The spitting steam iron easily flattens
One pinstriped shirt after the other:
Clean heat rising, the smell of success.
My mind pulls and turns,
Arranging lumpy thoughts to lie smooth,
To go as on a hanger and into a closet:
Nelson, Nelson Mandela, Mandigo,
When was the last time you wore
An ironed shirt, the smell of success?
                              There Shall be Peace and Friendship.
                              There Shall Be Houses, Security,
                                      And Comfort.
                              The Struggle is my Life.

What do I know? Because I read a book?
I leave the clothesbasket by the kitchen door,
Stop in to stir the honey chicken,
Add soy sauce. Through the back window,
I see Mr. Taylor's bird tree sway
And chatter, ripe with chickadees.
I have read in magazines, in news articles,
That you have been inside twenty-five years, Mandigo,
And you missed the part where your children grew up.
                              All Shall Be Equal Before the Law.
                              The People Shall Govern.
                              It Is No Easy Walk to Freedom.

Mr. Taylor is outside when I drag the mower around.
Even though they fixed his teeth,
You still can't understand half:
The doctor ordered lots of chicken,
And no walking. Or vice versa.
The grass sticks to the blades;
I kick the damp little piles with my bare feet.
In Pollsmoor Prison, they say, there is
Only a strip of sky and no grass ever.
                              The Land Shall Be Shared Among Those
                                    Who Work It.
                              There Shall Be Work and Security.
                              We Are Not Bound to Obey Laws We
                                    Have Not Made.

Mr. Taylor straightens his tie with thick hands
      And starts down the hill to church.
So he, a Black, lives next to me, a White.
He gives me figs and I give him flowers.
So we both have houses and lawns to mow
And clean shirts for church and chicken in a pot.
Does this mean we then dare to speak
Of another man, who for love of his country
Has not held his wife for a generation?
                              All Shall Share in the Country's Wealth.
                              South Africa Belongs to All Who Live in It.
                              The Struggle is my Life.

About the Poet

Judith Offer has had two daughters, four books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Sixteen of the latter, including five musicals, have been produced.) Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family with some Jewish roots, her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother. At this writing, she is a member of a poetics seminar, of a local band, of the Institute for Historical Study, and of a garden club; she studies Yiddish, Spanish, and yoga; plants vegetables; walks a lot, and tries to avoid second hand book stores. More detailed information is available at