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Monday, 17 January 2022 10:49

Echoing the Arch: In Memory of Desmond Tutu

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in Poetry
Echoing the Arch: In Memory of Desmond Tutu

Echoing the Arch
In memory of Desmond Tutu
(1931 – 2021)

by David Betteridge

He was portrayed as a dancing man,
and one given to laughter,
but he marched as often as he danced,
and he wept.

He marched at risk of his life
for justice and for peace.
He wept at their denial,
and their breach.

How long, he cried, echoing the Psalmist,
how long shall I take counsel in my soul,
having sorrow in my heart daily?

He is remembered for his consoling
and for his reconciling;
but he as often challenged and confronted,
saying to his allies, when he thought
them wrong, as to his foes,
Stop and No and How long?

A poor boy, be became rich in talent;
he out-scholared his teachers;
a servant of his God, he led peoples
and nations; not proud,
he boldly assumed the role of Moses
facing down Pharaohs;
he made his words a sword,
and the course of his life
a long battleground.

Look to the rock from which
you were hewn, he exhorted,
echoing Isaiah.
He became that rock,
hard, resistant, a sure place
on which to build.

His arch spanned great divides;
he embraced spectrums of folk,
seeing them as one;
he was a rainbow of hope,
even when others saw none.

Lighten mine eyes, he prayed,
lest I sleep the sleep of death.

Dead now, sleeping now,
he lives on, lightening our eyes,
still dancing and marching,
and laughing and weeping
as we remember him,
still consoling and reconciling,
and challenging and confronting.

It falls to us and others now
to look to our own rock
and become it,
and to echo the arch
that was this great warrior.

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David Betteridge

David Betteridge is the author of a collection of poems celebrating Glasgow and its radical traditions, 'Granny Albyn's Complaint', published by Smokestack Books in 2008. He is also the editor of a compilation of poems, songs, prose memoirs, photographs and cartoons celebrating the 1971-2 UCS work-in on Clydeside. This book, called 'A Rose Loupt Oot', was published by Smokestack Books in 2011.