The growing idleness of summer grass With its frail kites of furious butterflies Requests the lemonade of simple praise In scansion gentler than my hammock swings And rituals no more upsetting than a Black maid shaking linen as she sings The plain notes of some Protestant hosanna— Since I lie idling from the thought in things— Or so they should, until I hear the cries Of two small children hunting yellow wings, Who break my Sabbath with the thought of sin. Brother and sister, with a common pin, Frowning like serious lepidopterists. The little surgeon pierces the thin eyes. Crouched on plump haunches, as a mantis prays She shrieks to eviscerate its abdomen. The lesson is the same. The maid removes Both prodigies from their interest in science. The girl, in lemon frock, begins to scream As the maimed, teetering thing attempts its flight. She is herself a thing of summery light, Frail as a flower in this blue August air, Not marked for some late grief that cannot speak. The mind swings inward on itself in fear Swayed towards nausea from each normal sign. Heredity of cruelty everywhere, And everywhere the frocks of summer torn, The long look back to see where choice is born, As summer grass sways to the scythe's design.
Derek Walcott - 1930-2017
The Sea Is History
Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs? Where is your tribal memory? Sirs, in that grey vault. The sea. The sea has locked them up. The sea is History. First, there was the heaving oil, heavy as chaos; then, like a light at the end of a tunnel, the lantern of a caravel, and that was Genesis. Then there were the packed cries, the shit, the moaning: Exodus. Bone soldered by coral to bone, mosaics mantled by the benediction of the shark's shadow, that was the Ark of the Covenant. Then came from the plucked wires of sunlight on the sea floor the plangent harps of the Babylonian bondage, as the white cowries clustered like manacles on the drowned women, and those were the ivory bracelets of the Song of Solomon, but the ocean kept turning blank pages looking for History. Then came the men with eyes heavy as anchors who sank without tombs, brigands who barbecued cattle, leaving their charred ribs like palm leaves on the shore, then the foaming, rabid maw of the tidal wave swallowing Port Royal, and that was Jonah, but where is your Renaissance? Sir, it is locked in them sea-sands out there past the reef's moiling shelf, where the men-o'-war floated down; strop on these goggles, I'll guide you there myself. It's all subtle and submarine, through colonnades of coral, past the gothic windows of sea-fans to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyed, blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen; and these groined caves with barnacles pitted like stone are our cathedrals, and the furnace before the hurricanes: Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills into marl and cornmeal, and that was Lamentations— that was just Lamentations, it was not History; then came, like scum on the river's drying lip, the brown reeds of villages mantling and congealing into towns, and at evening, the midges' choirs, and above them, the spires lancing the side of God as His son set, and that was the New Testament. Then came the white sisters clapping to the waves' progress, and that was Emancipation— jubilation, O jubilation— vanishing swiftly as the sea's lace dries in the sun, but that was not History, that was only faith, and then each rock broke into its own nation; then came the synod of flies, then came the secretarial heron, then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote, fireflies with bright ideas and bats like jetting ambassadors and the mantis, like khaki police, and the furred caterpillars of judges examining each case closely, and then in the dark ears of ferns and in the salt chuckle of rocks with their sea pools, there was the sound like a rumour without any echo of History, really beginning.