Winter in Aleppo

Asnia Asim


We leave the city center. The snow
calms weapons still warm,
magnifies the quietness of cement,
whistles through piles of museum.
The dogs, rabid muscle of disease
covered in balding fur,
yelp at the sight of water
melting from snow.

A gust scoops needles of ice,
drives them into the holes of sweaters,
searches up the burqas of old hags,
reels them tight up as rosebuds.
Eyes lowered, holding sleepful children,
the women knead their way outside
the city, like fingering a thick dough,
shuffle through the snowstorm
toward open fields.

Between folds of jackets flash
the arms of men, emaciated, dry eyes
blurred with the vision of angels dancing
around what once was, fields of light
around a city center, a familiarity
of faces in rush-hour traffic.
The barren fields stand unmoved
by the storm. The wind splits
a huddle of pigeons into a cawing scatter.

Olive trees suffused in white stand
witness to the walk that made citizens
into refugees. Behind the creaking axle
of a donkey cart carrying widows
and orphans, an azan is calling
the man of God to prayer. Men
and women string along the field
and beseech the sky, clotting
and disbanding into clouds.

Back in the city, the buildings stoke
sunlight draining through their cracks.
Centipedes crawl over eyes left
unshut. Night metes out stars
to the last soldier who lights
a cigarette and stretches his legs.
Snow resumes its dance
on the Levant's loneliest city.