Saturday, September 19, 2020 – a little over 9 o’clock in the evening:

To whom it may concern or not concern, whichever order pleases you—you, the reader, the listener, the observer,

I would like to weep; but before that, a few words:

My name is Joseph Poladoghly, a twenty-three-year-old somebody from an ineffably small and complex country named Lebanon. I was raised in the capital, Beirut, where everyone fights to preserve their own shadow. Such drama, you’d think. Indeed, it may be a tad dramatic. Why should I overstate myself on a forum that already holds the bulk of the words I’ve produced for the past half a year? I can think of many answers to this one, but the chief one would be the following: simply, to tell myself—and the world—that if I ever leave unannounced, the traces of my presence are stowed somewhere. Words are the imprint that do not fade over time and age. Having said that, I can safely move to my thoughts on writing, of which I lack much experience, young as I am.

It is odd to be facing a blankness that is not a white page. It’s a black screen with contrasting white characters that shoot forward in tandem with the speed of my thoughts. I’ve thus seen myself mirrored in inverted colours. For the past six months, my fingers have buckled, tapped, and drummed against my laptop’s keyboard. I remember the first time a fellow applicant responded to my very first contribution: my heart grew to the size of the ocean and swelled like an impertinent tide. That feeling harboured months ago maintained itself throughout. Ergo, my hands hovered over the stolid alphabetic keys with much virulence and liveliness.

The world around, however, had changed without much consent or warning. What used to be a familiar landscape chipped like broken china: gradually at first, then altogether. Breathing and keeping alive became a task. Words wilted in my heart and they died on my fingertips. As I write this—letter?—down, a string of fresh memories flashes before me, superimposed against a blinking cursor. Have you ever been shoved into a rabbit hole, fell, then found yourself in a world that functioned differently? I hope not. And honestly, I don’t want to get into the details.

Tonight, I leave this forum. The well from which I extracted most of my words has run dry. My pen lies limp next to me, my notebook untouched, and my can of beer as empty as my pack of cigarettes. I look out the window of the studio house I’ve moved in recently, and I can discern the cracks on the opposite building, the aftermath of August 4’s explosion. What poetry can be written with such a sight? What stories can be written? Many, I’d say. But not imminently. For now, there is grief that has not been processed yet, the kind that bemuses you three joints into the night. All lacerations need time to heal; but first, they need to be stitched carefully.

For now, however, I am content with what I have. My youth dreads a future basked in foreboding. What’s going to happen to me, to us? Am I ever going to have a name of my own written in capital letters on a passport? This may sound like gibberish to you, and honestly, thank your lucky stars that this sounds confusing. Literature, after all, is supposed to throw you off guard, isn’t it? Well, is it? I wonder.

What you need to know is this: Somewhere out there, a certain somebody has the song ‘Spirits’ by The Strumbellas playing on repeat.

I got guns in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go
I got guns in my head and they won’t go
Spirits in my head and they won’t go

It’s time to go now. Thank you for this opportunity. I know myself better now.

Much love and admiration,

@babelbob, hand me the potion.