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Oh when the saints come marching in, oh when the saints come marching in, I want to be in that number when the saints come marching in.… They don’t just heal the sick, teach the children, or save the animals; sometimes, saints are revolutionaries who save a whole country, arguably, a whole world. Mandela was Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and George Washington all rolled into one. And that’s not even a bit of him.

Los Angeles, June 1990, waving our arms like grasses in the wind at USC’s Trojan Stadium with tens of thousands of elated people for an hour or more before he came out. And then—who was it? Arsenio Hall? Will “Fresh Prince” Smith? It was Hollywood after all—someone made tiny and naked by his presence introduced him. Ladysmith Black Mambazo—am I making that up? wasn’t there music? of course there was music—sang something uplifting. We sang “Biko” in the stands while we waited, remembering anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, killed in prison. A capella, not knowing each other, but together we knew all the words.

And then they came out. Nelson and Winnie Mandela. Winnie Mandela spoke first. This was before we knew about the burning tires around the collaborators, the stoolies’ necks in Soweto. Before she was seen by any of us, in America anyway, as anything but the brave single-mother keeper of the flame, the leader’s face on the outside, his emissary in the freedom movement, the ANC’s point in Johannesburg. Has anybody heard … of Johannesburg? The revolution that was televised after all. Winnie looked in shock. Twenty-seven years on your own is a long time, and now this. But he, Nelson Mandela did not. He looked transported. After being all locked up, hard labor and solitary confinement, for a score and seven, he was comfortable addressing this stadium of all races in the second—the first?—biggest city in the United States. He waited calmly for us to stop screaming and crying, stomping our feet and hugging each other.

I can’t even remember what he said. Only that the periwinkle blue light that emanated from his being reached at least ten feet beyond him on all sides. It looked pink on the giant screens above him, but it glowed, pulsed, vibrated the most beautiful blue around the speck of the man way down on the stage.

He was calm. Not subdued. He was articulate and we could hear every word. I can’t remember a one except “thank you,” which made us all feel ashamed—of course we hadn’t done enough. We wept, sunk to the bleachers, grabbed each other’s hands, our hearts, gasped every time he said, “Thank you for supporting us.”

No, Nelson, Mr. Mandela, President Mandela—but he wasn’t president yet; none of it had happened yet; he was just an old man out of prison, but we all knew it was a done deal: Apartheid was over; Mandela would be president; South Africa would be redeemed; we all would be—No, Nelson Mandela, Mandiba, thank you.

Thank you for showing us power without domination, passion without violence, conviction without ideology, righteousness without judgment, love without submission, surrender without defeat. For showing us peace and happiness without victory, victory without losers, the transformed self with All That Is contained therein.

No saint is perfect; they are fallible women and men who step up for the good of all sentient beings. Whatever you want to call this great man, he is dead. But his spirit will live forever in all of ushuman beings.

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Remembering the Underground

Not just below the radar,
they went beneath the surface.
Dug into the main streams,
hiding out in caves
like outlaws,
spelunking for truth
like sadhus.

The underground press—
The underground movements—
pushing, steady, disturbing
slowly, press … poke …
Bored yet?

Oh but water seeps in all directions:
filters into tributaries making
new caves, finding new openings—
as well as to the surface
to join with the runoff.

Let us be our own underground!
Creep in plain sight,
pressing firmly but gently
until the envelopes we push
start to stick

 Let us move blind
like grubs and moles
raising earth
in the night,
feeding from the root,
drinking at the river
of consciousness,
not letting anyone know
that we mean to survive
despite our lack of time
in the sun.

KL Robyn ©2013

Sitting in a room of women whose pens are on fire. As ink dribbles out of mine like a clogged faucet. I warm my hands by their light, will the words to start flowing. No, not will . . . request. Listen for the gurgling, the beginning of precipitation. Wind and ice. How they speak in the presence of others. Trees. Grasses. Sunshine. It’s all about relationship, isn’t it?

This is an old story
the burbling of language’s mother
the arc of the narrative in tides

Once upon a time
it was all there was
the liquidity of orbs
and even now
with rock and leaf and
squawking flyers
we define ourselves
in the syntax of shores

Listen. These vibrations
from water and wind
they’re not meant for sleeping
whiting out the story with noise
so civilization can snooze its way to the end

Here is the first fable
the parable of waves
where impulse eventually
washes up on land
It is an old story
we stop telling
at our peril.

 

© KL Robyn 30 Aug 2012

I remember the taste of blood

running to where my brother
was playing the sheriff
with my old-fashioned telephone.
He got the ring and sent me,
the deputy, running and running
around the sidewalked circle
to the OK Corral and back again.

I was bringing a message.

Young Mercury, fleet-footed
and helmeted, must not have
been with me that day as I went
flying around, only to crash on
some concrete steps at the zenith.
My head burst open and flooded me
with the metallic red stuff, all
warm and sticky and flowing
into my eyes and mouth.

Everyone had to be brave.

Later, at the hospital
I awakened from the ether
with three stitches,
one for each of my years;
the taste of metal
and the spirit of the message
forever linked.

—KL Robyn
16 March 2012

      Weight:

What you carry
in pockets, in bags, in the
trunk of your car,
on your hips, on your schedule
in the back of your mind—
the tiny burdens and the accumulated baggage
long forgotten or simply accommodated
equals the effort it takes to
get through a day
times pi, a constant,
the ratio of your intentions
orbiting around the sun
divided by the number of burdens
you would rather put down.

Like the speed of light,
the weight is the same
no matter how far away
you stand from the scales.

            Mass:

If Energy (big E) equals
the mass of an object (little m)
times the speed of light (little c)
squared—E=mc2—then
what does it mean that
we create our own reality?
Would that be big reality
or little reality?

Energy can
neither be created
nor destroyed
.
That’s what they say.
Mass is energy
and energy mass—
they say that, too.
What does all this
have to say to me
about destiny (the
whole being more
than the sum of
each day) or karma,
that crusty square root
of fate times free will?
You know, free will—
creating and destroying
your own reality in
the speed of light.
Square that.

Surely there is an equation
for
how we are
all in this together.
Co-creating a reality
that destroys itself
each night before bed
and awakens every morning, all
hope and hunger and stiff,
sore
joints. Your
reality rubbing up
against his and
his against mine
times the mass of us
unequally divided
amidst the speeding lights.

We stand, we sit,
we kneel to pray.
Our energy equals
this mass times
something too simple
to fathom. Squared.

                         KL Robyn  2009

Reach through the soup
and find a synapse that knows nothing
That sees no things but light on shapes
lights off shapes like a dragonfly
Go

Broke
Always there like that
Go for broke and go broke
Pilgrim with a bowl
No bowl
Bowling

Ten-pin Trungpa
Tenzin Bowl
And now I speak in tongues
The true nature
the unknown language
the words I don’t know
That’s the where of it

Crunch crunch crunch
Boots chewing on snow & ice
little pretzels of salt & sand
each thought a word too many
Too many layers
to find the quiet one

Drink tea and listen
to the nothing underneath
Shh . . .
Just the crunching after all

Reach through the soup
and find a synapse that’s only now
awakening  The light pouring in
through a new window

What would you see if you could
look again for the first time?

The soup bubbles back
A scent of fresh fear blowing
through the gap
Giggling to breathe

What would you hear if you could
listen again for the first time?

Reach through the soup
of the mind the brain the
chemistry of being
only your fingers awake

What would you feel if you could
touch again for the first time?

Would nothing be enough?

—KL Robyn
20 February 2011