What I Heard

Draw myself up
Up from the deep
Where arms and legs
Stay asleep
I know I heard
Your voice out loud

Halfway to wake
Up from my dream
Suspend my belief
I don’t want to
Wake up now

What I heard
Was the sound
Of your voice
Calling out

Frozen inside
Keep still abide
Awareness slide
Keep the world at bay

Soon I will know
Too soon arise
Come to realize
What you did not say

In the hallway
Or the next room
You would call me
And I would hear you
All in my mind
All in my mind
Where I can hear you

What I heard
Was the sound
Of your voice
Calling out

Let us all face down now at the woman sleeping in her bed, covered in quilts. All the house is stillness. There in half dreams does she register a small voice calling her awake. But she is willful to remain away where true cannot be.  And she does not move her limbs for fear of waking.  And she does not pivot her eyes for fear of seeing. Who will gently shake her shoulder so she will rise and see herself in the dresser mirror? Who will gently whisper her to mindfulness?

Here the dangling of soft fabric and weight of protective arm beckons the weary and distant witness to atrocity. We lean our bodies into the sturdy form, our arms fold in and back to cling to what will shield us from knowing. Our necks bend in, turn as far as tendons allow into the folds of what we call his wing. Our eyes, with tears in the creases, shut tight against the knowledge that comes with the vision. Here, inside his coat, we want to stay. Put off the dwelling. Delay the comprehending. Shake our heads against the violent calling. 

There are no words. There are no words for this week. There are no words for dead children laid out for photographs and counting. There are no words for trembling bodies and shivering lips and screaming fathers and dying mothers. There are no words for running men with babies and their swinging feet. The cameraman drops his arm. The writer sets down his pen. The reporter hangs her head low. All the presses slow and power is lost. A long pause in the delivery, our humanity is best exemplified in our inability to take in what cannot be true. A moment of silence.

Let us all collectively, inwardly moan.

Let us all collectively close our eyes.

Let us all collectively rest our faces in savage hands.

Let us all collectively slumber in ignorance that calls with sweetness and mocking in the folds of his magic coat.

Let us all hide.

But then who will take the picture? Who will carry the tiny one to his grave? Who will tell the story? Who will turn tomorrow toward survival? Who will point and persevere toward redeeming knowledge and reflection which ages through understanding to wisdom? Who will play the music that restores and brings the beauty of creation back to a crumbling soul?  Whose voice will echo on the walls to comfort the lonely and wake the sleeping far away and startle the enemy and pacify the wronged?

Mohammed Mohiedin Anis, or Abu Omar, 70, smokes his pipe as he sits in his destroyed bedroom listening to music on his vinyl player, gramophone, in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held al-Shaar neighbourhood. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

Among us all a certain few will stay awake and working. To take and carry and tell and turn and point and persevere and sing. And who are they but prophets and angels. And who are they but teachers and artists. That take us down amid the foundations of malice within ourselves. That make us change before we can climb the stairs that lead outside. That carry us beyond what is in a dream.  That beg and beckon us to see ourselves and better ourselves and save ourselves from ourselves. That hold up the mirror and say “see what you are and be more than that.”

Shrinking world, listen to the prophets and angels and teachers and artists which point us with severe clarity to the truth. Each day we are asleep the world does atrophy and turn in, and we use our few waking hours to serve ourselves rather than one another. Each day we chose to consume without tasting, the processed and sweet, we do not eat that which comes from the earth. Each day we hear without listening, the ordinary and indoctrinating, we do not hear what comes from the heart. Each day we look without seeing, at the self-fulfilling and the self-affirming, we do not see what is real and clear. Each day with hands and feet far from pain, we do not feel what we should feel or change what we should change or be what we should be.

One day a woman was cleaning out a closet. All the things were spread out in the hallway and messy while she sorted and cleared out. She shouted to her son to take out the garbage before the collector came. The big bag in the hall. Later, putting things away into the closet, she came across the bag of garbage, still there, and scolded her son. “But I did take it out,” he said, “and I didn’t miss the pick up.” He had taken by mistake a bag full of antique quilts that had been pulled out of the closet. Family heirlooms and precious. She cried for three days over those quilts and the thought of them in the landfill. Each square stitched with love and meaning from the scraps of clothing and even older quilts. And laid over beds and smoothed and laid over grandmothers ailing and laid over little ones sleeping. Patterns and patches and swirls of color and memories and time. Gone. And wasted. And those three days were filled with heartache for telling her family what had happened and for making her son feel so bad about an easy mistake.

She finally stopped crying when she realized that all the while those quilts lay cast into the trash, all the while she had mourned, real people had been cast away too.  And how many homeless had she not cried for? And how many lonely grandmothers ailing not comforted? And how many little ones suffering not mourned?

And is God looking down and watching us mourn for our quilts while his children die in the streets? And is God looking down at us hiding in the folds of the coat of ignorance while his people are desperate for solace? Is God looking down? Or did he turn his face away?

Sara Quah- What I Heard (From Taking Me Back)

Photo credit: Joseph Eid.
Read the story of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/franciswhittaker/this-powerful-photo-from-aleppo-has-a-heartbreaking-story-be?utm_term=.rt80lNlle8#.ukG9DJDDxy

http://www.npr.org/2017/03/18/520580144/living-among-the-ruins-in-aleppo-a-man-keeps-playing-his-songs

See Mohammad’s updated story here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/ashes-aleppo-sound-hope/

Read the other posts in my Taking Me Back Series:

For You, Dear: Pre-Order Taking Me Back on Pledge Music

Physics

Foreverness

Closer

How I’m Feeling

Wallflower

A Little Bit

Take Me Away

20 Steps

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2 Comments

  1. Hard to comment because you said it all so eloquently. I only have the words of how I physically feel. Burn in my heart, tears in my eyes, anxiety in my stomach. Sitting in comfort in my living room, full stomach, my family safe and sound, existing in the same world as this horror. Just sitting here staring into space. Now I move forward again. I appreciate these blogs.

    Like

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