Child Soldiers (History 20)

Child Soldiers
By Isabelle Balot

Awash in the sun of timeless Africa
The beat-king goes robbed in light
A murderous heat stirs in his thigh
As he crouches in the brush or bed of a creek.

In the fire of noon when all seems
dead
When everything sleeps in the
saffron haze
This warrior lurks in the deep bush
grass
A glint at play in his lambent eye.

A sudden surge, and a great, tawny
blur
Flashes up and descends in a
fantastic bound
Strikes and crushes the prey to the
ground.
Kills in one blow of sovereign
power.

I know of other kings under African
skies
They, of all hope and royalty bereft,
Warriors without helmets, armor or
heft,
Go ragged and shoeless, in leathery
skin.

Nomads without pity at the road’s
bend
-Fatality write in their dark eyes
depth
As in crypt where shadows drift-
Come to sow death, grenade in
hand.

Behold the child soldier, the
murdered child,
Send in battalions into the sun-
scorched light
For diamonds, for ivory, black gold
or white!
Pencil in hand, he would sketch
only death.

Under stubborn brow and crown of
black hair
What memories cling from the days
of innocence
-that balm that pours from the
flask of infancy-
Form a thread too fine for a mind to
retrace

In combat, there’s nothing can
thwart his will;
This more than a child, this man not
yet,
Is a god and a king, an unripened
adult
Who thinks he is immortal, lives
only to kill

When the combat is over, he sits in
ashes; With a rifle smeared with blood and
sweat
He tortures a golden or silvery
cricket
Idly crushes a salamander or scarab.

Sprawled on a cartirdge sack what
doe he see
Behind wide open eyes, the
sleeping warrior,
What does he hear when he dies
under fire,
In the mortar’s blast and the
buzzing of flies?

Drugged, drunk, stunned by the
sun,
Does he dream of lagoons and a glittering source,
Does his forehead feel a mother’s kiss
Through his final sleep, what images run?

Pardon, Lord, but when this
battered Africa
Wants top bind up its wounds and
begin to yearn
For peace that sinks deep through
its dark domain,
When the altars light up at the hour
of prayer,

When peace is promised and even
celebrated
I see amidst glittering
constellations,
In spite of myself, a lion-god of
diamonds
Whose fierce pagan eyes laugh from the dark

(The above poem is written by Isabelle Balot (2000))

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