On his knees
the villainous sentry of the fortress
speaks to God
makes the sign of the cross,
makes responses to the priest’s prayers,
follows these with “Amen Jesus.”

Amid the crowd of the faithful, I saw my only child,
the jewel of my heart, praying.
The awkward eight-year-old kneeling in prayer,
through parched lips telling his rosary:
“Our Father,
give us back our father.”

His heart’s wound is written in the hollows of his eyes,
he has been stabbed by seven daggers,
and in the failing light,
I see, with bitter pain,
this sweet child,
gnawed like a rosebud, blighted by the worm
of hunger and disease.

When the mass and prayers were over,
my son looked back and saw me,
possessed by hope
I waved to my cherished child,
torn out of my heart and life
by a lying world
and a stone-blind judge.
My boy tried to rush into my waiting arms.

Come, o, my child,
I call out timidly,
holding out my arms like joyful wings
for my son, the only cure for my grief.

But the guard,
kneeling on the cushion with head bowed, crosses
with eyes like the glint of an axe-blade,
turns on my son and me, blazing with anger.
How abruptly he forgets God,
but never, even once, the duty
the king has imposed on him.
I am quickly turned about.

The iron door is open, then shut tight,
my child has vanished out of sight,
has been driven away,
without our ever embracing
even for a few seconds.
He never put his skinny arms around my neck,
and out of my heart, seething with grief,
I had no chance to share a little warmth with him.
My body dries out, becomes diseased in this
the door clangs shut, my child may never return,
my eyes feel struck by lightning,
curses lie on my dry lips.

The wind outside my cell sobs,
brings me the echo of a vanishing voice,
the phantom of a kiss drenched in tears of love.

I am a useless stump abandoned
in the dreadful gloom of prison.
New chains of foreboding have been laid on me:
my son has been abandoned
to fight a stormy sea alone.
How bleak his present life,
his future wrapped in darkness.
A year, five, ten—his whole life!
My entire being
is swallowed into an abyss as wide as an open grave,
I am felled by a thousand deaths,
while in my soul, without end,
there comes the echo of the word:
forbidden, forbidden, forbidden.