Sunday, September 16, 2012

Under fire

My first and hopefully only experience of being under fire. This happened when I was living in Angola during the Civil War.

The first shots snapped close, dull, too real.
Explosion wrapped, slow suffocation
and then again, the sharp, muffled thunder
before hell bared shining, shuddering teeth.

Within the instant of death-born life I fell
and slithered like a fleeing snake, for safety.
In deadly song the bullets flew
with words that screamed and thundered.

This song was new, the words unknown and yet
somehow remembered. My mind cleared,
waiting for the time when I could move again.
But in the selfish silence there was no peace.

Moments drawn through endless ages,
dragged me on and yet, I lived within the instant;
It birthed me now and then,
in sudden, writhing dance we took the floor again.

With thump and thud and crack and snap
the song grew loud and fast;
cruel harmony now ruled the world
held captive future, present, past.

Like some amoebic being in murky waters yet
I swam against the fearful tides,
dreamed long of land and light, and
suckled slow and fitfully in deep and muddy depths.

Remembered dreams held out their hands
and turned their skirts to show
that patterned, fading, flash of life
on which my mind must stand.

And when the song was fully sung,
the instruments at peace,
I turned inside myself and saw
Inanna spread;  raw hung.

Upon the sharpened, deadly nail
of darkness was she set;
the mirrored room of memory
held image fast, and yet…

I saw upon a distant wall
another image drawn;
a cup which shivered, glisten-full
to offer hope, fresh-born.

I invite you all to look back to a time where you experienced something for the very first time.


  1. such a tough experience...can not even imagine how frightening it must be..and really love the hope you draw in your last stanza..the image of hope drawn on the distant wall...

    1. Thanks Claudia. I came out of that thinking, well, remembering, because I had long thought it, that we never know when our 'number is up' and it is so important to 'deal' with issues as we go along. I had only one person I needed to talk to about something and I did it and from that point, I never let things go unresolved.

  2. wow. What a powerful piece. Just the way you worded the experience really floors me, so creative in expression, such a wonderful flow and rhythm, using metaphors and symbolism to layer the piece--excellent write all around, amazing read and wow, what an experience, I'd have been scared to the point of paralysis, at least I think I would be. So glad I stayed up an extra 15 minutes tonight to read tonight rather than tomorrow. Thanks so much for sharing tonight.

    1. Thanks Fred. I was utterly terrified and have never been so terrified but for whatever reason I don't paralyse with fear but can still think about what I need to do. I will say that when the gunfire stopped - I was in my home - I raced downstairs and got a bottle of cognac and cigarettes (rarely smoke but thought what the hell) and ran back up again and got back in the closet which I had finally figured was the safest place with concrete walls on two sides and least likely to be hit by richocheting machine-gun fire if bullets came through the window. Amazingly they didn't but we had massive holes in the brickwork of the house and it was a year before I stopped jumping out of my skin when cars backfired!

    2. And the machine guns did start again so I sat amongst my clothes sipping cognac and smoking - trying not to set myself alight - for another 20 minutes. Not knowing if someone would come through the door firing. As it turned out there had been a battle between police and car thieves in the street next to us and our guards who were armed with machine guns, got involved, so bullets were flying everywhere and a few people were killed. But, I did not know until later that they were not attacking the house.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks John. One other thing I learned is that gunfire in real life does not sound like gunfire in movies. There is a vicious, snap and crack to it and while living in a war zone meant I was used to hearing gunshots, coming under fire was quite a different thing.

  4. Fortunately most of us will not experience this kind of first time..unspeakably scary....yet, your writing comes across as apt and effortless...

  5. wow....excellent writing as it has a great intensity to it that marries the moment...and its one of those moments you really never understand as well until you have been in it, how it affects gave us a small glimpse...and here is to hoping you never have to relive it again....

    1. Thanks Brian. I do believe all happens for a reason and we 'draw' to ourselves experiences that we need. Well, it is a philosophy which works for me anyway.

  6. Your first-poem, like mine, was formed from a violent memory -- but mine nothing like this.

    This poem is rich and psychologically deep -- Fantastic!

    May I ask the setting? Why were you living in Angola -- your birthplace? Where are you now?

    1. My husband was working in Angola. We had just over four years there. I am Australian but have lived all over the world: Europe, India, South Africa, UK, North America, Zambia and currently Malawi. Although I spend a lot of time in Oz as well - we have a small farm there.

  7. Must be frightening, the noise and sensations stands out, jumps out. There's feelings of unrealness expressed which comes from such a shocking and scary situation I guess, and suggestion of a prayer at the end. Thanks for sharing this piece.

    - Ravenblack

    1. Yes, and I think it gave me greater insight into what it might be like for people who live in the midst of war for long periods or who live under violent occupation; the fear would never leave.