my freedom song

by Tom (Twilite) Clark

do not expect fancy words
there is nothing pretty here
when they slam shut my cage

my jailers keep looking at me
watching me piss
watching me sleep
the air a stale sweat
of urine and shit
the floor so cold

every morning I clean the buckets
I feel no shame
for I am a man
I am just a man
my captors torment me
they torture my friends
I forgive them all
I will stand
I will not bend
they will not break me

I cannot see the sun
or feel it on my face
the wind a memory of time and space
yet just beyond these walls
dazzled birds sing my freedom song
brilliant jewels in plumage fine
colors so vivid so bright
I see them now
I hear them sing
Rolihlahla Rolihlahla
pulling the branch of the tree
Rolihlahla Rolihlahla
sing for me
sing my freedom song

Mediba, Mediba
our brother, our son
our family all together
we must live as one
Tata father grandfather
teach us how
mother sister daughter
we must live together
work together love together
laugh and dance and sing
together now as one

I am not this island
barren and bleak
I am not this outpost of hatred and fear
I am not

always and forever
I am the captain of my soul
glowing with spirit light
but in this prison
groaning heavy with footsteps
a clamor of screams
and a clang clank of voices
there is nothing to do but wait
27 years I wait
my whole life I wait

and tomorrow is the same today as the day before
broken like my fate upon these stones
and my lips are the lips of birds
lonely and alone
singing my freedom song

Rolihlahla Rolihlahla
pulling the branch of the tree
Rolihlahla Rolihlahla
sing for me
sing my freedom song

we are together here
my comrades and I
we rot here in this prison
but we do not die

because we believe
we will fight and endure
we will be free

Rolihlahla Rolihlahla
pulling the branch of the tree
Rolihlahla Rolihlahla
sing my freedom song
sing for me
and the brilliant plumage like jewels I see
and the dazzled birds
now they sing for me
my freedom song

Tom Clark, aka Tommy Twilite, is the founding co-director of Florence Poets Society and is my friend. I was lucky to have the opportunity to hear Tommy read his poem for Nelson Mandela aloud this past week--so incredibly powerful. I am thrilled to share Tommy’s words with my blog readers and with the Real Toads, where Kerry has posted a moving tribute to Madiba. If you have comments about Tommy's poem, I will be pleased to share them with him.


  1. Marian, this is a wonderful piece. I wish I had the talent to write something like this, but each of us speaks with our own voice. amazing

  2. Taking on his POV here is strikingly effective. Thank you fro sharing this with us, Marian.

  3. Thank you for sharing his poem, Miriam. It says much about how to endure the 27 years and stay in touch with sanity and spirit.

  4. the poem beautifully portrays the rise of the bird of light from dungeon...

  5. Wow!! This is amazing, Marian. Thanks to Tom for allowing you to share it with us. He has really conveyed the spirit of a personality that could never be held captive. As an interesting side-note, Mandela struck up a true and lasting friendship with his Afrikaner warder on Robben Island.

  6. There is music all through this, the music of survival, of personal integrity, and of freedom. Thanks for sharing Tommy's words, Marian.

  7. Tom actually sings the "Rolihlahla Rolihlahla" lines when he reads this.

  8. Beautifully written by Tom, thanks for sharing Marian ~

  9. To Tom, my thanks, and to you, Marian, as well ~


Thank you for sharing your thoughts!