The Stench of Rotten Mangoes By Chelsea Houston

The Stench of Rotten Mangoes

Let’s talk about what happened while you were watching Syria turn to dust.
The mango tree in the yard burst into life.
Our front lawn was a splash of yellow for weeks.
Local children bit into the flesh, juice spilling down their chins and staining their tunics.
The sun set over the dirty rooftops that night, and the next.
You stopped sleeping.
In the next room you draw maps instead, study the political borders.
You’re trying to find a place where cities don’t disappear.
The morning after the bombs finally hit Aleppo, after the shrapnel pierced through the night,
you woke at dawn and watered the mango tree.
When the children came running, they found the gate locked.
The stench of rotting mangoes filled the house for weeks.

There are countries in this world that I can’t look at straight on.
There are too many faces, too many hands that look like my own.
You are not afraid to stare into the face of oppression.
To be the revolution.
You give yourself as sacrifice;
the nest of charcoal hair resting above your eyes,
calloused brown hands from years of hard labour.
The softness of your skin when you finally collapse into our bed,
after fighting for so long.
Gunfire crackled through the humid air as our legs tangle.

The trauma of your mother and sisters sits inside of you.
The memory of your brothers, playing at the outskirts of the city.
The soles of their small feet stained black from the dirt.
Their silhouettes, bent in prayer.  Childhood laughter silenced.
You give the grief a face.  Let the name roll over your tongue.

Our home no longer a home.
The sun-bleached walls and rosewater baths gone.
Candles kept the rooms warm during the power cuts.
The sound of gunfire over the hills greeting us in the mornings.
Still, we rose and spoke with God.
Asking for just one more day.
That the taste of mango will once more grace our mouths.

Let’s talk about what happens now, while the ashes of our country still smoke on the horizon.
Now, there is a face, a pair of hands just like ours growing inside of me.
My mother brings us food and fresh flowers, tells me that it is the size of a mango.
At night, you leave your maps and lay beside me.
Each breath you take carries the weight of a country.
The revolution inside of you has quieted.
No more gunfire, just a steel resolve.
In the mornings, you water the mango tree, watch the tanks in the distance.
We eat dates with our fingers,
spitting the pits on the ground while we
talk about the dust surrounding us.

By Chelsea Houston


Chelsea Houston is an eighteen year old writer, poetess, and soon to be college student. She is a feminist, tree hugger, and people lover. Her main goal in writing is to spread light and warmth. Her work has previously been published in The Fem Literary Magazine and Fifteen13 Press. You can find more of her work at

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