Nelson Mandela International Day poem by J. Patrick Lewis

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders
by J. Patrick Lewis (Author), Jim Burke (Illustrator), R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator), Tonya Engel (Illustrator), John Parra (Illustrator), and Meilo So (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis gave new voices to seventeen heroes of civil rights: King, Harvey Milk, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Sylvia Mendez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mamie Carthan Till, Helen Zia, Josh Gibson, Dennis James Banks, Mitsuye Endo, Ellison Onizuka, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Yunus, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in this 2013 volume. After the book came out, Nelson Mandela died, so Lewis updated the poem. He asked me to share it with you today on Nelson Mandela International Day.

Nelson Mandela International Day

July 18

It was as if he’d landed on the moon
Five years before the actual event.
At Robben Island prison, his descent
Into a nightmare world, an outcast dune,
Began at forty-six, his fate derailed.
There were no clocks, his life defined by bell
And whistle, sisal mats (no beds), his cell
Seven feet square. But destiny prevailed,
So that for twenty-seven squalid years,
He kept his keepers, not the other way around:
The wages of nobility unbound.
Respect had overcome a freight of fears.
Madiba, as Mandela’s widely known—
The gentleman who calmed the combat zone.

J. Patrick Lewis

This week’s Poetry Friday Round-up is hosted by The Opposite of Indifference.

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3 thoughts on “Nelson Mandela International Day poem by J. Patrick Lewis

  1. Thank you for this, Anastasia, I’m always happy to see more about this great man, am grateful I lived during the time he did. He was never really history to me, but a constant inspiration. Thanks also for your fun poem sent to me. It arrived yesterday!


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