The Ghost and The Fire

Updated on September 19, 2019
Steve Tyson profile image

Steve Tyson is a critically acclaimed Australian songwriter, inspired by travel, family history, political satire, and tales of heartbreak

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A Syrian Story

World Vision calls the situation in Syria “the largest refugee crisis of our lifetime.”

I sat in a hotel room, somewhere on tour with my band, watching BBC World News. Or maybe it was CNN, I can’t remember. A Syrian man, maybe early thirties, was being interviewed in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Interviewed is probably not really the right word. He was screaming, crying, wrapping his arms around his thin frame, rocking back and forth, just repeating the same words over and over.

I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen. The camera eventually moved back to the reporter talking with a humanitarian worker who translated what the man was saying. It was “my family, my family, I have lost my family…”

Or words pretty much close to that.

Turns out he had lost his entire family – wife, children, parents, siblings – trying to flee the conflict in the north of the country. He was the only one to survive. And it seemed to me he was not laying the blame on the Government forces or the rebels. He was beyond that. He was blaming himself. And nothing could convince him it wasn’t his fault.

How do you live with such an unbearable burden? How do you survive, not only losing your entire family, but blaming yourself? How do you not want to blame someone else and seek revenge of the most violent nature? How do you become anywhere near whole again?

I’ve been to Syria. It was around 2004, and my wife Karen and I were on a cruise ship that had departed from Athens. We had stops at ports in Turkey and Egypt, but also at Tartus, the second largest port in Syria. Back then, there was no civil war, and to tourists like us, no hint of any trouble brewing. I’m sure there was, but you don’t think in those terms when you are sailing the Mediterranean on a cruise ship.

We had the opportunity to take a bus tour to Damascus, which was something we were really looking forward to, but unfortunately Karen and I had picked up a bug the day before, and we didn’t feel up to making the 11 hour round trip. We so regret that now, because the chances of tourists ever getting to Damascus again seem very remote – at least for a very long time.

So we sat in a café near the port, and quietly strolled around Tartus for an hour or so. After a while, with the bug wearing us down, we were standing in front of a general store waiting for a bus to take us back to the ship. It was a very hot day. There were a group of men sitting nearby on plastic milk crates around a makeshift table, playing cards.

One of them looked over to us, stood up and went inside the shop, and came back out with another milk crate. He pointed to it, smiled at my wife, and returned to the card game. A beautiful, polite, considerate gesture by a complete stranger from a supposedly male-dominated society.

What a tragedy that this once proud, historically important country is now torn to pieces, with something like 6.7 million people displaced. Terrible stories of families ripped apart, none more horrific than that of the young father I saw on TV.

I needed to tell his story in the best way I know, through song. “The Ghost and The Fire” is that story. The lyrics of the song are self-explanatory, the instrumental passage at the end of the piece represents the turmoil in his life.

Of course it won’t make any difference to what is happening in the country. I never expected it to. But he needed to be heard…..

The Lyrics

There's a ghost in the corner, and she's calling my name

She's trying to tell me there's no one to blame

But nothing in this bind, will ever change my mind

It stays the same

There's a fire in my temple, there's just stone in my heart

There's a grievous temptation for a vengeful restart

But nothing in this grey, points another way

It stays the same

The ghost and the fire, long to retire

But not today

There's no hollow redemption, there's no graphic retreat

There's just fuel for the fire, and the banishing heat

And nothing in my fear, stridently comes clear

It stays the same

The ghost and the fire

Long to retire

But not today.....

The Song

Questions & Answers

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      • Steve Tyson profile imageAUTHOR

        Steve Tyson 

        4 weeks ago from Byron Bay, Australia

        Cheers John. Going to get into your vast catalogue soon...!

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        As always an interesting account and poignant message, Steve. I tell my stories through poetry, you do it through song. Great job.

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