Poems

Mandela

The poem is under my hand.
The images crowd my head.
Poetry is the way
To get this story told.
Poetry has the strength
To tell the story well,
As long as the images hold,
As long as the poem writes.

The Oppressor comes into court.
He is the Prosecutor,
He is the Judge and Jury;
There is no ‘win or lose' -
The case is cut and dried.

The Defendant stands alone.
The Prosecutor calls
Himself as Witness - yes,
The Judge upholds the law
That he himself created:
It changes as he chooses.
The Jury only knows
One word - the word is ‘Guilty'.

This poem is a gun.
This poem's an assassin.
Images mob my mind...
This pen's a spear, a knife,
A branding-iron, an arrow
Tipped with righteous anger.
It writes with blood and bile.

I take this bitter ink,
Blood-red, to make my mark;
Corruption from the wound,
Sap from the poison-tree,
Aloe and gall and myrrh.

This poem's a loaded gun,
This verse a Kalashnikov.
I aim it at the snake
That slithers to our children
And strikes! See where the tell-tale
Blood-beads pearl on the skin.
The snake, the Prosecutor,
The Oppressor, the Judge, the Jury -
You must always aim for the head.

This poem is a gun
And words are ammunition.

This poem tells a story
That can't be cut or censored.

This poem's not up for sale,
It can't be bought as men
And cattle can be bought,
So don't make me an offer,
Put your money back
In your purse... But you can listen,
Everyone can listen,
Not just the great and good,
Not just Nelson Mandela.

Judge and Jury, listen!
Prosecutor, listen!
Policeman, come and listen!
Turnkey, come and listen!
You who perjure, listen!
You who torture, listen!

I want you to hear this poem;
I want you to hear me speak
As if I were Mandela.
I speak for him - Mandela.
I speak for an angry man,
A man whose voice was stopped,
A man whose mouth was gagged
Because he once said, ‘No!'
‘No!' to the Prosecutor,
‘No!' to the Judge and Jury,
‘No!' to injustice, ‘No!'
To indignity and oppression.

He says, ‘Don't think I'm beaten;
Don't think of me as weak
Or wretched. I'm no slave.
I'm not destitute
Although they stole from me.
I'm not without a home
Although my land's been taken.
Don't pity me; don't tell me
I'll have my chance at glory.

Didn't Jesus ask us
To turn the other cheek
And give the Fool who slaps us
Another chance to show us
Just how much he hates us?
And if that Fool should kill me:
Tell me, who's the victor?

He thinks of me, that man,
As someone who has no one:
No friends, no family,
No allies, no supporters.
He cannot see the circle -
Right round the globe - of people,
All races, colours, creeds,
Calling out for justice.
If I say I'm hungry
I mean hungry for justice.
If I say I'm hog-tied
I mean hog-tied by lies.
If I say I'm blind,
I'm blind to compromise.

If I say an angel
Stands at my right shoulder
I mean ‘Angel of Death',
I mean ‘Death in Disguise'.

Everything I've suffered,
Everything I've dreamed of,
Are mine and mine alone.

The Judge and Jury know me.
They know what I have suffered.
They think that what I'm thinking
Is what they think I'm thinking.
It's not. If I say ‘Angel'
I mean Angel of Death.
I mean the Angel's shadow
That darkens all my thinking.

The brush they use to sweep
My thoughts out of the door
Is worn down to the shaft.
Only the thoughts are left.

The snake-bite and the blood-beads,
The blood-beads and the poison,
Are my immunity.

Once my sleep was dreamless,
Once my mind was blank;
Now my dreams are rich,
My every thought is clear.

Now I see a way -
A way others have taken;
It's called the Road to Freedom.

I want you to hear him speak:
Hear Mandela's wisdom.
Listen, all who hear me,
All who think as I do.
Abu Hadra - hear me!
Poet and friend, now listen!
I know you'll understand.

This poem's a ransom-note,
Blood-money to the many
Who cry aloud for justice.
It's payback to Mandela
And everything he stands for
And everyone he speaks for.

This poem has a blade
Hidden at its heart.
That steel will last forever!

So listen, Abu Hadra!
If you will listen, others
Will listen too, will hear
The words as if Mandela
Was calling them to arms.
They'll grasp the blade that's hidden
Deep inside this poem;
They'll show the Jude and Jury
The cutting-edge of freedom;
They'll show the Prosecutor
The blade that lasts forever;
They'll never bow their heads
Or walk in chains and fetters.

This poem is a mirror
I've made for us, Hadraawi,
A mirror we can hold up
To show the ignoramus
The depth of self-deception
That lies in his reflection;
To show the Judge and Jury
How the wide world sees them;
To show the man who takes
Pleasure in pain the guern
Of glee that warps his smile.

Hadraawi, read this poem
To anyone who'll listen.
Help them to find the voice
I've given to Mandela.
And tell them this: our purpose
Is peace; our password ‘Freedom';
Our aim, equality;
Our way the way of light.

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