Derek Walcott, ‘Pastoral’

30 August 2010, 9:20 am

In the mute roar of autumn, in the shrill
treble of the aspens, the basso of the holm-oaks,
in the silvery wandering aria of the Schuylkill,
the poplars choiring with a quillion strokes,
find love for what is not your land, a blazing country
in eastern Pennsylvania with the DVD going
in the rented burgundy Jeep, in the inexhaustible bounty
of fall with the image of Eakins’ gentleman rowing
in his slim skiff whenever the trees divide
to reveal a river’s serene surprise, flowing
through the snow-flecked birches where Indian hunters glide.
The country has caught fire from the single spark
of a prophesying preacher, its embers glowing,
its clouds are smoke in the onrushing dark
a holocaust crackles in this golden oven
in which tribes were consumed, a debt still owing,
while a white country spire insists on heaven.

(from White Egrets, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010)


Codicil – Derek Walcott

6 October 2008, 10:27 am

Codicil

Schizophrenic, wrenched by two styles,
one a hack’s hired prose, I earn
my exile. I trudge this sickle, moonlit beach for miles,

tan, burn
to slough off
this love of ocean that’s self-love.

To change your language you must change your life.

I cannot right old wrongs.
Waves tire of horizon and return.
Gulls screech with rusty tongues

above the beached, rotting pirogues;
they were a venomous beaked cloud at Charlotteville.

Once I thought love of country was enough,
now, even if I chose, there’s no room at the trough.

I watch the best minds root like dogs
for scraps of favour.
I am nearing middle

age, burnt skin
peels from my hand like paper, onion-thin,
like Peer Gynt’s riddle.

At heart there’s nothing, not the dread
of death. I know too many dead.
They’re all familiar, all in character,

even how they died. On fire,
the flesh no longer fears that furnace mouth
of earth,

that kiln or ashpit of the sun,
nor this clouding, unclouding sickle moon
whitening this beach again like a blank page.

All its indifference is a different rage.

Derek Walcott, The Castaway and Other Poems, 1965


Walcott at New Yorker

16 May 2008, 7:35 am

A friend sent me a notification of a new poem by Walcott, published in the New Yorker:

“In Italy”


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