Susan Shaw Sailer

Bulletins from a War Zone

The only dervish left in Aleppo,
he whirls, white skirts full, flowing,
arms outstretched,
one palm toward heaven,
the other toward earth.

His work is love—
for Allah, eternal and divine,
for the hereafter.
The dervish whirls and in his whirling,
hopes to meet Allah direct, chants
a mystic phrase to purify his heart,
his voice, a melodic rhythm.
The dervish whirls and prays—
Allah is One, is All.

Room intact despite mortar shells that tore out upper floors,
the dervish whirls in prayer,
focusing on, whirling toward
Allah everlasting.


Ahmad is lost in music—
Schubert or Jabri—
not sitting on a chair before his phonograph,
although he is;
as if not surrounded by plaster chunks,
smashed glass, broken window frames,
although he is.

White beard, white hair,
in Aleppo all his 70 years,
he doesn’t plan to leave his place on earth
because of bombs.

He draws on his pipe,
tobacco briefly flaring red,
leans in to better hear the music.