(On the morning of Tuesday 4th April 2017, 29-year-old Abdul Hameed Alyousef lost 22 family members, after warplanes dropped sarin gas over the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib. Amongst the fatalities were his 9-month-old twin babies Ahmad and Aya.)
breathing air from an ancient land,
tears form from two storms in my lungs
a song’s shadow. a light’s echo.
those two rhyming breaths –
twin yellow petals
plucked from a morning sun.
imploded in place where
what’s lost is great, god is gone
& ghosts wait for white helmets
before taking an angel’s hand.
for a moment, in lungs that invite death,
i hold the burdened air
of a country howling it’s history
into my cells, echoing beyond time,
a father’s grief – like a scream stretched
through endless weeping hours,
waded, as fleeing neighbours drown
in a sea of averted eyes.
their aqueous breaths crossing all borders
to beyond, without papers
& absent those bones,
to hold us to account, we press
the crush of glass, stone & black
scrolling it into nothing
a nothing that rains down – there’s no escape
from a sky that is everywhere,
or, from a once bystanding air
taking arms in a civil war
waged in veins.
thick red lines, coiled around two necks,
those small instruments of joy
silenced, as they’re held tightly
to the breast: all thirst and truth.
extinguished, after nine undimmed months,
swilled around a mouth of black teeth
they would never grow up
to be flesh for bullets – yet
they suffered long enough
to sweat their poison.
they could never ask why?
or do sums with their age
they couldn’t give name to their fears
or learn all they ever knew
a father spared that thorny air,
cradled their cold – shrouded in white,
carried as far as his body
could hold his heart’s eruption,
death’s foamy tide at their lips – his lips,
an open wound bleeding their names
emptied out of him every second
as he tugs on the universe
– too small to fill their echo,
& the unbent grass still whispers their music
carried by wind into his dreams
every night, as the weary stars
clamber into the dark, every morning,
as the sunlight shatters on his pillow.
Varun Kanish (2018)