Blog, Poetry

The Madiba Shirt

The Madiba Shirt

She gently folds the shirt, checking inch by inch

stitch and seam, to see that it is perfect,

then swaddling it in tissue paper, and

tenderly lifts her baby, into its cardboard cot.

An air kiss. Lid on. Ribbon tied.

She will deliver it. Like a midwife, she will present her

baby to the new Papa. Father to the Nation.

Will He like the colours,  the texture and fit? Of course, He will.

Twenty-seven years of beige and grey and now sunlight and freedom.

The bodyguard raises his hand. ‘No, miss, no go in.’

‘It’s not a bomb. No harm in this. A present.’

‘No, post all banned.’

‘He will like it, I promise. Please.’

He thinks she’s very pretty. ‘I will take it to him, miss.’

‘If he accepts it, maybe, I come back, another day,

with something for you, brother,’ she teases.

It only takes one image

on front pages around the world.

Him, feet firmly on the ground, waving to the crowd, shaking hands,

patting children on the head.

Relaxed, on holiday it seems, dressed in a shimmering, black silk shirt, embroidered with cream and gold fish leaping all over his chest and arms.

His smile as wide as the ocean.

A hundred shirts of rainbow colours, lined up on hangars in His wardrobe.

Everyone wants to be like Him, follow in His footsteps.

He is a celebrity, royalty. Acolytes copy his style and dress.

Fashion houses, Hollywood knocking at her door.

More, more, make more.

She cannot make them fast enough, her baby, now a screeching teenager.


 Dee La Vardera

SWWJ Poetry Prize

Elizabeth Longford Rose Bowl Poetry Competition 2023

theme ‘Growth’

2nd place