Not In Their Name
warm evenings in my park
I would sit alone at peace
watch the world pass me by
be serenaded by starling
hear pantechnicons growl
autos crunch through their gears
motorised cycles spark
distant buses stop and start
dialogue with myself
serenade flying squirrels
catch leaves fluttering through breeze
ingest the parfum of cut grass
nod to passing strangers
raise my hat to chic women
acknowledge friendly neighbours
now removed in black blankets
recovered by the brave
extricated from apartments
encrusted with shrapnel
scarred by munitions
en route to valhalla
limbs scattered across the domain
brains blown into fragments
but excused by politicians
passing blame like vintage port
then rebuffed by religious leaders
claiming not in their name
Flies swarm up ahead
like a flock of migrating birds
rising up suddenly
in unspoken collective purpose.
That’s when you know
that death is near.
The trick is not to smell.
They say the human corpse
smells strangely sweet
but it’s not true. Sometimes
you’re lucky and and the bodies are old,
heat-blasted into mummification.
but always, death stinks.
The midday sun beats down,
sucking the air out
of your lungs, making you sweat
in your protective suit.
Dust seeps in behind your mask,
choking you to death.
The trick is not to count.
Not the crumbling buildings
nor the wrecked cars lying
in the street like upturned crabs
and especially not the bodies.
How could you possibly compute
the cost of these deaths?
Syrians Cairryin a Makeshift Bodybag
The twaa men wear face masks
as they haud ticht tae each end o a makeshift bodybag
for anither o the hundreds o thoosands
fa hiv already died in Syria.
Their een trained awa fae the waxen an bloodied fit
stickin oot, sae they can keep their grip, as they cross
the bomb craters an rubble, against a backdrop
o decimated tenements. Those wi facades left
their windaes as hollowed oot as the lives
o millions o displaced people.
Amon aa the confusion for those fleein tae safety
is the hostility meted oot by Western countries
fas inhabitants hiv been practicin social distancin
fae the reality o oor common humanity, for a whiley.
An forbye, ahin aa their rhetoric, foreign governments
hiv been playin petroleum politics in the Middle East
for even langer. Noo it’s Syrian fowks turn tae become
the incidental victims we dinna wint comin tae oor shores
wi cap in haun as if we hiv onyhin tae answer for.
The twaa men, the topography o their bodies a map
o their daily journey across this war zone,
cairryin the corpses o ordinary Syrians histories.
the state tv came out and said
another grave was found
this time in raqqa
there were around two hundred dead
there are no courts
so does it matter?
but few are answered
in these lawless days
no chance of slander
no-one yet held to account
they blame IS, US and others
the bodies pile, problems mount
meanwhile another nation suffers
The personal touch is missing
but the occupants weren’t alone,
had something in common…
these comrades, spirits entwined
in death, waving farewells.
Side by side, one after another
they left this place from an atmosphere filled
with intention – civilisations are built
on the dead but we are too distant
to notice them underfoot.
Some people take care not to kill
insects. We should Good Morning
and Good Night our paths forward
for we may be part
of the structure millennia hence.
The piano plays fierce allegro, stamping allegro.
thick fingers on heavy hands
banging against our ears
like bullets hitting their mark.
Notes blowing Dixie double ball time
A lock in, long past curfew
Every glass, every bottle singing, all that jazz.
No one thinks about the streets
Ricochets whining, splitting heads.
Dropping like flies
Open fires cooking dinner in tin can pots.
Utility, made to last longer than a trip to the only tap
strategically placed along snipers alley.
Chairs rock, creaking in tune, legs slapped red
sore all weekend, who would complain.
Who would listen ?
And laughter what a simple sound it is,
unhinged, teeth flashing, the air screaming,
tongues stuck out in defiance.
Drinking bright liquor in dark rooms near the old quarter
Et liberate mei.
And what of tomorrow ?
Old rags carrying the dead across no man's land.
While hostile forces shoot to kill.
priests, volunteers, gangsters.
This could be anywhere
The music plays, the list goes on.
Click on the gallery to find out more about their work!
Grisly new flowers are growing
in Raqqa. Gone are the fresh red poppies
on the banks of the Euphrates.
Faded to ancient parchment,
they coorie down amongst the dead.
Pale bone and blood-thickened hair
poke through the rusty rubble
of our homes, their scent more lethal
than opium. This was the park
of all our childhoods, blooming
with life and laughter. Nothing more
to see here, nothing
that should be seen. Blue body bags
replace park benches where women
once exchanged their stories,
passed a peaceful hour or two.
No dandelion clocks float on the air
now tinted blowfly black.
In the tired soil of this city, friends
lie with enemies, neither seeing
what they have left behind. But
unlike the vanished long-headed poppies
we called blindeyes, the living still look
to the future, still believe in an end to war.
All that remains in this blown out park
dressed in destruction are children
who miss their fathers, the fragrance
of old flowers, and peace.