David Pratt

Raqqa, Syria 

ALUN ROBERT

 

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

bloodied, mutilated

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

JEAN RAFFERTY

Death Squad

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?

LESLEY BENZIE

 

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.

COLIN RUTHERFORD

 

april fourteenth    

 

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?

 

questions raised

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

IRENE CUNNINGHAM

 

Mass Graves

 

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.

RAY EVANS

 

Razzmatazz

 

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.

Razzmatazz.

 

No one thinks about the streets

Ricochets whining, splitting heads.

Dropping like flies

Shitting bricks.

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.

Danse macabre.

 

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

Nuremberg

Warsaw,

Krakow,.

Cambodia

Manchuria

Korea

Sarejevo

Belfast

Rwanda

Bhopal

Soweto

Afghanistan

Iraq

Iran

Kurdistan.

The music plays, the list goes on.

Click on the gallery to find out more about their work! 

DIANA DEVLIN

 

New Flowers

 

papaver dubium

 

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.