Bye bye Robben Island

Composed whilst walking over Robben Island, on the ferry back to Cape Town, in a car to Cape Point and finally in Chartfield Guest House, Kalk Bay, Feb 2008.

You rise from the sea
suspended between it and the sky
above and below where poets have trawled…

You have held the mighty and the fallen,
the fighters, the lepers
and held fast the moist air…

The moist air falls leaden onto the silent walls, gates, wire, lime mines…
a pall of velvet air heavy on the voices buried in concrete and toil,
in the rocks and sand,
eroded but not forgotten…

Dry and gnarled the sparse trees,
their weathered limbs ache for sun high to the sky,
beyond the perimeter walls where every Mandella stood their incarcerated ground…

2008-02-11_Rodden Island 077

You held the banished there,
fed, if but sparsely, the brave and exiled there,
knowing nothing of their misery and pain,
for were they to have wings they would have come and gone as frequently as the tide.

Home for some,
prison island we will remember you by,
bye bye Robben Island.

And on this day that I came to you,
when he was freed,
hope for the many that would follow,
you invite now the curious, the wanderers, the followers who would,
if only briefly, scuttle upon your broken top-soil,
through the freshly painted prison museum,
resonant still with the potency of isolation and inhumanity there…

2008-02-11_Robben Island 056

Dignity does not become you with ease,
your cartography, the points at which we know how to find you your only crime,
for we have sullied your beaches and desecrated your wind borne land
where hope burnt eternal in spite of the oppressors of men,
them too men who saw you as their place of thankless duty,
to demean others of their species divided,
and further still, much further still, from you,
left behind, bye bye Robben Island.

Andrew Garton
11 February, 200

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