Somehow We Survive
One of my favorite poems ever.
Dennis Brutus spoke at my college the first year I was there. We printed this poem in a student magazine that I helped publish.
A vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa, Brutus was banned from speaking, teaching or gathering with more than two people outside his family. In 1960 he faced arrest and fled the country. He was arrested in Mozambique and then, during an escape attempt, was shot in the back.
Brutus was sent to Robbin Island, where he spent 18 months in prison in the cell next to Nelson Mandela.
I especially love the strength of the words that end each line. They are almost a poem unto themselves
by Dennis Brutus
and tenderness, frustrated, does not wither.
Investigating searchlights rake
our naked unprotected contours;
over our heads the monolithic decalogue
of fascist prohibition glowers
and teeters for a catastrophic fall;
boots club the peeling door.
But somehow we survive
severance, deprivation, loss.
Patrols uncoil along the asphalt dark
hissing their menace to our lives,
most cruel, all our land is scarred with terror,
rendered unlovely and unloveable;
sundered are we and all our passionate surrender
but somehow tenderness survives.