Paul-Newell Reaves’
ATLAS: vol. III Beirut, LB



Empty Lot, Rue Rushid
SAE Contracting
Le Rouge Cafe, Gemneyzeh
Displays of Wealth



Empty Lot, Rue Rushid

Glass bottle, plastic bottle, lid from can of tinned beef; broken concrete blocks, orange and off-white smashed ceramic; Breteche’s red wine, empty, Tropicana Slice, empty, Almaza Lebenese beer, empty.  Buick Century with single bullet hole in windshield.  Missed.  Some dog’s old shit.  Man that’s a big dog.  But that other shit, over there, that looks like human shit.




SAE Contracting

Gap in rust iron construction fence reveals narrow stair descending six stories into mountainside.

On rising yellow crane, a taut brown man locks legs against steel beams to swing six-lb sledge.  He pounds bolts into place.

Another sky-scraping tower will rise.

Beirut builds.  And from amongst still bullet scarred edifices― sweeping windows, burned walls― unstoppable capitalist enterprise will kill, mercifully, swiftly.

A billboard speaks, “Building Concrete Dreams.  Al-Sabah cement.”




Le Rouge Cafe, Gemneyzeh

Creamy yellow warms the walls of Cafe le Rouge in the Christian, therefor French-speaking Gemneyzeh neighborhood of East Beirut.  Twenty-five narrow lines from Antoine de Saint Exupery’s le Petit Prince are writ in deep crimson from ceiling to table level.

A more sophisticated menu could not be imagined― ignoring the filet mignon and Courvoisier― this menu quotes Einstein, Ionesco, Victor Hugo.  “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.  Nothing would be because everything would be what it wasn’t.  And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be.  And what it wouldn’t be, it would, you see?” babbles a Lewis Carol.

Rowland Barthes’ Language is Skin quote; Jules’ Feiffer’s Artists can Color the Sky Red; Wilde’s Imagination and Humor: but no punches are pulled― Malcolm X’ Black Coffee quote dares you to order a cappuccino.  Espresso Doppio costs 8,000 Lebanese lira, but reading the menu for twenty minutes, smoking French Gaulouis cigarettes is worth far more, for no one looks at you when you order your first beer at 10:10, Cairo time.




Displays of Wealth

In al-Beil, downtown, between filed and manicured new builds in old styles, housing nothing, empty luxury apartments, busy designer stores where no one buys anything, a clock tower rises from a pedestrian rotary.

Here, the wealth, affluence and leisure of the city’s powerful parade their children with their brand new toys.  The weight of wealth lies bare on these children’s backs. Suppose that seven-year-olds brand new Power Wheel buggy were to suddenly stop forever.  Suppose a drop of mud fell on that pudgy girl’s in red and black checkered woolen coat, suppose mud splattered on her highly polished Couture boots.  Suppose this dark haired boy’s favorite ice-cream flavor suddenly were not available― what bitter tears of anguish would flow from hearts never knowing want, hunger, briefest disappointment.

My heart is heavy for these poor, spoiled children.





more ATLAS


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