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Jerry Wichelns – Nelson

I’m just a middle-aged white guy
living in upstate New York;
I’m used to snow, not to lions,
but when I heard over the car radio Nelson Mandela
had died,
tears just came out, and I had to swipe my eyes to keep the car in lane,
even as a prophet’s voice, maybe Amos’
rushed out of nowhere into my head like a wild thing,
a thunderous, untamed thing,
“Let justice roll down like waters,” it demanded,
“and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
That’s Nelson, I thought, and in a still small voice, I said
something like
“Oh, Nelson, thank you,” something like that.
Nobody was listening.

Never met him or shook his hand.
Saw his smile in the papers with Desmond Tutu
a few years back and thought, yes,
there are still some giants walking the earth,
and that made me really happy.
He was there again, yesterday, Nelson was,
on the posters held by huddling thousands,
curling themselves under blankets to stay warm,
against the cold concrete of Soweto stadium.
Quiet faces, clear but unfocused eyes leading me off camera toward some common but personal distant place.
Neither frontward or backward turned; they were here, right here,
as if everyone was watching a long t rain slowly roll by,
its engine already gone from the station,
yet each car, one by one, presenting itself to the platform
like an ever-flowing stream.