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The Vote

Sea Turtle Sonnet

by Zeina Hashem Beck

Our parents stayed during the civil war.
Don’t say we escaped, just that we too failed.
We left Beirut on the verge of collapse
& revolution. That clearing of hope,
where would we be without it? Ask Ziad,
who put the city on a stage & laughed
at its slow ways of killing us with pills
or memory. So many of us scream
in concerts & sleep. When in doubt, try kohl.
The artist with Cairo in his name sings
“This is a cause,” friend, “& that’s another:”
save sea turtles & ignore oppression,
poppies. When the dark times come, try yoga.
Don’t say we betrayed, just that we too feared.
Don’t say we betrayed, just that we too feared
poppies. When the dark times come, try yoga,
save sea turtles & ignore oppression.
“This is a cause,” friend, “& that’s another.”
The artist with Cairo in his name sings
in concerts & sleep. When in doubt, try kohl
or memory—so many of us scream
at its slow ways of killing us with pills.
Who put the city on a stage & laughed?
Where would we be without it? Ask Ziad
& revolution, that clearing of hope.
We left Beirut, on the verge of collapse.
Don’t say we escaped, just that we too failed
our parents, stayed during the civil war.


ZEINA HASHEM BECK is a Lebanese poet. Her third poetry collection, titled O, was published by Penguin Books in July 2022. It won the 2023 Arab American Book Award for Poetry and was named a Best Book 2022 by Lit Hub and the New York Public Library.

This sonnet references a song by “Cairokee,” and the line This is a cause, and that’s another is quoted directly from it. The song also mentions sea turtles as follows: They save sea turtles, they kill human animals. Cairokee, “Telk Qadeya (This Cause),” CairokeeOfficial channel on YouTube, November 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf3BvhjWTKg. “Telk Qadeya” is a poem by the Egyptian poet Mostafa Ibrahim.

Ziad refers to Ziad Rahbani, Lebanese musician and playwright. “That clearing of hope” is a nod to a line by Al-Tughra’i, a line which Ziad satirizes in one of his plays.

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