For Desmond Tutu
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.