Just yesterday Temba came
to speak to students in my room
of Apartheid's grief and shame,
and of rights we all assume.

In that room sat another guest,
a student (white) from that land,
a quiet girl who seemed distressed
as she watched him, head in hand.

To applause he finished, but a moment late,
as students from their seats rushed on,
and who would guess an unlikely fate
when approached the young South African.

With Temba standing by my desk,
she asked for, in her formal way,
a note excusing tardiness,
some teacher's anger to allay.

We stood there, Temba, I, and she,
and laughed at this ironic class,
where a black man spoke too eloquently,
and a white girl's forced to get a pass.

He came here a refugee,
she a student to look around,
found more than she thought she'd see,
in a strange land her country found.


November 1987

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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