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