craggy black face, white coat,
he turns to fetch
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
in a much later photo,
the one on the Montgomery bus.
But when Jack says the other name
it etches forever in my mind
is the Universe,
is the oneness
of all of mankind.
We meet again in the dim light
of a winter evening, in Naples Via
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
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,
an atom of nothing both before
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.