A statue of South Africa’s archbishop Desmond Tutu at the V&A Water Front in the city of Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, July 16, 2015. It is time for retired archbishop Desmond Tutu to begin saying no to public events and causes, his daughter said Thursday, after the Nobel laureate was hospitalized for a persistent infection. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

For Desmond Tutu

by
on January 3, 2022
The stars lament his passing
     From Soweto’s seething streets to Bora Bora
Kings, Queens, and Presidents flood the sky
     With tributes and purple garlands
  
There goes a man
     In whose middling physical frame
Throbbed a giant heart. Prophet who divined
     One complex rainbow in a land 
  
Ripped a-p-a-r-t by the colour creed
     He saw the Buddha in his Bible
The fallow intersection between 
     The Cross and the Crescent 
  
The Healing Wisdom of Orunmila*
     Whose universe is a house with a thousand rooms,
His metaphor came from the sky
     That looming umbrella above our common heads
  
                     *
  
Truth and Reconciliation 
     Reconciliation without Truth? 
When a savaged country needed a brave man
     To clean up its monumental mess
  
It unleashed an avalanche of horrors
     Whose telling un-plugged the tongue:
Widows embraced their husbands’ killers
     Orphans shook hands with those who dispatched their fathers
  
Between the Forgiver and the Forgiven
     Between the incubus of partial amnesty
And the absolution of evil
     There lies the aching complexity of wrongs without redress 
  
To forgive and forget
     To forgive and never forget:
Which path leads to culpable amnesia
     Which, to the endless cycle of Justice denied?
  
                           *  
Your Truth, Noble Shepherd,
     So straight, so Ubuntu, steered a troubled nation 
Away from its self-inflicted carnage. But the scars linger on 
     On the stubborn landscapes of our memory.

You who taught the world
     The largeness of Love
The inevitability of Courage
     Hope which sustains the Dream
    
------------------
  
*Yoruba deity of divination, philosophy, science, and wisdom

Niyi Osundare is a leading African poet, dramatist, critic, essayist, and media columnist. He has authored 18 books of poetry, two books of selected poems with several literary laurels to his credits.