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David Pratt


Raqqa, Syria 



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


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?



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.



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



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.





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

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
















The music plays, the list goes on.

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



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.

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