Long Road to Freedom

A purloined mother-of-pearl shell
from Robben Island
cradles my orange earplugs
at the bedside.

How lame I feel
in the shadow of Nelson Mandela,
how inconsequential.
Have I hit as many rocks?
A few fossils in Nova Scotia
was about it last year.

I curated them mercilessly
in the Windy City
down by the waterline
but doubted anyone would buy
a coal-black leaf
from the Mississippian period.

I’d forgotten you see
that Mandela lives,
forgotten until one night
he answered my silent cry
and handed me his medal.

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