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Weekly Poem: ‘Longing’

By Dennis Brutus

Can the heart compute desire’s trajectory
Or logic obtuse with semantic ambiguities
This simple ache’s expletive detonation?

This is the wordless ultimate ballistic
Impacting past Science’s reason, past logic
To blast the heart’s defensive mechanism.

O my heart, my lost hope love, my dear
Absence and hunger mushroom my hemispheres;
No therapy, analyses deter my person’s fission:

My heart know now such devastation;
Yearning, unworded, explodes articulation:
Sound-swift, in silence, fall the rains of poison.

In a YouTube video from September, Brutus reads his poem “Longing” (with a short introduction about how it relates to climate change):


Dennis Brutus was a South African poet and activist up until his death on Saturday at the age of 85 at his home in Cape Town. In the mid-1960s he was jailed for several years for his political activism (including persuading the Olympic committee to ban South Africa from the games until apartheid was abolished in the ’90s) and his books were banned in that country for years. More recently, he had taken up the cause of climate change. His books of poetry include ‘‘A Simple Lust,’‘ ‘‘Stubborn Hope’‘ and ‘‘Salutes and Censures.’‘

Editor’s Note: The version published here reflects the poet’s reading in the video (there is another version with slightly different wording). Also, Dennis Brutus talked to Christopher Lydon at WGBH in 1982 about his activism and poetry. You can watch the full interview here.

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