Lament of the Child Soldier

POETRY FORMAT, 15 May 2017

Evelyn Voigt – TRANSCEND Media Service

Can you imagine pointing a gun at a child? Let alone forcing a child at gun point to lead killers to raid his home? Sad but true for captured child soldiers in Northern Uganda. A working trip to the region in 2004 tore from me these words, as I tried to put myself in the child’s bare feet.

In the barrel of my gun is the heart of a mother
and in my heart, like a distant shadow
my yearning for childhood. Am I child? I do not know.
I think I left that journey many years ago.

Or is it only days since I was torn, in screaming darkness,
from my mother’s arms,
from sun-drenched corn and cattle song;
to the seductive power of the gun?

What am I now, as in the dark I
lead the killers to my village?
Am I child? Man? Beast?
I no longer know.

What to think, to feel? I no longer know.
In the barrel of my gun is the heart of a mother
and in my heart, like a distant shadow
my yearning for love.

Which is stronger: the shadow in my heart?
Or the fear of my captors?
My trigger finger hovers.
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EvelynVoigt was born a German prisoner of war in what is now Zimbabwe. As a child in Africa, she alternated between running free on an isolated tea and coffee farm and submitting to Dickensian, British-style boarding schools also in Africa. Penning for peace is her passion and she received the Order of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. She has performed in Canada and abroad and has authored Flying Snakes and Green Turtles, Tanzania Up Close and Letters from Helga. She currently volunteers toward the profession-wide accreditation of peace professionals through the Civilian Peace Service Canada www.civilianpeaceservice.ca and helps to raise funds for the Fox NGO through www.mufindiorphans.ca.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 May 2017.

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One Response to “Lament of the Child Soldier”

  1. Gary Corseri. says:

    It’s a sad, but splendid, poem, Ms. Voigt. You capture the innocence of the child–his “yearning” to return to his “mother’s arms,” and to “sun-drenched corn and cattle-song.” And, you capture, as well, his wrenching confusion: “Am I child? Man? Beast?”

    And we onlookers must wonder, too: What are we? What sort of world have we made, do we tolerate and sustain? The poem invokes anger–in the child, and in the reader. And we wonder: “What to think, to feel?”

    I am reminded of the last line of Rilke’s poem on the “Torso of Apollo”: “You must change your life.”

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