Dark Clouds and Spheres, 2005

Mandela touched each our lives in different ways at different times. This is one poetic account, from Chicago to Naples to Sydney of how he touched this poet.


In the memory of Mandela

A craggy black face, white coat,
he turns to fetch comb, scissors
and a worn leather strop.
‘So, what’ll it be today? Short?’

Here, a fading group photo
taped lightly on the mirror.
A single word, INVICTUS,
points to a tall Black man,
with a sculpted middle parting
and the mind flashes back to another image
of seas parting
and of a prophet
in self-restrained motion,
leading his people.

Here at Jack’s Hair Grooming
in downtown Chicago,
other photos. A mane
of frizzy white beard and hair
pushed by a gale of will-power,
atop a worn neck-tie
and plantation coat
-yes, it is Frederick Douglass,
freed slave who fought to free others.
Near him, free born
Rosa Parks
in a much later photo,
the one on the Montgomery bus.

But when Jack says the other name
it etches forever in my mind
because mandàla
is the Universe,
is the oneness
of all of mankind.

We meet again in the dim light
of a winter evening, in Naples Via Forcella,
where he is sharing a street tabernacle
with Black Madonna del Carmine.
In the photo his hair is now white
but the graffito sings out

Yet there is war -not blacks and whites,
but old organized crime
against all people and it kept
in true segregation,
men associated freely
in one Constitution,
shackled by fear,
hostage to a medieval evil
against the ground rule of unity
of each human being.
But there were and still
there are those, like Roberto Saviano,
who risk it all, maybe in the name
of the unvanquished
symbol of unity, the man
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Finally, we met in person,
after the Nobel, for Australian television
and we had prepared for the interview
not as if to meet a saint to venerate
or, God forbid, a god.
We simply reduced to a minor essence,
the one that says no more than we respect,
that won’t worship but only sees

a man, whose paragon is not Jesus,
but man Mandela:
rare but still one person as you,
you who read these lines,
are one person
from alpha to omega,
and as Mandela
an atom of nothing both before and after,
and yet a spark of a mysterious light,
so blinding as to make you see
the most secrete gift,
the inner unity of each and other life.
Now you are unafraid. You are INVICTUS.

© December 2013


Seeking asylum

[After hearing Haydn’s The Creation.]

And God said: Let there be man.
And a man is
now on a trough, now on a crest.

And God said: Let there be flight.
And a seabird’s shadow
shelters man and his plank of shipwreck.

And man cried: Can you see land?
And, giant wings resting on a warmer current,
the bird soars, drops, its shadow ebbing on his only bond:
No, I can’t.

And God said: Let there be wind.
And wind blows and grows
and draws foam from the east-south-east
and the seabird buffets circles tries to shade man
until his death.

And after a day of Creation,
God turned in to a well-deserved rest.

© 14 2 2013


I wanted

It is a fact. No one can understand
everything that is understood.
Yet, I wanted to walk to the horizon
where sky meets the sea
to straddle unknown and known.
I wanted to walk just a centimetre above
the hot asphalt, resting softly
my hand, on the wrought iron rail

of the terrace fronting the whole
mistery of the Gulf of Naples.
I wanted to make sea and horizon
reveal how they generate each other

into this growingly inscrutable prison
of fantasy, hope and injudicious play.
I wanted my mind to position store displace

limits. I wanted. I wanted. I was so coherent.
Incoherence came soon enough with humility,
daughter to stupor, and energy decreasing.

I wanted.

© August 2012



I Returning

This is to advise I shall be arriving on December Twenty Fifth (25).
Would you please try and arrange for a manger,
a warm-breathed donkey and a small ripe cow,
a Mother, a Putative Father, and three Kings
ready to bring myrrh at a time to be mutually agreed.
I shall be arranging for the accommodation of one Angel
and for the manifestation of one Nova in the Southern Sky.
Should there be any disagreement as to My Nature,
there shall be established an Administrative Tribunal
in Nicea, some time from now. You are of course aware
that I know what was, is and will be, therefore there is no need
for any Agenda papers, other than a ream of clean papyrus
to be inscribed with the words: Here Shall Be Told.
And nothing more for now, except a warm note of thanks
for all the trouble you will be causing Me
to prove a simple point. That is, as you were informed
in previous correspondence, to make good one (1)
one only, Original Defect in the manufacture.
There is no guarantee, of course, that after what has to happen,
the slight defect of collective guilt for all taxpayers
will be completely clean of Evil Lust and Inclinations
or that the womb of all future mothers will carry
true fear and faith. It may be useful if a basin or a font of water
is kept at the ready for use. I hope this is clear.
Let me also add that any Apparition or Trembling of the Earth
or Light-in-the-Sky is beyond claiming through insurance
if causing distress, broken glass or exsanguination.
I am sure that the benefit of this initiative will extend much beyond
this place and the current expenditure from the common purse
will accrue benefits beyond all your time.
Yours Faithfully etc etc.

© March 2013

II Retraining

By now force-retired a middle-age journo,
I wear an Arafat demi-beard
mowed low-white with a small sharp scythe
and have enrolled in a community college
for a two-year course of navigation
on nuclear submarines.
By now fully certified (only two hundred hours
behind the electron periscope) I trudge
from wharf to alien dry-dock
to calls for skipper for commodore
of any air-navy strike force.
By now retrained I will
re-train again for first mate
to a pastry-cook in the marzipan ship-shop.
A diplomatic diploma to be added
to the wall
of the man-cave that’s now
my silent space proper.

© March 2013

III Running

The Bride has run away from the altar
leaving, scattered, fronds of honeysuckle.
Frozen old man marble the Vicar.
Frozen the Sistine Choir.
One by one, Cardinals, red-robins, freeze.
Bishops freeze under roof-scraping hats,
bell ringers dangle mid-air
at the bell ropes. Incunabula
and papyrus rolls, illuminated bibs,
ashes of burnt books freeze, epiphanies,
revolutions of celestial orbs
tin-truths of tinny trinities:
all prophecies accomplished,
the virgin Bride can now be gone
and let us be glad and rejoice.
(The Bride of Christ is, naturellement, the Church, the community of believers.)

© March 2013

IV Chairing

She sailed into the story as if in a space
of sea and wind. The languages were strong,
the voices averring you are tu sei egli is.
The declarations of mutual respect,
multiples of the same word repeated
all over the large hall through loudspeakers.
Alien the words to nobody, translations would sear
words into minds receptive, as flowers
of black asphalt, or bread dough
of a crown of blue crust. The Chairwoman
made all sit down with a gesture. Clean scrubbed
like an Icelandic maiden she spoke Mandarin
to the left, Arabic to the centre in the hall.
Two other officials of the governing body
spoke black dialects, one hidden in priestly pink
immensely arsed trousers. Never
a word in anger. The consultations
started when the creative word was given
the green light and the Russian Samoyed Italian
mutually unintelligible representatives
started speaking. The voices were playing
with the echoes in the chamber and the Hungarian-Chinese
transcriber would cup a hand to her ear.
Large portraits of Captain Nemo, and of Ulysses
transported under the mutton-belly,
adorned the United Nations,
two small truth lamps at each side.
The first proposition was to resolve
a matter of principle on boundaries between
wind and sea. Vento e mare. ветер и море.
The last never came as the Secretary of State
exercised the best power of veto.
The Chair? She vanished as from an aging scroll.

© March 2013