Do green fingers still pull triggers?
Or do they only till the fields of hair?
Ploughing furrows of worry through thinning follicles,
Tangled knots of concern, snarling their path from the true.
Or can they only point accusingly,
Trembling fists beneath pointed judgements?
Hoping the directions sought by those lost,
Do not lead them down the garden path of violence.
This is for a man who takes nurturing into his hands.
A man who believes that the Kingdom of God can be found on earth.
A man who is determined to labour here in this the city of his birth
To cultivate the hope that springs eternal.
Changes part of the faith in his dreams to piece together his reality;
A world without violence.
These hopes are sleep sent for certain.
But his hands are sandstone
So when he rubs the rest from his eyes
He's only shaping his wishes into something less fleeting
For sure, his resting place is a flower bed
cos he wakes plants from their sleeping.
For each shoot that doesn't fire and grow
And each root that doesn't take hold and show
Each colour he knows they're capable of,
feels like a personal blow to all the effort he's put in.
This is the last gardener of Aleppo
His name is Abu *** and he is sick of watching his city fall apart
Ash Shabbah – the city of white soil and pale marble
Now the white of ash, pale of face and fearful.
Once sanctuary against war,
Now this may as well be the last garden in the world.
He tells us “flowers help the world and there is no greater beauty than flowers”
And so for years, as his city suffers pallid,sickly but not bloodless,
He makes bouquets by roadsides for those who chose to stay
or have nowhere else to go,
or have left but their bodies remain,
And whose only beauty is ribcage grown
He wreathes his arm around the world
Turns our world into a garden of funeral tributes,
appreciated only now
In stark contrast to the destruction that never ceases.
He tends to carry on conversations with the dead
Motionless beneath the surface.
Friends or strangers
Rubble roused and fleeing, now their journey ended
Escaped as best they could, holding flowers in hands
as he tends his garden still.
It’s a losing battle, lost
How only weeds grow through the cracks that civilization left .
Lichens lasting forever whenever they find the surface to hold onto long enough in this turmoil.
Though he pines for lillies;
White crocus and daisies grow best in rebel held streets.
He makes the dinner he deserves
fragrant with rosebay willow herb
And sage for remembering
But he can’t help but develop a bad taste in his mouth .
He has no taste for retribution
And he has nothing to cleanse the palate,
Of the pungency of despair,
The starvation of the soul.
The desert creeps further into his domain every year
Tendrils of havoc pushed like weeds wicked fingers by fertile bullets
Planted with no thought for the cruel blooms that unknown casualties assume know best
Brush strokes of red lichen, grace pocked walls carelessly evident of lives now past.
For every gravestone reminder of fertile soil
He knows each harvest relies on the last.
Cultivating only goodness in his heart,
the last gardener opposes the law of abandoned places:
That only rot will grow in the spaces left by humanity’s neglect
With agriculture he fights the ravages of the faithless. Torn turning this place into nothingness,
Looking for any hope this last chance leaves in a forest fresh of despair
So he tells us he’s heard from God that
“This tree will live and we will live despite everything.”
And he believes that the timbre of his voice would drown out the violence as he kneels in prayer,
As everything he loves splinters around him.
And he believes that even against the decrepit disrepair
That He can make this place an Eden again,
An oasis of calm during conflict.
Ibrahim lost his father
But maybe his memory can blossom and some beauty can bloom from the killing fields
Of the lily white city that can raise it’s own colours as a flag
And surrender itself to the will of the God of the Gardeners.
This was inspired by a channel 4 documentary of the same name.
You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJGp3g93h6M
I know that it can be disingenuous to write a poem where you have no personal experience of the subject matter but my purpose was to be respectful and honour a human who lived. If you feel this has not been the case please feel free to contact me and make me aware - I would rather be called out.