Derek Walcott, Sainte Lucie, parts I and II

Sainte Lucie

The Villages

Laborie, Choiseul, Vieuxfort, Dennery,
from these sun-bleached villages
where the church bell caves in the sides
of one grey-scurfed shack that is shuttered
with warped boards, with rust,
with crabs crawling under the house-shadow
where the children played house:
a net rotting among cans, the sea-net
of sunlight trolling the shallows
catching nothing all afternoon,
from these I am no nearer
to what secret eluded the children
under the house-shade, in the far bell, the noon’s
stunned amethystine sea,
something always being missed
between the floating shadow and the pelican
in the smoke from over the next bay
in that shack on the lip of the sandspit
whatever the seagulls cried out for
through the grey drifting ladders of rain
and the great grey tree of the waterspout,
for which the dolphins kept diving, that
should have rounded the day.


Pomme arac,
otaheite apple,
pomme cythère,
pomme granate,
the pineapple’s
Aztec helmet,
I have forgotten
what pomme for
the Irish Potato,
the cherry,
by the crisp
au bord de la’ouvière.
Come back to me,
my language.
Come back,
the scissor-bird
no nightingales
except, once,
in the indigo mountains
of Jamaica, blue depth,
deep as coffee,
flicker of pimento,
the shaft light
on a yellow ackee
the bark alone bare
en montagnes
en haut betassion
the wet leather reek
of the hill donkey.

Evening opens at
a text of fireflies,
in the mountain huts
ti cailles betassion
the black night bending
cups in its hard palms
cool thin water
this is important water,
water is important
also very important
the red rust drum
the evening deep
as coffee
the morning powerful
important coffee
the villages shut
all day in the sun.

In the empty schoolyard
teacher dead today
the fruit rotting
yellow on the ground,
dyes from Gauguin
the pomme arac dyes
the earth purple,
the ochre roads
still waiting in the sun
for my shadow,
Oh, so you is Walcott?
you is Roddy brother?
Teacher Alix son?
and the small rivers
with important names.

And the important corporal
in the country station
en betassion
looking towards the thick
green slopes of cocoa
the sun that melts
the asphalt at noon,
and the woman in the shade
of the breadfruit bent over
the lip of the valley,
below her, blue-green
the lost, lost valleys
of sugar, the bus rides,
the fields of bananas
the tanker still rusts
in the lagoon at Roseau,
and around what corner
was uttered a single
yellow leaf,
from the frangipani
a tough bark, reticent,
but when it flowers
delivers hard lilies,
pungent, recalling

Martina, or Eunice
or Lucilla,
who comes down the steps
with the cool, side flow
as spring water eases
over shelves of rock
in some green ferny hole
by the road in the mountains,
her smile like the whole country,
her smell, earth,
red-brown earth, her armpits
a reaping, her arms
saplings, an old woman
that she is now,
with other generations of daughters flowing
down the steps,
gens betassion,
belle ti fille betassion,
until their teeth go,
and all the rest.

O Martinas, Lucillas,
I’m a wild golden apple
that will burst with love
of you and your men,
those I never told enough
with my young poet’s eyes
crazy with the country,
generations going,
generations gone,
moi c’est gens Ste. Lucie.
C’est la moi sorti;
is there that I born.


(from Derek Walcott, Collected Poems, 1948 – 1984, Noonday Press, 1986/1993; originally from Sea Grapes, 1976)


4 Responses to Derek Walcott, Sainte Lucie, parts I and II

  1. kvennarad says:

    Derek Walcott has a good, strong voice.

    Marie Marshall

  2. […] lautet die Frage an den Dichter in dem Gedichtszyklus Sainte Lucie. Der Angesprochene fährt fort von den „blue-green […] lost valleys“, […]

  3. leoine says:


    Derek Walcott, Sainte Lucie, parts I and II | Groundwork

  4. samaria says:


    Derek Walcott, Sainte Lucie, parts I and II | Groundwork

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