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Black as I am

Obediah Michael Smith
Saturday 18 July 2020

Reading time: (Number of words: )


Zindsi Mandela
23 December 1960
to 13 July 2020

how like a plant she was
how just planted she was
when, in 1978, her book of poems,
Black as I am, was published

with photographs by Peter Magubane,
Foreword to it by Andrew Young

used to carry her book of poems, 8.5 x 11 Inches,
about with me everywhere I went
used to teach it, used to share it with my classes

recall having it while I taught
at Inagua All-Age School for two terms, in 1986

when exactly did I buy it/from where did I buy it

might I have purchased it from the bookstore
at Fisk University that I attended for a year

I loved those poems, I loved the author of them,
I loved the photographs that accompanied her poems

how I identified with the voice of that young,
female, South African, freedom fighter

somehow, all those years, I kept her as young
as she was when she penned the poems in her book

decades passed without a word about her or out of her
I myself a poet, unable to be quiet, unable to shut up

in the interim, she had grown up, mother with children,
her dad, after 27 years, released from prison

she and her sister whom she followed,
ambassadors, representing South Africa…

heard last night, on Democracy Now, that Zindzi,
Nelson Mandela’s youngest child, has passed away, at 59

what a blow to hear that, took my breath…
younger than I by 7 years and dead already

shocked and surprised but, my God,
between Black as I am and now,
what a massive tree she had grown into

though inside me I’d kept her 18
that voice, that child, that innocent

switched immediately from news I was watching,
located on YouTube, an interview, from 2018,
at the Edinburgh International Book Festival,

with Allan Little, where she was launching,
Grandad Mandela, a book about her father, for children

what a great spokeswoman she had evolved into
what titanic strength, what awesome confidence

oh, but how could she have escaped with input
from her parents, Nelson and Winnie Mandela

oh, but so soon she’s gone, too soon she’s gone

forces that fostered her, that shaped her,
have as well undone her

in what fire was she forged
was it that same intense heat

of being out there on the front line
that has undone her also

how unhappy I am to see her go/that she is gone

I must locate my copy of Black as I am
I must read it again - what an inspiration it was

unable to locate my first copy,
I located and purchased a replacement
from Amazon.com ten years ago

oh, but there is no second copy of her
available anywhere on earth, anywhere in this world

© Obediah Michael Smith, 2020
7:14 AM Wednesday 15.7.2020

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