Aleppo Diary

Writing is pain.
And the blood that drips down the screen pollutes the atmosphere
staining the couch with what looks like dried coffee, which we touch with trembling fingers so we don't get infected.
We manage with broken backs as if going to hell seeing dark red - no, brown as well - which deposits a residue like rust in the soul.
We stroke their old heads then turn aside to lick away the tears.
Those who crawl from street to screen leave green traces on the asphalt that spring into bushes of basil; they toss us a flower and die in haste to spare our shame.
Now you've entered the sacred valley, take off your shoes and walk on broken glass.
The comrades in reading have fallen asleep.
You wander alone through the book stacks
with no sign of an exit.
From the third shelf on the right comes a groan -
a whole chapter expelled from a novel.
Laughter the tragic title
for a book of philiosophy.
Politics flows like phlegm from one shelf to another.
There is no time for epic
for The Book of Delight and Intimacy
as Machado eases open the book covers
gently, so as not to disturb the ornaments.
We are the proofs of books
full of paragraphs in need of revision.
I sit on the balcony. Aleppo spread before me black and deserted. The clatter of crockery in the dark means life goes on. No sound save sporadic gunfire from somewhere, then a single shell preceded by a peculiar whistle. Someone is leaving this planet with a dry throat. Aleppo before me black and still. These huge shadows might be trees or childhood goblins or black vapours exhaled by women waiting for children who are already numbers in a news report.
Aleppo. No oud plucked. No 'Swaying Silhouette'. No drinks in The Nightingale. No drinkers. No song.
One by one
they awaken
the beasts of darkness.
Marina Shihwaro
I am Marina Constantine
widow of the priest George Shihwaro
companion of Marcel as we walk, late at night, to our home;
I am she, endowed with secrets of the holy church,
with cherries at the bottom of a glass of liqueur,
busy with laughter at the age of fifty,
hair braids forgotten in an old chest of drawers.
I am Marina
returning from the Carlton
where life clings to music
and thickens like frankincense
I scatter salt
even though I know that meat will not spoil
I dip a finger in wine to rejoice my heart.
I am Marina
who, at the wrong turn, smelled
the odour of fear exuding from sweating fists
piercing the air like lead
before the Citadel vanished in a magician's hat
I am Marina
who did not know she had died
until, alongside the thousands bearing roses wearing white,
she heard
the words of the priest in the church of Prophet Ilyas:
O dearly beloved,
in God's hands and with humble hearts
let us pray:
May the soul of our daughter
who ascends with the crown to our Lord in Heaven
rest in peace.