literature, Politics
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The Lost Levant: A Poem

Mariam El Ashmawi | November 7 2016

This poem came to me on consecutive dreary mornings after watching the news of the US-Russian cease-fire attempt in Syria. The West’s savior-complex, as always, irritated me. Then, there were the Idlib bombings that left innocent bodies in their wake. I’m utterly depressed by the unfairness of it all; how suit-clad men in air-conditioned rooms speak of the importance of safety, while the people of Syria can’t remember what safe means anymore. Anger overcame me, and I found the words of this poem flowing out of me.

The Lost Levant

It is understood that during wartime, fathers
bury sons,
and in peace time, sons
bury fathers,

but nobody talks about the places that know neither peace nor war
the bomb shells that leave everyone unburied;
the genocides that leave villages upturned;
the raids that leave no one alive to bury the dead.

it’s not war when one side has the guns
and the other drowns under the debris of blood and bullet caps.
it’s not war when the only light around
is that which shimmers and twinkles around the moon.
it’s not war when you can’t remember
the last time no one buried anyone.

it’s not war
it’s not war
it’s not war

when one side wakes on feather beds,
and the other crawls into coffins.


Mariam El Ashmawi is an Egyptian undergraduate political science student living in Cairo, Egypt. If she’s not in the middle of binge reading anything, from historical fiction to quirky Chick Lit, she’s ranting about socialism or writing poetry. You can often find her on twitter and tumblr.


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