1. European Union compliance message: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
Lyn Lifshin: Life in Aleppo
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • Life in Aleppo

    a day without bombs
    is good. You can
    leave your apart-
    ment, wander thru
    small oasis of color
    and light. No words,
    only the sense of
    loss. No color except
    for a plot of green
    and one plum tree,
    not turned to drift
    wood. One man who
    has not left says you
    must live on the lower
    floors to try to escape
    airstrikes, shells, rockets,
    phosphorous bombs,
    cluster bombs. Dreams
    blend with nightmares,
    ghosts rise from the ruins.
    Stark white bones litter
    the streets. No more
    dancing, no more violins.
    No flamingos or pelicans.
    Terror blooms under a
    blue moon. When a small
    bomb lands on top of
    a building, it often takes out
    just the top 2 or 3 stories.
    Lately Bashar al-Assad and
    the Russian military have
    been using a new kind of
    bomb that demolishes the
    whole building. People
    stay out of any rooms near
    the street. There’s no electricity.
    Families rarely leave the apart-
    ment, prefer to die together


    The last garden in Aleppo

    this small oasis of color and life
    as cluster bombs, barrel
    bombs, missiles rain on houses,
    hospitals, schools in this
    hazardous, unpredictable place.
    A gardener was able to grow
    flowers, vegetables, broad
    leaved plants. Roses, gardenias,
    bougainvillea. The gardener’s
    whole existence dedicated
    to the beauty of life, a small
    courageous attempt to promote
    peace. Dust and smoke blur
    the stars, the watered ferns and
    lilies in the shadows. Shivering
    thru the raids, dreaming of
    his dead wife until eventually a
    barrel bomb lands near his
    garden, kills him, his dream that
    the “essence of the world is a
    flower,” the color, smell, how it
    can inspire. But in the time
    since his death, Aleppo seems
    mostly defined  by another
    floral attribute: fragility


    The children

    in Aleppo have to stay
    off the streets or they’ll
    be killed. Their parents
    listen for sounds of war,
    planes or shells, or cluster
    bombs. “We try to live like
    underground rodents,” one
    father says. There are some
    underground schools but
    many parents find them
    too risky. Some families
    who live close to the school
    let their children go if it’s
    not too long a walk. One man
    opened a school called al
    Hikma which means wisdom


    When the bombardment is at its worst

    you start to worry you
    might lose more of your
    friends, call them to
    check in. If you see them,
    when you say goodbye,
    you tell them “take care
    of yourself. Maybe I
    won’t see you


    Maybe you'll try to grow vegetables in your garden

    some grow eggplant,
    parsley and mint. Many
    gardens have become burial
    grounds because there   
    isn’t room anywhere else
    to bury dead bodies after
    four years of war. But
    if the alternative is starving
    to death, you might not mind
    eating food that’s been grown
    among corpses


    Later as the gardener gently touched a few green leaves

    growing out of
    the top of an
    otherwise barren
    stick of a tree.
    “This one was hit
    by shrapnel but
    it is alive. The tree
    will live and we
    will live.” The
    essence of
    the world is
    a flower


    Syrian boy

    cries for Dad
    after losing
    both legs in
    a blast. “Pick
    me up, Daddy,”
    he cries “pick
    me up, pick
    me up”

    Cover image by Bengin Ahmad.
You, IridescentSoul, Dave Rendle and 5 others like this.
  1. Lyndon Hughes
  2. Dax
    Thank you, Lyn.
    Brava. Brava.

    Take care.
  3. TrishSaunders
    This is greatness.
  4. maggie flanagan-wilkie
    "Maybe you'll try to grow vegetables in your garden" is a stand out poem. From the title's opening word, "Maybe"— a curiosity-rouser all on its own—to the poem's last period,  the reader is visualizing what real life is like for survivors of the madness that has Aleppo in its grasp.
  5. TrishSaunders
    Oh my God, these are good. The last one grabbed me by the throat. Thanks for these.
  6. Lavonne Westbrooks
    Very poignant. Thanks for helping us to sharpen our eyes and focus on this terrible human tragedy.