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For Desmond Mpilo Tutu, By Niyi Osundare

January 2, 2022

There goes a man
In whose middling physical frame
Throbbed a giant heart.

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