Translated by Kristy Sword & Ana Luísa Amaral

My very dear Marta,

Thank you for your poem and, above all, thank you for your sensitivity to the struggle of the Maubere people.

At your age, most East Timorese children are already contributing to the struggle in one form or another.

I have lots of stories, many of them based on my own experiences, which highlight the participation of the children of East Timor. If you would like, one day, I will tell them to you. Today I don't have time to do so. As you know, I am in the prison of a colonialist and repressive regime. A place where I am not permitted to do much except to mix with other prisoners and listen to their tales of crimes not committed. The conclusion they would have one reach is that they are in fact not guilty and that, had they had sufficient money to pay the judges, the sentence they received would have been far less severe.

Thanks to the poems, letters and solidarity of children of your age, I have every faith that I will survive the next 17 years which remain of this most cruel and yet, at the same time, beautiful experience of my life.

And it is, dear Marta! Have you ever heard it said that prisons were made for people? Well, here I am and I must tell you that I have learnt so much, and there is still much to learn. I am certain that you will now be asking me: "learn what?"

Well, to struggle, my dear! And I know that you and "many, many other" Portuguese children are with me in this struggle to bring to an end the war in East Timor.

With kisses of love,


Cipinang, 9 October, 1995


The legend says
and who am I to disbelieve!

The sun perched atop the sea
opened its eyes
and with its rays
indicated a way

From the depths of the ocean
a crocodile in search of a destiny
spied the pool of light, and there he surfaced

Then wearily, he stretched himself out
in time
and his lumpy hide was transformed
into a mountain range
where people were born
and where people died

Grandfather crocodile

—the legend says
and who am I to disbelieve
that he is Timor!

—translated from the Portugese by Kristy Sword and Ana Luísa Amaral