In Syria

Her face was like a river bed dried and cracked by unrelenting heat. Sitting there, beside the church on streets bleached white by sunlight, she made no statement, but still I felt I knew her. This other soul. This old soul who like a breeze drifts in and out of history. Light on comment, and asking no quarter from events, she raised her eyes to mine. A man who had no offering but coins, a nod: the corner of a smile.

A mother, sister, someone’s victim she’d reached a changeless time and space. I  felt the bustle of events fall away  as I looked on this life lived without a sense of pity. Acceptance was her only weapon Her wisdoms were like hidden treasures buried in her life. She knew what ‘Now’ meant. Lived in it for many years and silence was her only comment.

I watched her, looking for a response but I saw none. Her garb, black and medieval, offered few glimpses from her past. I searched in vain for understanding and then I saw it. Hardly larger than her palm. A small doll, dressed in faded clothes. A fragment of her history.

Child taken from her life? Husband lost in some forgotten war ? Who was I to guess. She lived on coins dropped in moments of empathy. These other lives, lived in other places pose questions I can’t answer. Some of this world we dream of as a village remains unmapped. Lost to public gaze where forgotten souls live out something called existence. Refugees from tyranny.

So now in Syria lives are torn from hope, driven from their village and drying in some barren camp . Sometime in a future I won’t see, you might find them sitting in a corner. Living on the fringes. Beggars without explanation. Victims of a man’s conceit.


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, community, creative writing, faith, Life, Relationships, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to In Syria

  1. mothermi6 says:

    I was thinking of that film of a book by Michael Ondaatje when I read this – the one starring Kristin Scott Thomas dying in a cave in the desert. And with Juliet Binoche as the nurse. Probably because of the elemental nature of the struggle for survival. I think I would have liked to see a story develop from your description of the desiccated old woman seated outside the church? Something other-cultural and real, because ‘real’ is what you do so well.


  2. Lily Mugford says:

    your words brought a cry to my heart. You made this “other soul” so real to me. thank you.


  3. catterel says:

    Tantalising – I do look forward to reading ypur novel when it comes out.


  4. mohammadatif says:

    Words with magic. Hi, too want to implement that ‘like’ feature on every post at the home page as you have done on your blog. Can you please help me on how to do so.


  5. nelle says:

    If only we devoted ourselves to make better rather than to tearing down.


  6. Al says:

    I continue to be amazed (but shouldn’t be) at how you bring to life characters that we all know, but shuttle to the recesses of out mind out of moral self-preservation. I feel like I am walking alongside you, so vivid are your images.


  7. shoreacres says:

    The question is, how many of her are there today – in Damascus, in Homs, in Aleppo – and will they still be alive tomorrow?


  8. Kirri White says:

    This character draws out so much empathy from the heart…. I imagined myself sitting quietly next to her and leaning in to hear more of her story.


  9. renxkyoko says:

    I hear you, countingducks.


  10. Mike Wilson says:

    Your writing evokes powerful emotion.


  11. Addie says:

    Oh my gosh, your writing always leaves me breathless.


  12. I dont really know what to say. So beautifully written as always, andyou left me thinking deply. 🙂


  13. 😦 You articulate the destruction of the human spirit that war and hatred rains down upon us.


  14. babs50nfab says:

    So beautifully written, Peter. We all need to stop and imagine what brought someone to such a place. Our world is so unrelentingly cruel in so many ways. Your characterization is painfully, and compassionately written.


  15. Powerful stuff – made me take a moment in gratitude for all that I have. Thank you.


  16. YES — what else can be said. So revealingly touching.


  17. Peter, this beautifully written and with what is going on in Syria at the present moment it makes me wonder how we can allow these events to happen. As humanity progresses it always seems to take two steps backwards and I never understand why regimes still rule that harm their people.


  18. **Her face was like a river bed dried and cracked by unrelenting heat**

    Love that sentence, Peter. Xx0


  19. Caroline says:

    Your ability to bring to life a moment is wonderful



  20. gotham girl says:

    So beautifully written…I just love this…”Her wisdoms were like hidden treasures buried in her life.”


  21. My 10-Month Get-Clean Sabbatical says:

    Before you came along, Edgar Allen Poe was my favorite author. How lovely it would be for you to pull your short stories into a collection or more. When you write like this, it goes to the core. That, my friend, is a precious gift. Thank you, as always, for sharing that gift.


  22. Wonderful writing, as always. I have kept reading your posts on my email notifications; sorry I seldom get online, and haven’t commented or blogged in so many months. I am always reading, and might even write a post very soon… (promises promises!)


  23. This is the way ‘the news’ should be ‘reported’, Peter – with a sense of the human thread that connects us all – with an empathy that understands what we don’t know and may never know. This woman’s shrouded silence is as much our own.
    Powerful lines, among many:
    ‘Some of this world we dream of as a village remains unmapped. Lost to public gaze where forgotten souls live out something called existence. ‘
    This post stopped me ‘in my tracks’.


  24. Wonderful use of descriptive language – it puts a very clear image in your mind. Again – great job!


  25. What’s happening in Syria and has happened for a long time, is really rotten, and you’ve said it very well.


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