The Fires of Virunga

The sounds of the devil come not long after the thunder,

(Out of the craters of Virunga, the fire the rains can’t dampen)

new guns to wage war on paradise.

His serpent uncoils in verdant Eden,

Eyes of amber and heart of darkness,

the beast they call the mighty Congo

whose black tributaries feed these savage lands,

— this savage man that settled upon the garden

like a parasite of old colonial greed.

“There is black gold enough for all,” the devil decrees

“do not deny yourselves this fruit

for Paradise is lost upon these apes and lesser men—

Live as kings, I say, nay Gods,

And may your wealth be tempered only by your lust.”

The guns spit their venom

Brother unto brother,

Drunk on the poison of false promises, false riches.

And as the thunder echoes across the delta

and the tears of the innocents feed the swollen river

(falling heavier than the tropical rain),

The sounds of the old ones come not long after,

out of the craters of Virunga…

“The horror, oh, the horror…”

(c) Darren Hawbrook

I was inspired to write this after watching the brilliant and moving documentary film Virunga, available on Netflix. Please watch it and spread the word to support the remarkable people fighting to save the last mountain gorillas on the planet.


In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and home to the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a dedicated conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect, with the filmmakers and the film’s participants caught in the crossfire.

A powerful combination of investigative journalism and nature documentary, VIRUNGA is the incredible true story of a group of courageous people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten, and a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Congo.

From director Orlando von Einsiedel and executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio.

14 thoughts on “The Fires of Virunga

  1. Lovely poem. I am familiar with the documentary, it was heart wrenching. So long as there is still black gold in the soil, tales like this will be told. True heroes are the people that stand up and say this is wrong, and try and stop it.

    We need to shift the power source of the world away from oil and nonrenewable resources, and put it back into the hands of the people, not a few wealthy corporations. They know what they’re doing, what they’re destroying, and it doesn’t matter because it’s all about their profits. It’s wrong, it won’t last, and it will end badly for the entire planet.

    Beyond changing my own lifestyle, I feel like I’m rather helpless. But if everyone started walking in the right direction, we could turn our sinking ship around.

    Sorry for waxing on, thank you for sharing this post.

    • Great comment, so no need to apologise for ‘waxing on.’

      Money is king, above all costs, and it looks like we’re on our way to fulfilling that Native American proverb:

      “Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”

      I know that helpless feeling, however with enough voices coming together we might be able to shout louder. Myself and a fellow blogger are putting together a conservationist blog to try and pull together all those individual voices, and we’re going to need all the contributors we can get once it’s launched.

      Thanks again 🙂

      • Sounds like a great project. Looking forward to following it once you get it launched. If there was an invitation to contribute in there, and I wasn’t misreading, I would love to potentially offer an article here or there. Or just add my voice to the chorus of comments. Cheers!

      • Definitely. We will be relying on – and encouraging -the contributions of people who are passionate about nature and the environment. I’ll keep you posted!

  2. I know exactly where that poem belongs — in our forthcoming project. That is a powerful piece, Darren.

    I want to see that documentary, but it’s hard to find time to watch movies and such without my kids. Would you recommend it for kids 10 – 12 years old? My youngest loves animal documentaries, but he’s like me, and we have trouble watching animal suffering/killing.

    • I’m trying to think back…there’s not really anything too graphic visually, however it is set against a backdrop of civil war and corruption. The gorillas you see are homed in an orphanage and there is one sad moment concerning them. It’s mainly french with english subtitles too, but that could be a positive if they study French.

      And yes, the sooner we get that project off the ground the better.

    • Wow, thanks Lily. The main goal of the poem was to point anyone who read it in the direction of the film….so I’ve acheived at least one more small success 🙂

  3. I’m not sure I could watch the film, but your poem is powerful and moving. Thanks for alerting me to this, Darren.

    • Thank you, Anita. It’s sad that we need to write about such things, yet I’m so glad this movie was made and that people are trying to redress the problems.

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