For Nelson Mandela

From the January-February 2014 issue of News & Letters:

For Nelson Mandela

by Paul Knopf

He was Umkhonto we Sizwe

Spear of the nation

Lived in a box 8 feet by 7

on Robben Island

Prisoner 466/64

The jailer

a savage of the Aryan north

Hendrik Werwoerd

passed on the key to the box

when the tide of violence,

whirlpool of hate,

fine European import,

snuffed out his fetid life.


playground of the safari set,

pith helmets, bush jackets and gin;

theater of infringement,

barbarian invaders

hunting down slaves and tigers,

ivory, gold, diamonds, laborers;

Africa bleeds.

He was Umkhonto we Sizwe

Spear of rebellion.

He was Nelson Rolihlahala Mandela.

He was.

The disease festers.

The sore,

an ugly gash in the epidermis of a sick planet,

infects the organism:

Delusions of a fevered brain,

The curse,


“One race must serve the other.”

He is Umkhonto we Sizwe

Spear of justice.


No grave will hold him

until the last of the children of Africa,

spread out in a dazzling diaspora of consciousness,

is Free.


The revolution is in permanence.  

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