She was twelve years old -
still recovering from that bloody rite of passage
bestowed on all girls her age,
the savage wounds barely healed
when the raid began.
In less than the time to milk a goat,
twenty-four of her kin
snatched, beaten, subdued,
fitted one by one into long spliced wooden beams,
angled to fit around each dark neck,
forced to walk
in the unrelenting desert heat.
Herded onto a gangplank and into the cargo hold
then joined by four hundred more.
Dazed, terrified, hungry, thirsty -
bound together by metal
and the color of their skin.
Her sleeping place
no more than a bare plank;
one small ankle shackled, bolted to the creaking frame –
weeping sores the result of skin rubbed raw,
the cuff long rusted by blood of countless others
forced into irons then bound to the walls of this
wretched, floating Hell.
The ghosts came at night,
their cries of anguish
torturing the dreams of the living;
phantoms of those who had started the voyage but
never saw the end.