Poetry

Bashar al-Assad

I asked her to draw her home for me

Ben Quilty

 

Using the old cryptographs

Heba, at the age of six,

has managed it in minutes only,

 

eloquent and minimal,

starting from above –

the helicopter gunship,

 

its larger and its smaller rotor

seen as simple crosses.

The aircraft is a box,

 

basic with a snout,

the perspex of its cabin

showing as a line of teeth,

 

a shark well-satisfied –

as now the barrel bombs are falling,

three of them and each one bigger

 

heading for the house which is

simple and rectangular

as houses are in Syria.

 

We see two skinny human symbols,

sticks that children use before

they understand perspective.

 

One of them is vertical,

the other horizontal,

both enveloped by a red

 

that’s thinning through to brown.

It is the colour of the gunship

and of the bombs as well –

 

monochrome in drying blood,

pencil with a wash.

Heba likes to work in threes:

 

the gunship with its double masts;

the three bombs growing larger and

two bodies with their house between them.

 

In Serbia, she’s showing Ben.

And then it’s back to fruiting trees,

her grass a ‘vivid green’.

Griffith Review