In ancient Syria it was said
if the paid mourners did not wail
and play their flutes,
the fire snake of grief,
the demon Bhalak, would stir
and scorch the bereft
from the inside out.

I bury one hand in the dirt.
With the other I throw dust
over my head. I am barefoot.
I do not eat. My bloodless hair
I pluck and tear: Syria is dead
and all the professional
mourners have fled.

Oh Syria! With the god of Storm
and Dew now thunder-mute
in Homs, Aleppo, Damascus and Palmyra,
without the rip of shirt and flesh,
un-memoried, the thousand silences,
thick and slow, stand on the banks
of the Orontes, a living mist,
wordless as the dead.

I thrust one hand into my chest.
With the other I scratch black scars
in a lost language of Body:
some, any, every, no.
The earth burns my feet.
My blistered tongue swells
with seared and serpent breath. 

Helen Wing is a poet and fiction writer currently living in Beirut. She has worked as a poet-in-residence in schools in China, the UK, and the EU and runs creative writing workshops for performance and poetry book publishing projects. Her work has been published in UK, US, China, and Lebanon.