Remnants of Raqqa

By Rena Rooyi Su
10th grade, Pacific Academy, Canada

With lines from "America's Abandonment of Syria" by Luke Mogelson, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

in Raqqa
man sweeps debris from a warzone
after a night under the stars
to look for someplace with a roof
sweeping away the sound of shelling 
and machine gun fire

man sweeps debris from
the din of banging hammers
jackhammers smashed the vast 
mountains of concrete
shattered by American arms

man sweeps debris from
the remnants of a dead city
thousands of bodies were extracted 
tens of thousands of mines
solar-powered lamps illuminate 
a few main boulevards

man sweeps debris from 
battered business cards for N.G.O.s 
and aid workers 
who had long since quit the region

man sweeps debris from
a clearing outside a mosque
he dug a grave and marked it
for his eight-year-old niece
with a stone on either end

man sweeps debris from 
the roof so thoroughly damaged
projectiles have gouged holes 
of different shapes and sizes

man sweeps debris from Raqqa
he remembered lying flat in 
the fields with other children, 
each time planes passed overhead
each time the world had betrayed 
the people of Raqqa

man sweeping debris from himself
"I love this land," he says,
                                           "I'll never leave it."

Rena Rooyi Su
Rena Rooyi Su

Rena Su is a sixteen-year-old from British Columbia, Canada. She goes to Pacific Academy High School and is part of the class of 2022. As an avid writer, she believes in advocating for those who do not have a voice.

Rena first learned about the effects of the war in Syria through debate club. After hearing about the severity of some of these issues, she volunteered at an organization that helps refugees settle into Canada. There, she was inspired by the stories and experiences of the refugees which motivated her to write "Remnants of Raqqa." 

She is very thankful to have her work featured by the Pulitzer Center and aims to continue to use writing as a catalyst for change.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Fighting Words Poetry Contest