For Nelson Mandela

Praying as Nelson Mandela lies in critical condition, I revisited a poem I wrote the day after he was freed from prison. I winced! But it is a photograph of how I was feeling at that time. And then I continued to write for today.

February 12, 1990

How long do we wait for freedom?
Nelson Mandela waited
twenty-seven years.
He walked out of prison yesterday
and children and grandmothers
dance in the streets.

How long do we wait for freedom?
The Berlin wall cracked in December.
Eastern European countries
shift and stir
and burst into new beginning.

How long do we wait for freedom?
We never know
until the waiting is over.
Joy looks back to count it short,
but, oh, the wasted years.

How long do we wait for freedom?
Ask those who die waiting
before you encourage patience.

Ask those who were waiting for Messiah
the day the Galilean hanged.

Let no one for another
choose the wait.

Nor define what it is to be free.

June, 24 2013

Now let your servant, this prophet,
this Nelson Mandela
depart in peace –
after the tumult and the confinement,

the things he did,
and the things that he meant,

the hope for your people Africa,
a revelation for the world,
(for there is always rising and falling,
and swords in the heart)

Love him for the very simeon
of his waiting;
watch with him
as he waits for his freedom now.

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4 Responses to For Nelson Mandela

  1. These are achingly wonderful, they bring tears. Nelson Mandela is such a model of being human, has inspire me for so long, awed me, delighted and encouraged me, grown wisdom in my soul. And I believe that death will be a gift of freedom now, for him. So thanks especially for the second poem. And for finding Simeon in him.

    • Maren says:

      Thank you. I am so aware that he did many things with others not just by himself but that he was the model, the person in whom it came together.And for all of us the end of an era.

  2. Mark Rideout says:

    I give thanks for your model to revisit a writing, a thought, and even a “wince”. For Nelson Mandela, the date has changed, the hope and dream continues. May he be blessed on his journey; and thank you for blessing us with words past and present that still speak, and cause me to wince in their naming of truth.

    • Maren says:

      I write weekly poems (OK sometimes more than once a week and sometimes just ‘something” because it’s Saturday) since March of 1985. That gives me the chance to go back and see how I was feeling at a certain time. It is strange but also somehow usually wonderful.

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