Posted in POETRY

IF THIS LIFE IS ALL WE HAVE (A poem) by Dennis Brutus

I read ‘If this life is all we have’  first in the university while undergoing my first degree. I wasn’t as versed as I am today but it made so much sense. Now, I share it again as it makes sense differently to me in the hope that it makes some sense to you too. Happy reading…SVA

IF this life is all we have

if in fact it is all we shall know
as indeed may be most probable
and if, as is reasonably certain
we shall have no more on earth
then it is wrong to lament –
wrong to wish for the end of life
wrong to feel one must drag somehow through
and surely one must do whatever one can
fill each day with as much as can be done
while we live, we must fill each day with living
and do each day as much as we can
of what seems to us worthwhile;
all that is good, as we understand it
all that stirs us with a sense of joy
and this we must do each day as much as we can
while we are living
since this may be the only life
and certainly the only one we shall know here
it is sensible to make it full and alive
and rich and satisfying
and filled with all that seems good to us good,
and that seems enduring and brings joy
all that seems virtuous
all that seems alive

– Dennis Brutus

NOTE:  MEET Dennis Brutus

Dennis Brutus
Dennis Brutus

Dennis Vincent Brutus was a South African social activist and prolific poet. He was jailed with Nelson Mandela in the 1960s. From AP:

Born in 1924 in what was then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, Brutus was the son of South African teachers who moved back to their native country when he was still a boy. He majored in English at Fort Hare University, which he attended on full scholarship, and taught at several South African high schools.

By his early 20s, he was politically involved and helped create the South African Sports Association, formed in protest against the official white sports association. Arrested in 1963, Brutus fled the country when released on bail, but was captured and nearly killed when shot as he attempted to escape police custody inJohannesburgand forced to wait for an ambulance that would accept blacks. Brutus was sentenced to 18 months at Robben Island.

His books “Sirens, Knuckles, Boots” and “Letters to Martha and Other Poems from a South African Prison” were published while he was in jail. He was confined, but unbeaten, writing in the poem “Somehow We Survive” that “All our land is scarred with terror/rendered unlovely and unlovable/sundered are we and all our passionate surrender/but somehow tenderness survives.” In “Prayer,” written after he left prison, he proclaims, “Uphold — frustrate me if need be/so that I mould my energy/for that one swift inerrable soar.”



Some all-rounded writer with the wits to turn anything and everything to words with inspiration... cheering to glory and on...

9 thoughts on “IF THIS LIFE IS ALL WE HAVE (A poem) by Dennis Brutus

  1. It made sense to you back then huh? well guess what, it still makes a whole lot of sense right now! lol
    Your bio on him makes sense that he would write such a poem, if this is really all have then I would want to be exactly as his lines encourage or rather suggests.


    1. Hee hee hee, oh well. It made sense back then and now, makes a whole new world of sense. We look to things differently depending on the side of light we stand. Our mind’s eyes grow to carry in more as grey adds a vision we never really might have considered.
      It’s one poem that gets me to really appreciate life more. So, yes, dear DR Ma’am, it still makes a whole lot of sense 🙂

      Now, is it wanting to be exactly as his lines… or doing it already?! 🙂


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  3. This is a superb poem that depicts life itself; which has been x-rayed by the late poet.May his soul rest in perfect peace.


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