Afzal Moolla… Massacre at Houla


Massacre at Houla

She was no more than 10 years of age.
He could have been a grandfather.
Young, old, women, girls, men, boys.
108 lives.
Now they are buried,
in hurriedly dug graves,
on the plains of Houla.
Killed by knives,
shot at point-blank range,
slaughtered, mowed-down.
108 lives.
Snuffed-out. Decimated. Taken-out.
108 lives.
As Damascus lies blatantly,
spewing forth untruth,
108 warm, dead bodies,
remain buried,
in hurriedly dug graves,
on the plains of Houla.
108 lives.

Afzal Moolla was born in New Delhi, India while his parents were in exile, fleeing Apartheid South Africa. His father Mosie Moolla represented the African National Congress (ANC) in India, Egypt and Finland.

Afzal returned to South Africa following the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. He works and lives in Johannesburg, and shares his literary musings with his most strident critic – his 12 year old cat – Scully.


Copyright © 2012 by Afzal Moolla


John McKernan… Memorial Days, Every June Thereafter, I Never Read A Newspaper as a Child



We went to visit
Our father’s grave
And immediately
To the size of grass seed
That way
We could get way down there
Scrape away for hours
All the bugs & crud & stain on the marker
The next year we returned
With our monstrous bloated bodies
Full of regret & loss & food
This cycle went on every summer
Until those tiny particles of grief died


An entire year
Slowly rose
From the dust
Of my father’s grave in Omaha
Scattering lilac and Easter lilies
Pint bottles of grape vodka
Bras   Incense   Pillows
Radios   CDs   Maps   Photos
Gaining speed
Approaching at eye level
The power of gravity
Then accelerating
To the speed of silence


Bombs kept falling out of every sky
Every day for four years

Like pop corn
Submarines exploding
In far corners of the globe
Like bubbles of Coca Cola
Arms & legs
Eyes & skulls & lips
Scattered across seven continents
Like the grass we mowed in Omaha
My POW uncle returned
To show me cigarette burns
Knife wounds
And tell me how he ate a soup
Of spiders ants and roaches
Just like the bugs in your basement

John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha Nebraska in the middle of the USA – is now a retired comma herder after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives in West Virginia and Florida. His most recent book is a selected poems Resurrection of the Dust. He has published poems in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Journal, Antioch Review, Guernica, Field and many other magazines.

Copyright © 2016 by John McKernan