And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

tirsdag 27. mars 2018

Islands - a poem by Derek Walcott

It is the Easter week and I am home, back in the house of my paternal grandparents where I spent so much of my childhood, and where - because it is close to the salt scents of the fjord and because it contains so much memorabilia from the outside world - I feel that I am both securely nestled in the homescape and also connected to the wider world. Here I read about distant lands, about islands - especially about islands - and here I keep going back to my favourite poet, Derek Walcott. I'm giving you this particular poem because it fits so well with the book I'm currently reading, the Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky, a florilegium of islands that stokes the imagination and transports the mind far away.


Merely to name them is the prose
Of diarists, to make you a name
For readers who like travellers praise
Their beds and beaches as the same;
But islands can only exist
If we have loved in them. I seek
As climate seeks its style, to write
Verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight,
Cold as the curled wave, ordinary
As a tumbler of island water;
Yet, like a diarist, thereafter
I savour their salt-haunted rooms
(Your body stirring the creased sea
Of crumpled sheets), whose mirrors lose
Our huddled, sleeping images,
Like words which love had hoped to use
Erased with the surf's pages.

So, like a diarist in sand,
I mark the peace with which you graced
Particular islands, descending
A narrow stair to light the lamps
Against the night surf's noises, shielding
A leaping mantle with one hand
Or simply scaling fish for supper,
Onions, jack-fish, bread, red snapper;
And on each kiss the harsh sea-taste,
And how by moonlight you were made
To study most the surf's unyielding
Patience though it seems a waste.

From In a Green Night (1962)

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