“The Children of Aleppo”, a new poem.

On the suggestion and advice of friends and readers of this blog, I submitted “The Children of Aleppo” to the New Yorker  today.  With some revisions.

We’ll see if they bite.

Lady Nyo

The Children of Aleppo


There is no childhood in Aleppo.

There are little martyrs-in-the-making

Where 5 year olds and 8 year olds

Wish for a ‘family death’

Where they can die together

With their parents

Where they live in peace in Heaven

Never tasting the fruits of peace on Earth.


There is no childhood in Aleppo.

The children haunt the abandoned  dwellings

Of friends who have fled the city,

Where they find abandoned teddy bears

While looking for guns for the rebels, their fathers.


“Oh, the poor thing!”

A dead canary in his cage

Abandoned by  owners

They flee the rockets, bombs

And mortars.

In the face of daily death

The sight of this bird

Evokes a child’s sentiment.

But the gunfire outside

(They are used to the noise)

Makes them huddle in the pockmarked

Halls until safe to scatter.


The children of Aleppo

 have no teachers, doctors.

These have fled the cities, schools

But they still pine for ice cream,

For music in the streets,

For curtains not shredded by gunfire

For books and toys

And gardens and flowers,

For friends that have  died

Innocent blood splattering

The dirty cobble stones

At their feet.


The children of Aleppo

Are free and children again

Only in their dreams,

And perhaps, if you believe so,

After death.


How do you put back the brains

Of a child in the cup of a shattered skull?

How do you soothe the howls of the mothers

The groans of the fathers?

How do you comfort the left-alive siblings?


The children of Aleppo

Have no future as children.

Suffer the little children here,

They are the sacrifice of parents

And factions,

And politicians

and war

All with the blood of

10,000 children

Who have died 

In a country torn

By immeasurable violence.


The beautiful children of Aleppo

Like children everywhere

Still want to chase each other

In the gardens, on playgrounds,

Want to dance in the streets,

Want to pluck flowers for their mothers

And they still pine for ice cream.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

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12 Responses to ““The Children of Aleppo”, a new poem.”

  1. brian miller Says:

    its a sad and harsh reality…the greatest sadness is in the loss of childhood…i have seen it here in the states and can only imagine it all the worse there…in the end they are children….they deserve our hearts….our hands…our help


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Being a teacher, Brian, I bet you have. Living here in the South for 40 years, I have seen abuse and neglect of children in my own neighborhood for many years. It seems that these ‘parents’ don’t ever learn..and this is not a warzone. But in a way, it very much is.

    This situation brings home to me more this issue of what we do and are a poets, writers. It seems on the surface, that we are passive, just merely witnessing the tragedies of life. But then again, I think we are called upon to write our poems as beacons pointing to this abuse, etc…especially for the people that are most affected: women and especially children. I could not take my eyes off what was happening on the screen….these beautiful children were being sacrificed not only by the politicians and warlords in Aleppo, but by their impassioned parents…especially their rebel fathers. What can we do? Not much of anything expect witness this and sympathize and protest the treatment of these children..wherever they are…In India, where female infancide is so widespread it is sickening, to Africa and all over the world.

    Thanks, Brian.



  3. TR Says:

    This poem is very touching, your words connect rather than distance us from a place we think we are not a part of. You have a wonderful gift.

    Hugs, TR


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Dear TR!
    Thank you so much. This issue of connect is so important, whether writing prose or poetry. Thank you for seeing it. It is a great gift when readers see this. Sometimes I don’t see this in my own writing, but when others do, it makes me attend to what I am trying to express even closer.

    On another issue….your email to me this morning was a world of clarity on this issue of misogyny of Indian men. You gave me fuel to do something that was necessary to do. To detach and mean it! This issue of misogyny and narcissism is so wrapped up together, neh? But the women and girls of India, the children, also the boys, suffer the most. They whole life is lessened by the behavior of so many men…and those I blame the most are the educated men. They tolerate this and in fact they ignore that they also are branded with the same sin.

