Tag Archives: Syria

POEM: Slaughtered Silently

This poem is my contribution to the Artists 4 Syria collection, put together at the end of last year by poets in Stourbridge to raise money for rescue workers in Syria. 

Slaughtered Silently

Scribing silently in old Abbasid Raqqa
A doctor-poet secretly worships at art’s altar,
Guided by history and the luminous lanterns of Seville
Collective unconsciousness is devoured, yet still:

Swaying silently in old Bedouin Raqqa
Black flags rise as his troupe plot their escape,
Dancers and musicians flee the city between tears
To roam like ancestors – but unknown on the road and laden with fears.

Slaughtered silently in old Ayyubid Raqqa
Daring dissidents shuffle amongst the traitors,
The altar of art replaced by that of depravity
While watch is kept by Ruqia – a Lieutenant of humanity.

RAQQA IS BEING SLAUGHTERED SILENTLY.

Aleppo is slaughtered silently.

Daraa slaughter’d silently…

All bleed under the same dead sky,
But timeless! The Levantine idea will not die.

Daniel W. Round

Line-by-line notes:

Scribing silently in old Abbasid Raqqa

First quatrain set in the 1970s; Abbasid era, 750-1258  AD; Raqqa was the Abbasid capital for 13 years (796-809); a great period of writing and Islamic scholarship.

A doctor-poet secretly worships at art’s altar,

“Doctor-poet” Abdulsalam Ojeili (1917-2006) secretly scripted many theatrical works for the Raqqa Popular Dance Troupe (see readings below).

Guided by history and the luminous lanterns of Seville

The Lanterns of Seville – a story by Ojeili (read via link below)

Collective unconsciousness is devoured, yet still:

Ojeili wrote about psychological loss (and political drift) among Arabs in the second half of the tumultuous 20th century.

 

Swaying silently in old Bedouin Raqqa

Set in 2013; “Swaying” – both flags and folk dancers; Bedouin domination in Raqqa in the late 10th to early 12th centuries.

Black flags rise as his troupe plot their escape,

The “black flags” of Al-Qaeda; “troupe” – Raqqa Popular Dance Troupe

Dancers and musicians flee the city between tears

The RPTD had to leave Raqqa in 2013 when Al-Qaeda took over (see readings); Basima “Between Tears” – title of an Ojeili book.

To roam like ancestors – but unknown on the road and laden with fears.

Roaming ancestors – Bedouins; Unknown on the Road – another Ojeili title

 

Slaughtered silently in old Ayyubid Raqqa

Set in 2015; Ayyubid period – 12th and 13th centuries.

Daring dissidents shuffle amongst the traitors,

Dissidents – the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (see reading); “shuffle” – digital connotations (randomisation), & RIBSS’s use of technology/evasiveness; The Traitors (AQ/IS) – a book by Ojeili

The altar of art replaced by that of depravity

Ayyubid art (e.g. beautiful ceramic vases) left an indelible mark on the cultural history of Raqqa (see book below).

While watch is kept by Ruqia – a Lieutenant of humanity.

Ruqia Hassan – member of RIBSS who was the first female citizen journalist to be executed by ISIS (2015); The Lieutenant’s Watch – by Ojeili.

 

RAQQA IS BEING SLAUGHTERED SILENTLY.

Aleppo is slaughtered silently.

Daraa slaughter’d silently…

All three cities have been attacked from different sides at different times (Raqqa is of course associated with ISIS depravity; Aleppo and Daraa with the regime’s war crimes); indents indicate pause for reflection; shrinking sentences (e.g. “being”) signals the futility of war and the struggle to communicate the extent of its horrors.

 

All bleed under the same dead sky,

Whether from regime/Russian or opposition/coalition strikes, shells, etc.

But timeless! The Levantine idea will not die.

Key motif of timelessness throughout poem (juxtaposition of historical eras with more recent epochs; the use of present tense); the “idea” is that of historical ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic pluralism and diversity in the Levant – including Syria.

 

Green text – rhyming couplets; blue text – internal/half rhymes; orange text – alliteration; underlined text – Ojeili titles

 

Selected readings:

Firas al-Hakkar, “Syria: Raqqa Dance Troupe Branded Apostates”, Al-Akhbar: http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/17064 (September 2013)

Abdulsalam-Ojeili, “The Lanterns of Seville”, Words Without Borders: http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article/the-lanterns-of-seville (from June 2005 issue)

The AP, “Abdul-Salam Ojeili, Syrian Novelist, 88, Is Dead”, The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/07/books/abdulsalam-ojeili-syrian-novelist-88-is-dead.html (April 2006)

Various, “Ruqia Hassan: the woman who was killed for telling the truth about Isis”, The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/13/ruqia-hassan-killed-for-telling-truth-about-isis-facebook (January 2016)

Marilyn Jenkins, Raqqa Revisited: Ceramics of Ayyubid Syria: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=W6yk5oZTlQsC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false (2006)

 

Images:


^ Abdulsalam al-Ojeili

Public Relations Syria: http://www.prsyria.com/en/index.php?id=536#.WCpW3PmLTIU

ruqia-hassan-syria.jpg
^ Ruqia Hassan

The Independenthttp://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/ruqia-hassan-isis-executes-first-female-citizen-journalist-in-raqqa-confirmed-by-raqqa-is-being-a6797036.html 

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