Shaindel Beers







Painting by Azerbaijan War Survivor Nighar Aliyeva, age 9


The woman could be any mother out walking

a baby in the cool, night air, hoping the twelve

stars, the moon, will lull him to sleep.

In her blue caftan, her black hijab, she could be

Mary, the mother of Jesus, Fatimah, daughter

of Muhammad. The three bloody men

in the background believe she is one;

the men who shot them believe she’s the other.




Painting by Azerbaijan War Survivor Sasha Morohov, age 9


The Red Cross nurse is smiling and beautiful.

The way I remember my mother in dreams.

The nurse is beautiful because she is not from here.

Nothing here is beautiful any more. Even the sun is sad.

So I did not paint it in the picture. Only its three rays

peek out. Two golden like the sand of Azerbaijan.

One red, like the nurse’s lips. Like the cross on her hat.

Her satchel. The sun’s rays reach out to touch her. Only her.

The sun does not even see me here, under it, crying.




Drawing Done by a Child at the Child Rescue Center in Bo, Sierra Leone, January 2002


When the woman asks me “What happened?” I lay out the picture.

Left to right. Left to right. Like we read at school. I put labels

around each scene. He killed my friend. I draw the man

with a machine gun. Me with my arms up. My friend lying

on the ground. The rebel is chasing this boy. A fast car and a boy

looking out of the picture. Like he is saying “Help!”

He killed the man with a knife. I make sure to make the knife

big. Bigger than both of the men. Bigger than life.

He is burning the house. I use all black, except for the fire

which is red scribble. I wanted page numbers like in our books

at school, but I wasn’t sure how because this is one picture,

one piece of paper, four scenes. So I circled numbers. Some

of them are our ages. Some of them are just numbers.




These poems were first published in Corium Magazine and later appeared in her second book, The Children’s War and Other Poems (Salt Publishing 2013).















Shaindel Beers is the author of two full-length poetry collections, A Brief History of Time (2009) and The Children’s War and Other Poems (2013), both from Salt Publishing. She teaches at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, and serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary Magazine.



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