12 June 2020

Upon reading a poem about Madiba, by Rethabile Masilo

—for Gary Corseri

Some years ago I was grazed by a poem on Nelson Mandela.
My surprise did not come from the fact that the poem
was well-crafted, well-parsed, brisk as a walker through a park,
someone cross-examining their head with inquiries of love,
a man or a woman with a mind ripe with the affairs of life.

My surprise did not come from the fact that the poet loved
the subject of his song the way a student admires a mentor,
nor from the fact that both men lived on opposite sides
of the colour bar. Nor did it fall from the sky, even if manna,
gift-wrapped in careful words, were hand-delivered to me
in that poem for the old, wise one who sought so much.

It didn’t come unexpected either, for it could have arrived
with the gait of someone who knew their destination,
pushing open my gate and by God there’d an old friend!
I have read it many times in solitude, and it has the sternum
I like so much in verse; everything fit. The surprise came
when it dawned on me that Mandela will never read it.

Poet Gary Corseri

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