I love
your mind, Frederick,
a filigree of words
weaned off the baby delivered
into enslavement and severed
from its mother – 
your birthright with no delivery date.

I marvel
at how you learned to read
and write feeling with your hands
the marks, letter by letter,
the shipbuilders carved
on the timber of their boats
– ‘S’ for starboard, ‘L’ for larboard – 
and floated them upon your lips.

Your accurate sense of observation cradled
in the affliction only you could describe – 
the pain of loss, the pain of oppression
and cruelty lived, witnessed
and signed with the scars on your back.

How astutely you reached for the light
of knowledge and grasped it – 
absorbing speech and nuances
through your scrutiny and clinical
dissection of injustice and exploitation.

How you skillfully practised
tone and pitch to carry your words – 
words which could drill through
the core of belief systems
and unhinge them, 
words to communicate with those
who, with their hearts, listened
to your particular perspective —
that of an enslaved man.

Your newfound locution, your voice,
weapons you skillfully aimed
to ply open peoples’ eyes
to the plight of the suffering
and disenfranchised.

A young man born in bondage
and unaware of a life different
from yours, you came
to Ireland over a century ago
and left as a man exalted with the breath
of freedom borne in the air of equality
and respect – your human right to dignity.  

I have followed your path
along the cobblestones of that time 
through my city Cork which you blessed
with your powerful presence and charm –
and allowed your mind to infiltrate mine.

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