wall. It is not by accident that this full figure, with his big bountiful bag, came to represent on that festive occasion, all the promised ideology of that distant neoliberal land.

To be clear, perhaps I need to explain the distance. As on that occasion, that Christmas, where he was first observed, there had been some distance traveled. On a treacherous journey from an ‘other’ land, which came to its conclusion in that warm house. Comparatively, there could be no question of the reasons for escaping the impenetrable violent forces operating in Lebanon at that time. A complex network of tensions, precariously holding the concrete walls and glass windows of our house intact and upright, just so.

Hannah Arendt writes that throughout his life Walter Benjamin was haunted by a mischievous hunchback from a story told to him as a child by his mother. From time to time, in certain situations he felt this demonic spirit at play, chastising him, tripping him, deceiving him. Scrutinizing this, I consider what consequence this other mythical creature has had? Perhaps it’s the distance which outlines the parameters of his effect. As I watch now, from a safe distance, the same tensions continuously applied. Even further still, as irrevocable transformations concretise my position. Communicated to point, as my accent now naturally comes to mimic yours, in its soft southern English tone. Is this the bind he has me in? To always be held at that safe distance?

Perhaps not. As I return to the house of concrete and glass, still precariously being held, in an untimely freeze. In such a way that the events that took place can be read in the material objects left behind, that still remain, as he does on my wall.

So now,
I come to understand
how he serves to remind me,
always with a gleeful smile,
of that position.

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Beirut  1989