On a Street in Aleppo

by Shannon Huffman Polson

How can you beg
watching from the safety
  of distant shores and cultures
while a father pushed back
                the hand
  holding plastic to cover
           his dead son
covered in the dust of shattered buildings
the grey fine powder of exploded lives
   blood red around his ears eyes closes
his son                               who looks
like my son
  the same soft curve of cheek
a city falls
      a star
            a life
the way a bullet does, a missile
   its trajectory
         to join
             the earth.
Tweets from
people with foreknowledge
  of their violent deaths
    down to the day
armies pushing into streets  neighborhoods
already bombed to rubble, ruin
steel structures sagging
    like clotheslines
That morning did the family huddle
in the corner of what used to be
        their home: among the ruin
  of a kitchen, and a bed, a picture frame
    (and dreams)
and did the father let himself steal
               a thought
of happiness, that he still had
    his family
          his son
a stolen necessary gratitude
             for life
that doomed himself
             to grief
a twisting sinking horror
the whole of buildings, rubble ruin
  focused on his child’s still and lifeless face?
Did he hear the screams the shells
  splitting air and worlds
    like any other day that year but know
this time
  it came for him
          for him?
Did the father yell
          Run!         even after
he felt the lurch
       quick suffocation
             a heart exploding



Shannon Huffman Polson is a writer of non-fiction, fiction and poetry. Her book The Grit Factor, Courage, Resilience and Leadership in the Most Male Dominated Organization in the World, was published in 2020 by Harvard Business Review Press. Polson’s memoir North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey was released in 2013 by Zondervan/Harper Collins, and The Way the Wild Gets Inside, a book of essays, was released in 2015. Polsons’ articles and essays have appeared in publications from High Country News to RiverTeeth, Ruminate, and The Utne Journal, and her work has been anthologized multiple times. Her short story “Brown Bird” is included in The Road Ahead, a veteran’s anthology of short stories, and she has poetry forthcoming in the 2022 issue of War, Literature and the Arts. Polson writes from her home in the mountains of Washington State, or from the Vercors region of France, where she lives with her husband and two sons.



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