Thursday, June 27, 2013

Poem for Nelson Mandela on his latter years

go hard, go easy;
the hills set
in the folds of an orange afternoon
a country rises from the mist
in the morning

ah, rolihlahla
who has taken the seed
that you have sown?
did roots germinate
as tendrils of young minds?
do children, some plump & others wasted
smile & nod, do they know?

the people, the times, the lives
those hoping, those without hope
the literate & illiterate
those with a light in the eye
those dimmed as winds gusted & skies hung low
the hunger, the want, the
weariness from despair of the millions unborn
   you came & to them
   you spoke words
   of truth & relevance

the child in you
fought with sticks
the inner young man donned boxing gloves
& later (there was)
a street-fighter

an activist
for freedoms of a people

the cattle, swaying heads & drowsy eyes
have grazed
lowing and clattering;
in the neighbourhoods
children have played
& now they must come indoors
to the flickering light, to warm glows
to a hearth, connected
to the ages

your great work
is begun
your great work is a tall tree
on a hill
your exploits have reached a pause
on the crest of the amotola

on a nearby hill
a figure in the mist
that looks like you
like the man
from the house of dalindyebo
mouths words
isixhosa, afrikaans, isizulu, setswana, sepedi, sanscrit, song of the khoi… 
so many tongues
the languages of love
eyes to the distance
to the spaces & to the gazes within
in this dream, i am a bird
bearing a twig
a green slip

a man
wearing a barbed wire crown
a shirt woven from veld flower
& a formal dark pants
a tall man, stood on a hill
looking out
on a sea of land
mzansi, afrika, the world?
is he calling, signalling, beckoning, waving ... ?
‘for now, my work is done,’ he said

Frank Meintjies

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