Friday, July 15, 2011

"XLVIII"

from Derek Walcott's Midsummer

Raw ocher sea cliffs in the slanting afternoon,
at the bursting end of Balandra, the dry beach's end,
that a shadow's dial wipes out of sight and mind.
White sanderlings race the withdrawing surf to pick,
with wink-quick stabs, shellfish between the pebbles
ignoring the horizon where a sail goes out
like the love of Prospero for his island kingdom.
A grape leaf shields the sun with veined, orange hand,
but its wick blows out, and the sanderlings are gone.
Go, light, make weightless the burden of our thought,
let our misfortune have no need for magic,
be untranslatable in verse or prose.
Let us darken like stones that have never frowned or known
the need for art or medicine, for Prospero's
snake-knotted staff, or sea-bewildering stick;
erase these ciphers of birds' prints on sand.
Proportion benedict us, as in fables,
that in life's last third, its movements, we accept the
measurements of our acts from one to three,
and boarding this craft, pull till a dark wind
rolls this pen on a desktop, a broken oar, a scepter
swayed by the surf, the scansion of the sea.

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