    Love, Jane


  5. TR Says:

    Yes, Indian men are raised with this belief, it is ingrained in the culture unfortunately. What is, may or may not be, surprising is that the Indians that immigrated to the US (which this didn’t happen until after 1955) have carried this tradition. I am first generation American (parents immigrated in 1970) and the ones who are older have children who are now second generation – adults. I have met many second generation Indian Americans and unfortunately this is carried out – under the radar – not in the physical violent way but in a very subtle, underhanded manner – education allows one to that – be clever about it. A perfect breeding ground for narcissism – the two are very much linked, so true.
    Another aspect is that Indian Americans still have arranged marriages where the spouse is sought out in India to bring to the US. The tradition is upheld. The aspect of the arranged marriage that is frightening to me is that they still uphold the caste system. You cannot marry outside your caste. No Indian American would reveal this because it would not be accepted in many eyes of other Americans but it is still upheld. I cannot accept nor embrace the fact that a person’s worth is decided at birth – sex, caste, etc. It was so scary to me when my parents started arranging my marriage when I was at university. It was awful. I ended up not in contact with them and lived far away from them.

    I could share some stories of my father, man, he often told me he wished that I was a boy.

    Looking forward to what you will write. Your thoughts are so validating.
    Love, TR


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Wow! That is all I am left to say! Your experience is so true from what I have learned from other Indian women…and so typical. You are so courageous, TR! To go up against culture, class, caste, all these things….well, it takes guts. What I have done here is to move away from my family…emotionally, to do the No Contact thing and it works…for a while.

    I would love to read your stories. Please consider writing me privately…and know that I support you totally. Because of what you have said, and my very recent experience (of this week!) I have been trolling the internet for information on India and these issues. They are so important. My present two page article is just a draft, but it is a beginning. And what you are so right again is that education makes these men (and unfortunately, women) be able to ‘clever’ about their misogyny. It flies under the radar. I have been shocked reading the comments or articles on the web by Indian women upbraiding rape victims, siding with the men, and it is shameful. Education should liberate the mind and heart from these things, but it doesn’t. It in some ways, justifies these things. I have read the comments where Indians (in their puffed up arrogance) say that these rapes, etc…are done only by “little brown men”…as if this description can raise up them from these, their countrymen. Racism, classism in the extreme. And of course, they blame it all on the British occupation. I believe strongly that this came from feudalism…before feudalism, too…and that there are three ‘reasons’ of justification for arranged marriages and other sexual issues: 1) The sexual needs of a man. 2) the issue of domestic servitude. and 3) reproduction. This isn’t original to my thought. It is all about the man, and this feeds into narcissism besides misogyny. Something else. A wise Indian woman said this: “All Indian men are misogynistic. It’s in their DNA”. I am beginning to believe this is so….

    Yes, you are so right: Education allows this misogyny to be carried out in an underhanded way…and that divorces the responsibility of these people (both men and women) from facing this in themselves.

    Love, Jane


  7. Teresa Says:

    Truly tragic. Your poem is very powerfully written. Yes, poets truly are important for the work they do.


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Teresa. I am here with a two week old head cold and can’t see very well, but I truly appreciate your reading and your comment on this poem.

    I have been thinking a lot about this issue: Why are we poets, and what are poets to do faced with the tragedies of the world? I am changing a lot…I know that I am frustrated with the slow pace of change and relief to the injured, the tormented and all else. But what is it that we can do to be most effective? I’m feeling my way here, but I think that this is an important thought for poets and writers. The world is a serious and at times, a deadly place, and that is what I wanted to show in this new poem. It really is a first draft, but some times you are compelled to publish it because of what is happening somewhere.

    Thank you again.


  9. Nick Says:

    A very moving poem, Jane, and a horrific indictment of the “adult” ego-driven world that brings such tragedy, misery and incalculable loss to the lives of children in war-torn countries everywhere, not just Syria.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Exactly, Nick. It is the adult ego-driven behavior that kills these children. Watching, I was horrified that parents would put there children in such immeasurable danger…knowing that others, the childred of their neighbors had been killed and snatched by the Syrian Army and dumped dead and tortured back in the streets.

    Are children born just be be fodder?

    Thank you, Nick…for reading and commenting. This poem was written in a flash, and it’s rough, but I didn’t have the heart to go back and ‘refine’ it. The horror of the world….

    Love, Jane….for those who don’t know, Nick Nicolson was the friend who put together “Pitcher of Moon” and arranged with Gary Hart for the cover. Nick did more than that….he is my collaborator on this book and it is all the better for his presence. We will work again together soon on “The Nightingale’s Song” with Nick supplying his amazing photographs, etc.


  11. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Jane, I think you should send this poem to The New Yorker, or The Nation. I agree with Nick. A powerful indictment, and a moving poem.


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Ahh….CS! LOL! I was thinking of “The New Yorker” (I tried that a few years ago with ‘O, Absalom” and was rounding rejected, but this is different and topical. You are too kind…but I am soooo glad I have friends like you!

    Keeps me writing.

    Hugs, Jane


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