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November 2016

An aerial view of Tariq al-Bab, Aleppo, destroyed by regime and Russian forces. Assad has spoken of “cleaning” the city (©Jawad al Rifai/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

1. Vigil

The baby wakes.
The baby wakes in the hour of the morning
When the air is cool as silk
And the pale bird of the night gives way
To the crimson bird of the day.
The baby wakes, his fingers at my milk.

I feel the feeling of his fingers,
The tremor at the end of his hands
When he grasps me at the dawning of the day.
He takes his fill, and sleeps again,
But his mouth lingers, taking its sips,
And the tongue still moves a little against his lips.

This is our land, which we work with our hands.
This is our land, where we have put down a root.
This is our land, and our hands know it
As our hands once knew our mothers.
The land is rich in its honey and milk
And its prodigious memory of fruit.

The land is a gift, a divine covenant,
Twice given, twice blest,
But given in guilt, given in shame,
A hope renewed, day after day
As the baby is made in equal love and pain.
The hands that give can also take away.
The land that is given is also taken away.
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