Inside Raqqa by Lesley Quayle

(after BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme)

 

My friend since boyhood, more like my brother,

said “Don’t walk home by familiar routes,

take backstreets, bombed out alleys, keep to the dark.

Shun light and open spaces. Avoid my mother’s house.”

 

I know his face so well that, when I close my eyes,

its calm companionship is fixed, aligns unsettling darks,

a gentle spirit, bright as uncut roses, a happy, smiling soul,

my friend since boyhood, more like my brother.

 

All day my curiosity burned, infatuated with questions,

with what and why till, as the sun blistered blood stained

blackened stones, I followed the smothering dusk,

mesmerised and terrified, to his mother’s house.

 

My friend since boyhood, more like my brother,

crucified, the naked, bleeding, headless corpse

stretched like a goat for skinning, haemorrhaging horror.

The street is death-shaped outside his mother’s house.

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