"Home" by South African poet cheryl irene

In the Mandela for President room at the Fowler Museum.
A few weeks ago, I attended a poetry reading at the Burbank Senior Artists Colony. One of the group members, Dolly Brittan, who lived in South Africa for 72 years before moving to California, shared the poem I've transcribed below as part of the group's celebration of women poets. It's about Nelson Mandela, who Dolly referred to reverently as the man of the century.

This poem may have struck me more viscerally than it would have otherwise because I just recently saw the heart-wrenching apartheid-era photographs of Ernest Cole, on display at UCLA's Fowler Museum. 

I would also like to share this poem because I can find it nowhere online, nor any trace of its author, cheryl irene. Dolly typed up the poem from a copy of a South African publication called Starfinder Magazine. She might be one of just a handful of people who have this poem. Now I hope more people will have the chance to read it.

Here it is to honor the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela, which took place on July 18, 2013.


it is your eyes
bright and ancient
that touch me
so still so alive
your eyes hold the country in them
they carry oceans of shimmering water
they embrace rising tides of timeless yearnings
they hoist relentless forward motion

your eyes paint surprise
translucent sun on land
feeds madiba's harvest

your eyes say you have been gone so long
your eyes say you never left
you wandered worlds within worlds
your eyes stayed behind
always heavy with the last wind
that swept through Capetown
your eyes stayed rooted deep in the soil
holding on to the future that refuses to die

cheryl irene, from South Africa's Starfinder Magazine

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