Derek Walcott

D
Derek Walcott
The Star-Apple Kingdom
There were still shards of an ancient pastoral
in those shires of the island where the cattle drank
their pools of shadow from an older sky,
surviving from when the landscape copied such subjects as
“Herefords at Sunset in the Valley of the Wye.”
The mountain water that fell white from the mill wheel
sprinkling like petals from the star-apple trees,
and all of the windmills and sugar mills moved by mules
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Map of the New World
I Archipelagoes At the end of this sentence, rain will begin.
At the rain's edge, a sail.

Slowly the sail will lose sight of islands;
into a mist will go the belief in harbours
of an entire race.

The ten-years war is finished.
Helen's hair, a grey cloud.
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The Season of Phantasmal Peace
Then all the nations of birds lifted together
the huge net of the shadows of this earth
in multitudinous dialects, twittering tongues,
stitching and crossing it. They lifted up
the shadows of long pines down trackless slopes,
the shadows of glass-faced towers down evening streets,
the shadow of a frail plant on a city sill—
the net rising soundless as night, the birds' cries soundless, until
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from The Prodigal: 11
I

The dialect of the scrub in the dry season
withers the flow of English. Things burn for days
without translation, with the heat
of the scorched pastures and their skeletal cows.
Every noun is a stump with its roots showing,
and the creole language rushes like weeds
until the entire island is overrun,
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from The Prodigal: 12
I

Prodigal, what were your wanderings about?
The smoke of homecoming, the smoke of departure.
The earth grew music and the tubers sprouted
to Sesenne's singing, rain-water, fresh patois
in a clay carafe, a clear spring in the ferns,
and pure things took root like the sweet-potato vine.
Over the sea at dusk, an arrowing curlew,
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from The Prodigal: 14
I

From a blue keg, the barrel's thumb-tuned goatskin,
the choirs of ancestral ululation
are psalms and pivot for the prodigal
in a dirt yard at Piaille, are confrontation,
old incantation and fresh sacrifice
where a ram is tethered, without the scrolled horns,
wool locks and beard of the scapegoat,
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Bleecker Street, Summer
Summer for prose and lemons, for nakedness and languor,
for the eternal idleness of the imagined return,
for rare flutes and bare feet, and the August bedroom
of tangled sheets and the Sunday salt, ah violin!

When I press summer dusks together, it is
a month of street accordions and sprinklers
laying the dust, small shadows running from me.

It is music opening and closing, Italia mia, on Bleecker,
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The Fist
The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
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from The Prodigal: 10
I

The ground dove stuttered for a few steps then flew
up from his path to settle in the sun-browned
branches that were now barely twigs; in drought it coos
with its relentless valve, a tiring sound,
not like the sweet exchanges of turtles in the Song
of Solomon, or the flutes of Venus in frescoes
though all the mounds in the dove-calling drought
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Sea Grapes
That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean

for home, could be Odysseus,
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband's

longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is
like the adulterer hearing Nausicaa's name
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Becune Point
Stunned heat of noon. In shade, tan, silken cows
hide in the thorned acacias. A butterfly staggers.

Stamping their hooves from thirst, small horses drowse
or whinny for water. On parched, ochre headlands, daggers

of agave bristle in primordial defense,
like a cornered monster backed up against the sea.

A mongoose charges dry grass and fades through a fence
faster than an afterthought. Dust rises easily.
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