For Nkosi Johnson

died of HIV/AIDS on 1 June 2001, aged 12

Roused by heroics of an earlier day
– Horatius, Captain Scott, the Jervis Bay –
I kneel now to a life sentenced from birth
but raised by love to speak life-giving truth
to leaders, world, to us.

A child’s voice stirred assemblies, hearts, opponents
with brief impassioned courage; but the sword
most pierced my heart when in the midst he cried,
dropping his head, ‘I don’t like being sick –
why can’t I be well like my sister?’

His question ranged the echoing galaxies
of empty cold unanswering space, returning
home to our earth.

Tributes