Ahmed Catrada never told if he got sick
on the boat to Robben Island,
or if he’d found his sea-legs by the time
he left eighteen years later.

He spoke of the absence of children.
The need for a child’s voice so acute
there were days his eyes stung
with the ache to hear a baby cry.

When finally a little girl climbed into his lap
he could not speak, but closed his eyes
as the wave of lost years broke over him
and he fought for breath,

her spindly arms around his neck
a life buoy and a noose of trust