The Unknown Child


Poems of war, love and longing.

Children who are stripped of their innocence and forced to participate in civil and regional war are the true victims of human conflict. These child-soldiers, whose spirits are hobbled by combat, are cheated of their youth, not only by the governments and rebels who control them, but by we whose countries manufacture and export armaments, fuelling trade in weapons. This anthology pays tribute to the child victims of modern warfare and their mothers.



Why is it that we learn nothing from war and genocide?

Are we to be remembered
not so much as composers of music, as artists, as builders,
but as a species of warriors
with a collective psyche of hatred and revenge,
a species which destroyed one another, and one another's cultures,
and even the earth, with impunity?

Would it not be sweeter
to be remembered as a genus of light-bearers,
one which loved and rendered unto others
only things born of goodness?

The Unknown Child Luanda,
Angola 1995

Did no one cover your nakedness,
small boy, small fallen angel,
bent beneath the heavy wings of war?

How did she die, your mother?
Was she the one who fell by the roadside,
when the many were fleeing the attack on Huambo?

Was she the one who stood on a landmine in the field,
blown apart and unto the winds,
away from you?

Was she the one the soldiers took away in the night
or did you just loose her in the crush,
when the armies opened fire across Kuito?

Did no one lift you, hold you up,
unknown boy,
in the rain, in the traffic, in Luanda?

Did no one notice this holy moment
of hunger, of cold,
of the human heart longing for love?

Did no one hear that the mission bells were silent,
and that all you wanted
was the smallest of things?

Where are you now,
unknown child?
Did you find some place to go?



English Paperback:

ISBN 978-1-874915-15-6
Published by African Sun Press
138 pages
Black-and-white archival photographs

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Swedish Paperback: Okänt Barn

Translated by Yvonne Blank
ISBN 91-85133-26-4
Published by Bokforlager Tranan


Norwegian paperback: Det Ukjende Barnet

Translated by Per Olav Kaldestad
Published by Margbok Forlag


“There is no mistaking the compassion and sorrow that animate these poems of war, death and love.”
~ JM Coetzee 2003 Nobel Laureate
“A haunting, disturbing and moving anthology that highlights the plight of child victims of conflict, genocide and greed. May these poems move us to build a better world.”
~ Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate 1984
“The language … is that associated with passion, but the subject is that of deep mourning and outrage. Outrage against the horror of genocide, fratricide and the destruction of nature.”
~ Lucinda Jolly, Cape Times