Posted tagged ‘some thoughts on the death of Mandela’

One set of thoughts on Nelson Mandela’s Death

December 15, 2013


One Set of Thoughts On Nelson Mandela’s Death

When I think of them talking about South Africa, we are almost always at the Hot Shoppes, Friday nights, around a circular wooden table, its brown veneer smeared with sponged shine, swirled by demonstrative maple,

eating from gold speckled trays, my mom finally off the next day, mashed potatoes and thick white plates–

and there is always the word “bloodbath”–which seemed the only possible outcome–mixed in with the phrases “beautiful country;” and “such a shame.”

The shame seemed to arise on several levels–some I could not, as a child, quite trace–but the contours of the word “bloodbath” were easy enough to come up with–gorges slit throats, rivers sliced arteries, valleys marooned–

My mother, at least, was of a mixed mind–pained by the injustice–while her widowed friend who came along with us, had a daughter whose boyfriend was a rich South African, white,  and so, there were these sighs–he really was quite rich–that what was going on was terrible, but not perhaps as bad as red-soaked streets–

As I listened, I would think of the guy who’d just cut my Dad’s roast beef–we lived in the semi-South, and all the workers at the Hot Shoppes were pretty much black–his skin shining so warm in the glare of the heat lamps, the puddling of blood on the carving board and the brilliant droplets oozing from the beef’s crimson core, the starched white hat that implied (without my consciously thinking of it) safety, an acceptance of rules and a life of their imposition–

and I thought of how kindly he smiled, looking over to me as my Dad tried to decide how he wanted his meat done–

and of the carver’s hands, the skin translucent below the lamp, the creases of his palms pink against their tan, the fleshy base so soft around the pine stem of the great grey knife–

I did not even know Mandela’s name back then–nine or ten–but when I did learn it, it came to mean one thing to me–”no bloodbath”–

It was something that seemed impossible–I mean, there were race riots the very next year in my home town, me just eleven–

and I write this now not meaning to diminish the suffering, but only to describe my awe at waters that have washed so blue along jagged coasts, green riverbanks, and of a translucence of flesh/spirit/smile that was completely human, yet able, like the divine, to let there be light.


Here’s a draftish prose poem written for Kerry O’Connor’s prompt on With Real Toads, to write a personal response to the death of Nelson Mandela.  Like all of us, I’ve got many responses, but this was one set of memories that came up.  I’m also linking belatedly to  Mary’s dVerse Poets Pub prompt about light.