Happy Birthday, Derek Walcott (2010)
EXCERPT FROM THE PRODIGAL, BY DEREK WALCOTT
When we were boys coming home from the beach,
it used to be such a thing! The body would be singing
with salt, the sunlight hummed through the skin
and a fierce thirst made iced water
a gasping benediction, and in the plated heat,
stones scorched the soles, and the cored dove hid
in the heat-limp leaves, and we left the sand
to its mutterings, and the long, cool canoes.
Threescore and ten plus one past our allotment,
in the morning mirror, the dissembled man.
And all the pieces that go to make me up --
the detached front tooth from the lower denture
the thick fog I cannot piece without my glasses
the shot of pain from a kidney
these piercings of acute mortality.
And your wife, day and night,
assembling your accoutrements
to endure another day on the sofa,
bathrobe, glasses, teeth, because
your hands were leaves in a gust
when the leaves are huge veined, desiccated,
incapable of protest or applause.
To cedars, to the sea that cannot change its tune,
on rain-washed morning what shall I say then
to the panes reflecting the wet trees and clouds
as if they were storefronts and offices, and
in what voice, since I now hear changing voices?
The change of light on a pink plaster wall
is the change of a culture--how the light is seen,
how it is steady and seasonless in these islands
as opposed to the doomed and mortal sun of midsummer
or in the tightening shadow in the bullring.
This is how people look at death
and write a literature of gliding transience
as the sun loses its sight, singing of islands.
Photograph by: Larry Wong, Edmonton Journal