Aleppo, 2017

Brother, I am fire
Surging under the ocean floor.
I shall never meet you, brother–
Not for years, anyhow;
Maybe thousands of years, brother.
Then I will warm you,
Hold you close, wrap you in circles,
Use you and change you–
Maybe thousands of years, brother.

               – Kin, Carl Sandburg


“It’s time to go home.”
What home?
Tents or streets or overloaded boats?
Have you ever held your breath (for seven years, perhaps)?
You are a child again; after a stretched day,
Abba always said, “It’s time to go home”.

Oh, I remember now; there was a time
When we lived in homes, like yours.
We hung our pictures on the walls,
And the meals were always warm.
We had mothers and baby brothers too.
I remember.

its time to go home


Wars happen on the other side of earth,
Inside television screens, in corners of newspapers.
They never hit home.
Until one day, there’s a knock.
Ding Dong. It’s the doorbell.
Tick Tock. It’s a grenade.

You pack your fear; Mariam’s damned doll too.
For the baby will cry at dawn,
When she wakes to an alien sun.
But what choice did you have
When war occupied all your rooms?
You leave, at once;
Your roots behind you.

war knocks on door


Why? It is a little yellow flower.
Like the sun’s tear fell to the dirt.
What are you doing here, flower?
Look around, look where your feet stand.
You sprung up on cursed soil, baby brother.
There are no springs here, none at all.

It’s been nine months now,
Since I stomped on that flower on the roadside.
I’ve scavenged through empty streets, through bullet holes,
Amid the rubble and quiet; within breathing faces,
For one last gasp of a home I knew.
The one with the pictures on the wall.

But what is this place?
And these people, all strangers;
Particularly the one that responds to my name.
See, it gets confusing at times.
For we all returned, but with pieces torn off us;
Missing an eye, a limb, a pulse, a mother.


It doesn’t smell nice anymore, Ammi,
When this land is soaked in the rain.
It is now damp with blood and pain.
But sometimes when I ride through these ruins,
I close my eyes, take my hands off the handle-bar;
And it is the city you raised in me, Ammi.

With its sweet shops and the park,
And that street corner, our street corner;
Where I once tripped on stones and fell, and Rehan laughed.
I open my eyes; it’s the same bend;
This time humanity trips on wars and falls,
And the world screams, Ammi.

I now know why you end up where you begin.
Because the world is terrible and round.
And I asked Abba,
“Were we foolish to come back home?”
“No, child, only human.”
Only human.

Rashmitha Muniandi for MTTN

~ Photographs by Sagnik Talukdar, Agnihotra Bhattacharya, and Google Images

~ Cover art by Rashmitha Muniandi

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