Shooting from the hip








The manuscript Africa Ablaze! is now spread out upon the drawing table, under the careful hand of my designer.

Each poem is a mosaic piece, portent and potent. We read each one again, noticing the colours. There are the many shades of blood: simple reds, arterial-reds, venal-reds, carmine, scarlet, crimson, clotted and browning-red.

There are the gun-metal greys, with lead and coppers and irons and blacks. There are the smoke-blues of scorched earth and the bitter-blacks of burning villages. I see before me, in this extraordinary collaboration of voices, all the components of an African Guernica, as painful as that by Pablo Picasso.

Here is war in its full process: The pre-meditation, the engineering, the rhetoric and the killing. There is no beauty to it at all. There is only the profound and lasting damage done to the human heart. I am ashamed of it, ashamed to admit that: ‘Yes, this is how we behave toward one another. This is intrinsic to us.’

Superficially, in compiling this anthology, my role has been that of editor and curator. But, at a deeper level, it has been an attempt to inspire us away from the pitiful, recurring horror of war and toward a lasting peace.


Found poem: Shooting from the hip
Cape Town 1979

Former Rhodesian conscripted soldier
As told to Patricia Schonstein over a cup of rooibos

Entering the kraal
Dead still and quiet
But we knew they were in there hiding
It was too dead quiet.

So with the first movement you just shoot
From the hip
And your weapon moves from left to right
And back left again and back right
Back and forth steady, even, careful
So everything is killed
And it’s all screaming chickens suddenly
and mangy dogs
and then you see it’s just women and kids
But you had to shoot
It could have been terrs in there hiding
They could have shot you first.

I hate mangy dogs.
I killed lots of mangy dogs.


Africa Ablaze! Poems & prose pieces of war & civil conflict
Selected by Patricia Schonstein
African Sun Press, Cape Town
ISBN 978-1-874915-19-5
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Pablo Picasso pained Guernica in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by German and Italian warplanes, at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937. The painting has gained monumental status and is a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war.












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