Ghost in a City of Ruins: NaPoWriMo

I go through the motions of living, looking for food. We’ve been at war for—I don’t know how long. I don’t remember how The War started. I don’t remember why. I go through the motions, pretend I’m still alive, but I’m hollow and crumbling like the buildings around me. Once I was young and pretty; I loved and was loved. But it does no good to remember. There is only The War now. The bombing starts again, and I run for shelter. The instinct to live is strong. The barrage goes on all night. Boom, thud, crash. Boom, thud, crash, scream. As the sun peeks over the horizon, shyly as if wondering if it should stay, I crawl from my shelter. The bright glow illuminates the destruction of my world. I am a ghost in a city of ruins.


In the peace of dawn

rivulets flow, salty tears,

a sea of sorrow

coursing through ruins, blood-red

flowers float amidst rubble


I wake. A woman is treating my wounds. She takes my hand and leads me to others. There is food. There is water. I hear a sound, wonder what it is. A child’s giggle. Slowly—I’ve almost forgotten how—slowly, I smile.


Hope watered with tears

a seed nurtured with kindness

a hardened heart smiles


This is Day 27, NaPoWriMo.   This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge. The prompt words were “peace” and “tear.”

I didn’t want this poem to be of any particular time and place, but yesterday, I heard a story on NPR about a woman who is one of the “White Helmets” in Syria.  I also thought of Fred Roger’s oft-repeated line “to look for the helpers.”



39 thoughts on “Ghost in a City of Ruins: NaPoWriMo

  1. This is beautifully written Merril, a reminder of what is happening in many parts of the world and how no one is exempt from the horrors of war, that it could be anyone. A wonderful piece of writing.

    • Thank you, Marian. I can’t imagine it either.
      Sad and hopeful is exactly what I wanted. I wrote the first part, but I was so depressed by it, so I went back to add a bit of hope.

  2. What M said. War and suffering has become banal. Whenever voices denounce an atrocity, out come the flags and the jingoistic slogans about ‘Us First’ ‘Not Our Problem’ ‘Make Us Great Again’. I do look for and admire the helpers. They are humanity’s only hope.

  3. This fits so (sadly) well with the news, and I’ve just been reading about the film adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I’m starting to get a better idea of the haibun form from reading everyone’s…I think you do it well. I will get up my nerve and try one for Colleen’s prompt one of these days. (K)

    • Thanks so much, Kerfe. I wasn’t sure about the haibun form either until I read Colleen’s very thorough explanation. I’ve also been hearing a lot about The Handmaid’s Tale this week.
      I’m kind of torn between wanting to see it and being afraid to watch it. The book still gives me a nightmare feeling. My older daughter watched the first episode and sent her sister and me a text with quaking Simpson memes. 🙂

  4. Merrill, my tears flowed as I read this Haibun. My empathy overflows. Your writing is poignant and moving! I can feel the woman’s lack of hope and at the end… Oh, man. You nailed it! Goosebumps! ❤

  5. The War part was ominous and I felt buried under grief. It was good to add some help for the wounded woman, offering food and water. The serendipitous moment was unexpected laughter from a child, Merril. You added some hope, which we all sigh in relief knowing there may be a chance to start over after the war ends.

  6. Pingback: Colleen’s Weekly #Poetry Challenge # 32 – LEAD & SAVE – Colleen Chesebro ~ Fairy Whisperer

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