Gates Of Aleppo

Gates Of Aleppo prose poem

Uploaded by Fareed K. Ghanem


At ‘Bab Al-nairab gate’,(1)on a pile of wet smoke, I meet a sackcloth, a muddy bear fur and two women; one holds by her amputated palm the tail of ‘Sayf Aldawla’s(2) robe, the other sings a rocky song.
The first rehearses a lamentation of a dove.
The other says, at the end of a roundelay descending from a remote mountain: “I’ve been dropped down, here, by a train of my brothers’ blood, on the outskirts of the Silk-road”.
Then, she drops a tear she’d collected from Anatolia mountains, and for remembrance she hangs, on the ‘soul house’, an Armenian scarf she’d bought from ‘Khan Al-hakidon'(3), before she’d died.


At ‘Bab Al-Hadeed gate’,(4) rust accumulates. Rust flowers out from soldiers’ helmets, from turbans, bow ties and tarbooshes. On the broken street, there sprouts Hulagu’s voice inscribed on white stones. Press photographers with steel caps hover over cemeteries to pick up available meat and lamentations.
To the west, on tops of blind mountains, troops substitute their bronze swords by iron swords and peeled faces, stoning stones by stones.


At ‘Khan Al Attareen’,(5) not far from the ‘Jasmine door’, at a distance of an appealing cry from ‘Bab Antakya'(6) where ‘Al-Muo’tasem'(7) lost his hearing, a blond lady purchases a grass bottle, a sack of spices, a stone planted into a wall decorated by Arabesques, then walks away beneath ash canopies, in tune with a symphony by Beethoven.
That lady did not pay attention to a bronze statue, which came here from Carthage but lost his way back to Iskenderun harbor, since waves broke Aleppo’s songs and are grumbling in all tongues except for Arabic.


Hearts are peeled, too. Those who come out of ‘Bab Al-Nasr'(8) say: “thieves will conflict on our bodies, when war is out”. At the faraway, two demons compete on winning nations’ affection. But at ‘Al-Nahh’assin'(9) bazaar, flutes and lutes are hushed up, whenever Istanbul bathes by Aleppo’s gas soap. At a distance of twenty corpses, roaming salesmen substitute their goods, selling scorched bread and souvenir dummies of all forms of defeats.


In the way from ‘BabAl-faraj gate'(10) to ‘Al-Atmah(11) khan’, I meet an Aramaean sheik reading a newspaper written on his old skin. He spreads his white beard on floor, in order to conceal one thousand genitalia. Then he throws away his last smile before a shell kidnaps him.


Hell takes a stroll in sublime shoes, while dressing a pink skirt of ultra-mini style, breaking ‘Bab-Aljenan'(12) gate by her lofty heels.
Curtains of houses are hung on the ruins.
At the corner, in “Cafe’of Arabism”, dead people differ about to which Satan they adhere.


Here are defaced speeches, smashed ranks and shrines.
But, that man with a red suit and a borrowed toot, gives a speech at the seventh gate, on the ‘B’ and ‘H’ and ‘R’ commandments(13), telling that: the sea is ours, the war is ours, the ink is ours and the profit is ours.
By the end, the last little boy stands at ‘Bab Almaqam gate’, takes the last sheet, by which he covers the screen.


Between ‘Bab Qannasrin gate’ and ‘Bab Al-Ahmar gate’, wind flees away barefooted.
Bells with chopped-off tongues dangle down from tongues of fire.
Prayer calls are cut off in their way between two skies.
But we die for the thousand times, every minute.
(1) One of the nine gates of ancient Aleppo.
(2) Sayf Al-Dawla (10th century), prince of Aleppo, was famous for cultivating cultural development and standing firm against Byzantine assaults on the weakened Islamic empire.
(3) Khan Al-Hakidon is an Armenian khan in old Aleppo, meaning the soul house.
(4) One of old Aleppo nine gates, meaning the gate of iron.
(5) One of the many khans in old Aleppo, meaning the khan of perfumers.
(6) The gate of Antioch, one of the nine gates of old Aleppo.
(7) A caliph known to be summoned by a cry old woman in distress, from faraway, mentioning his name.
(8) One of the nine gates of Aleppo, meaning the gate of victory.
(9) Meaning the copper-smiths market.
(10) Meaning the gate of relief.
(11) Meaning the khan of darkness.
(12) Meaning the gate of paradises.
(13) By different combinations of three Arabic letters B, H’, R, you can write (among other possibilities) four different words: Bh’r (sea), H’rb (war), H’br (ink) and Rbh’ (benefit).

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Fareed K. Ghanem

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I am 58 years old, from eastern Galilee, Israel (Palestine). I studied English literature, psychology and Law at the Hebrew university (Jerusalem). In the last three years, I published three books of which is dedicated to prose poetry. You are invited to visit the Facebook page Shadows of Water, where I publish my prose poems I translate to English.
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