10 January 2010

Dennis Brutus, 1924-2009

We do not talk, do we
of Blood Diamonds?
We do not talk do we
of displaced peoples?
of stolen land?
of sweated labour?
of bloodied labour?
bloodied diamonds?

for blood diamonds, too,
are forever

-From "For DeBeers" by Brutus, 2009

I learned only today that South African activist and poet Dennis Brutus died Dec. 26. I began reading some of his work less than six months ago, so even though he's lived a long, full life, I feel as though a recently unearthed treasure has been stolen from me so suddenly. But his words are powerful, and the beauty of poetry is that it has the power to breathe even long after a poet expires. I am grateful for how he raised his voice and used his words to promote justice and peace and beauty. A statement from his family says that he died quietly in his sleep. May he rest in peace . . .

I leave you with the first Brutus poem I read:

Letter 18

I remember rising one night
after midnight
and moving
through an impulse of loneliness
to try and find the stars.

And through the haze
the battens of fluorescents made
I saw pinpricks of white
and I thought they were stars.

Greatly daring
I thrust my arm through the bars
and easing the switch in the corridor
plunged my cell in darkness

I scampered to my window
and saw the splashes of light
where the stars flowered.

But through my delight
thudded the anxious boots
and a warning barked
from the machine-gun post
on the catwalk.

And it is the brusque inquiry
and threat
that I remember of that night
rather than the stars.

-20th December, 1965, from a South African Prison


Michelle said...

thought you & your readers might be interested in a new documentary, Fair Play, which tells the story of the anti-apartheid movement sports boycotts Brutus played such a key role in. Here’s a trailer:http://activevoice.net/haveyouheard_fairplay.html.

Ciona said...

Thanks for sharing, Michelle. Looks good . . . Did you see Invictus? I hear it's dramatized and not all accurate, but it does show what a key role sports played in the movement.