I stood among a crowd
of tourists from abroad
and stared into his past:

a cage of bricks and bars
as gloomy and as cramped
as racial bias in the mind.

And in that ancient tomb
a bench, a gleam of bowl,
a stone-cold strip of floor.

I could not hear the clang
shook from a gate of steel
that bigotry kept locked,

nor see a gaunt-faced man
fold up each dawn for years
the mat on which he'd dreamed.

Instead, far off, I heard
the cheering of the world
when he, the era's Lazarus,

walked out into the sun.

Around that unlocked gate,
that legacy's stark shrine
the cameras flashed applause.


Download Mandela’s Cell (PDF)