Posts Tagged ‘death’

Nelson Mandela: Pic. cred: Guardian Las vegas

Nelson Mandela: Pic. cred: Guardian Las vegas

The world has lost an icon with the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela yesterday. We can’t begin to find the words to say all he stood for in the history of humanity that can go so crooked at times. Mandela was hope where it was hopeless and light where it was dark. If he had not lived in that era of South Africa’s life, the country may never have been the country it is now.

In the cell opposite Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island, was our poet friend Dennis Brutus, who wrote It is The Constant Image of Your face and A troubadour I traverse, all reviewed previously on this blog. Both of them were partners against apartheid, working in the quarry together, cracking stones and being tortured. It is fitting we honour the memory of Mandela today with poetry that was written by a man who knew him first hand. Dennis Brutus wrote this poem after Mandela was released from prison and was on his way to finally assume presidency of South Africa, unify a nation standing at a point of indecision on its future and teach humanity a lesson on forgiveness.

Here is Dennis Brutus’ tribute,

For Nelson Mandela

Yes, Mandela, some of us
we admit embarrassedly
wept to see you step free
so erectly, so elegantly
shrug off the prisoned years
a blanket cobwebbed of pain and grime;
behind, the island’s seasand,
harsh, white and treacherous
ahead, jagged rocks
bladed crevices of racism and deceit
in the salt island air
you swung your hammer grimly stoic
facing the dim path of interminable years,
now, vision blurred with tears
we see you step out to our salutes
bearing our burden of hopes and fears
and impress your radiance
on the grey morning air


My name is Dela. Even before I was old enough to know anything about this world, my cousins called me Man-Dela, in tribute to the greatness of a man whose life touched everyone who believes in the greater humanity, irrespective of country. I bid him peaceful rest. We will tell our children this, that we lived in the time of Nelson Mandela.

I wrote this poem yesterday while I was sitting in a bus headed for Ghana’s Oil City, Takoradi. On reflection, it is a deep poem that I thought I should share with you. I posted it directly off-head to a Facebook group named P.O.E.T.S, standing for People Of Equal ThoughtS.

Has an eye for I
that damsel,
Sat upon a moonlight dreaming!
My eyes closed to mortality.
A new born in immortality.

After writing it, I thought it could have ended with ‘Aye’, the pirates’ way of saying ‘Yes’! What could I title this poem? I wish a few of you could try a title for me that should be crisp, short and captivating. Let’s see them in the comments, thank you.

Ok, so the poem came randomly and the story is this: A certain lady has an eye for the speaker. He calls her a ‘damsel’ which I would like to think is reference to a woman who is graceful in gait and elegant in appearance. But in his third line, the speaker says that she is ‘Sat upon a moonlight dreaming!’, which could be explained thus: her love for him cannot be true or cannot be realised or cannot be acted on for a reason we don’t know. That is the only reason why he calls it a dream. In keeping with the utter beauty of our damsel, she sits against the moonlight, a very angelic figure.



Then the last three lines tell us why her love will only stay a dream. His eyes are ‘closed to mortality’. This means that he has lost the sense of mortals – he is dead. And the next line aptly tells us that he has become a new born in immortality. He has been born anew in the afterlife. Someone who just left this side of eternity will only be a baby on the other side, where life is theologically believed to exist ‘in immortality’ – forever.

He ends by saying ‘I’. ‘Yes’, says ‘aye’. Or we could say ‘Aye? I!’, to end the poem, giving a series of exciting play on words, each invoking different meanings to the poem’s ending. Enthralling piece, this. So help me. What would you throw in as a suggestion for this poem’s title? It needn’t be too fancy or too difficult a reply, should it? Let’s have fun.



April is National Poetry Month in the United States. I am not joining the American National Poetry Month Write A Poem A Day Challenge because this blog is sinlessly African only. But I think it is a worthy challenge and writing a poem a day for a month may not be too difficult a thing to do. In place of missing out on the Challenge, I’ll do my best to flow with the spirit of poetry and blog more African poetry this month. Maybe, I should set a personal challenge to update this blog everyday of April. That is quite a Challenge in itself. I have written poetry for the first two days of April already, the first being my April Fool’s Post and then this one written yesterday. Hope you enjoy it somewhat.


Life and death.
We trudge on
From one to another.
Mercenaries. Bound.

If only death was life
And life was death,
Then we’ll die first
And live forever

Still we rise..

We breath.
We live.
We live.
We breath.
We sleep.
We wake.
We live.
To die.

Yet we live still…
To die soon…

This poem is actually a response to the epidemic of lost lives the world has seen in only three months of this year. An earthquake in Haiti, floods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other countries across the globe, brutal after-effects of elections in Cote d’Ivoire and bomb explosions in Afghanistan and many other countries. The list is endless. I am sure I have missed something still. But it gives a though to the contemplative: how valuable is life today? We have collectively cheapened the value of life through our misdeeds. But even if we did not, wouldn’t we all die? The poem says it all that life and death are the cycle we all shall experience. We trudge towards death, whether by quake, tsunami or revolution, each day brings us ever close to our graves. Yet we trudge on. I hope it made for thought.