Tag Archives: poem

On Remembering Nelson Mandela: The Rivonia Trial

13 Dec

On Remembering Nelson Mandela: The Rivonia Trial
I am again that child, mere 12yrs or so,
About to grate potatoes for the soup
On yesterday’s newspaper spread
Across the table top.
His picture: striking. Life it says…
A terrorist; an evil man.
Tears well into my eyes
And I wish that I could
Save the paper
If then not the man.
My dad says ‘no’.
He is a criminal!
The paper goes.
The law says so.
No pictures to be kept.
His name not to be said.
I make the soup and wrap
The waste with his words
And face on the printed page-
The whole of the court case there-
Consigned to the compost heap.

Looking back it dawns on me
So late, so late, too late for him
But not for me:
1959- Oudtshoorn
The location was demolished;
The brown ownership area a ghost town.
Doors hang on hinges half torn in the wind
There are no people to be seen,
A tractor with a wrecking ball
Stares at me
And next to it the other tractor
Raised its scoop high for me to see,
My throat shuts tight
And I can hardly breath.
Nor can I move and
Rooted to the spot
I watch the two machines
That will crush the house
I love to dust.
He, dad, he never saw that though;
Never told him too.
It was so painful, just to know.
But as I stood there 12yr child,
And saw what the paper told,
I knew what Nelson was about
And shed a tear or two.
Now too I see that
Dad had to protect me
From myself and laws
That might be just or not
For if I went to school and said:
“Today for oral my topic is
About a man who went to jail
Mandela is his name…

Sometimes we see so late.
.® Jeanihess
This is an unfinished work and a haunting memory.JH

Jeanihess Blog South Africa


The Sacrifice

13 Jun

The Sacrifice

This poem was about a mother’s distress for her children and their friends and all the children in the 1980s who were entirely dependent on the capacity of the adults in their lives to protect them from the police , the army and the justice system – domination and killer tools of the Apartheid government. Often these adults were not capacitated for this task because they had lived longer than the children had under the institutionalised brutality. Nevertheless one sometimes had to do what one had to do and one morning as I got ready to go to the school although it was illegal for me to enter those gates guarded by an armed soldier,  to fetch my children, their friends and the rest of the school that would follow me out the gates before the police and the army entered the school and their classrooms to beat them up these words emerged from my deep pain. .

 The Sacrifice

You were the Lamb,

Dear Lord, you were the Lamb:

The Lamb of Sacrifice.

Your Father once

Stayed Abraham’s hand

Will he not do so now?

You died for Freedom, Love and Life.

Can my child better you?

Was not your sacrifice enough;

Is ours needed too?

©Jeanihess ©Jeanette Hess

Jeanihess Blog South Africa