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, one of Africa’s foremost poets and academics, is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of English, University of New Orleans.

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