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 an 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



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



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 its

not too long a walk, one man

opened a school called al

Hikma which means wisdom


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



Ed. note: The preceding poems are from the collection “Refugees Whose World Was Taken Away,” published by Night Ballet Press in Elyria, Ohio. Use with permission of the poet.

About the poet:

Lyn Lifshin has written more than 125 books and edited 4 anthologies of women writers.  Winner of numerous awards including the Jack Kerouac Award for her book Kiss The Skin Off, Lyn is the subject of the documentary film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. For her absolute dedication to the small presses which first published her, and for managing to survive on her own apart from any major publishing house or academic institution, Lifshin has earned the distinction “Queen of the Small Presses.” She has been praised by Robert Frost, Ken Kesey and Richard Eberhart, and Ed Sanders has seen her as “a modern Emily Dickinson.”  See also  and