photo: ralph murre
by Richard Swanson
(Nelson Mandela, freed after having served
twenty-five years for political agitation)
something like conscience uncellared,
stands at the prison house door,
moves to, blinks from, then uses
the sun’s blaze to sort time present from memory.
It’s open, the gate,
no joke in a dream but real,
this minute, the last of fourteen million
they shut me in for,
for being the black man’s howl
in their septic white streets
He would like now merely to go to his home,
to touch again, feel anew
the things of his family,
taste smell savor all over
the bread of his kitchen table, but
Not right now, this is a time
for meeting, greeting the faithful,
these hardened, delirious thousands,
who wait this day for the eager press mob
to beam our triumph abroad.
He will say things, thoughts so blandly profound
they merit re-hearing:
Wrongs dressed stylish are still just wrong.
Hopes held down turn anguish to tactics.
Freedom will rise somehow after night-stick beatings.
From his cell he brought down a government.
This morning he will start to make one,
born in his jailed reflections.
Later, some things for myself.
His lungs fill up with new-found air.
~ previously published in Men in the Nude in Socks