Aleppo’s Child.

‘Aleppo is a place where the children have stopped crying,’ he says,

And in the stillness of your dust-covered features, tiny hands

Streaked in a whiteness that should have been flour sneaking there from your mother’s hands as she gently reprimands you for your foray into her pans,

I see only what he has chosen not to say–

‘Aleppo is a place where the children have stopped crying out;

a place where they have learned that there is no one to hear their cry; no one who will help.’

‘Aleppo is a place where the tears bring with them breathlessness;

A mother’s incomplete gasps

As she clutches at her womb, ignores the painful yawning in empty cavity, while her lips form a name,

breathes it like a raspy, perverse lullaby

until it can finally escape the paralysis of her weighted tongue.’



Dear Child-Who-No-Longer-Cries,

I have learned your name is Ayah:

‘Wonderful’, ‘Verse’, ‘Miracle’.

‘A sign from God’.

Was it a miracle when they pulled you from the broken walls of your home?

In your name I hear the voices of your parents, the lilting tones of hushed gratitude, novel awe, rising around you;

Surely they did not think it would come to mean ‘child who has survived where many did not’;

‘child who sits in chaos, with eyes that speak a language they should not yet understand’;

‘child who rests like a misplaced Dua searching for spires of now-broken minarets, which once guided it upward on the arms of communal supplication; communal supplication replaced with communal wailing’



They say, ‘Aleppo is a place where the children no longer cry.’

But in their solemn nod to the unspoken gravity of your loss,

They have forgotten to mention that adolescent boys clutching dead babies to their chests

Now cry in place of young children whose cheeks are more blood-stained than tear-stained;

They make no mention of little boys whose bodies nestle face down on shores that have turned their faces away,

Content to think only of children who lie warm, and flush-cheeked, with mildly sweaty hair

As precious breaths flutter the edges of familiar pillow-cases.



‘Aleppo is a place where the children have stopped crying.’

And why not? I ask, when they have learned to sleep silent:

small figures shaking to the hum of a keening whistle before the clap-boom-rattle of a bomb’s indiscriminate landing chooses the corner of a house a mother has tucked one child into,

partitioning the others as carefully as her hoarded rice grains so she will not lose them all in one go;

Why not? you ask, with eyes that have forgotten how to expect good, safe, unthreatening silence; as the sound of fathers digging bare-handed, and bleeding, replaces the shuffle of footsteps in hospitals which too have fallen.



K.N.O.W. Wednesday, January 25, 2017. 02:24 hrs-03:33 hrs.

Author’s note: That line has been plaguing me ever since I first heard it, and although it has taken me months to attempt this, I finally did allow myself to write it. I can only imagine how much more we shall need the pen in the months moving forward.

Return [It].

I feel the echo, of an echo, of an echo;

the hollow plop of a coin hitting water.

I have never learnt to reconcile myself with this aspect of losing you–

the dimming of colour, the absence of everything, and nothing,

even as a loose abstraction of myself grows closer

to all the others who must now become the sum of these parts.

I do not understand this thing;

this feeling; or rather its lack:

I am only capable of seeing it in the near terrible, hysterical unravelling I offer to others–

an unchecked giving as the unleashing of words,

a stream sourced through a dam cracked in too many places;

I see it in the empty way I fall asleep;

eyes shut,

body tensed in a tranquillity it pretends to feel,

while I remember the fullness, the sheer unfurling comfort of formerly falling asleep to you:

the feeling of your t-shirt against my face, the pleasure of my limbs stretched out languidly,

chest and stomach discovering the welcome stability of your own.

I have not learned to reconcile myself with this:

wanting us,

but no longer wanting you,

even as my eyes linger on faces that remind me of yours,

hovering above necks like yours,

with the exposed, and nervous shift of an Adam’s apple, the quick swallow of vulnerable things–

dead spirits, so very alive, they cause my throat to tighten, and my thoughts to




before memories less kind step in.

You have been a part of me for so long, that I have forgotten how to live

without the intensity of feeling too much

even when the only reassurance I had of my love was my need to stay;

even when I doubted that my love for you had truly survived the uneven tension of your unwitting abandonments

(how were you always so much more sure of my love than I?)

I would simply like it to stop:

this feeling of disconnectedness

as my heart tries to recall that other things made it happy,

made it feel,

made my teeth ache with anguish,

or the muscles of my always too-tense, too self-conscious body

liquefy with the sweetness of my contentment.

Whatever you have taken with you,

or whatever I have given you that now makes it all pale

as everything rings with a falseness that almost resembles futility,

I ask that you return it.


I dislike the ghosts of dead things.

K.N.O.W. Monday, January 23, 2017. 01:10 – 02:33 hrs.