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Thursday, July 18, 2013


by Mervyn Taylor

In the cell where Mandela languished for years,
President Obama stands, tall enough to see
from the window the rocks of Robben Island
where the gulls slip and stumble, like the
former prisoner’s lawyers, when their cases
grew weak and fell apart. Alone, the American
leans, in chinos, his forehead against the bars,
his wife and kids allowing him a moment to reflect
upon his hero, whose fancy shirt is now covered
by the shadows of birds swooping low outside
his room, doctors in the hallway conferring.
The world awaits one leader’s passing, while
the other bends under the blades of the waiting
helicopter, unlike Madiba, whose wings will
have to lift, and carry him the rest of the way.

Mervyn Taylor is a Trinidad-born poet who divides his time between Brooklyn and his native island. He has taught at The New School and in the New York City public school system, and is the author of four books of poetry, namely, An Island of His Own (1992) , The Goat (1999), Gone Away (2006), and No Back Door (2010). He can be heard on an audio collection, Road Clear, accompanied by bassist David Williams.

Nelson Mandela: Before Prisoner, Beyond President