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Derek Walcott

Rookie (23 January 1930 / Castries / St Lucia)

Codicil


Schizophrenic, wrenched by two styles,
one a hack's hired prose, I earn
me exile. I trudge this sickle, moonlit beach for miles,

tan, burn
to slough off
this live of ocean that's self-love.

To change your language you must change your life.

I cannot right old wrongs.
Waves tire of horizon and return.
Gulls screech with rusty tongues

Above the beached, rotting pirogues,
they were a venomous beaked cloud at Charlotteville.

One I thought love of country was enough,
now, even if I chose, there is no room at the trough.

I watch the best minds rot like dogs
for scraps of flavour.
I am nearing middle
age, burnt skin
peels from my hand like paper, onion-thin,
like Peer Gynt's riddle.

At heart there is nothing, not the dread
of death. I know to many dead.
They're all familiar, all in character,

even how they died. On fire,
the flesh no longer fears that furnace mouth
of earth,

that kiln or ashpit of the sun,
nor this clouding, unclouding sickle moon
withering this beach again like a blank page.

All its indifference is a different rage.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Saturday, November 19, 2011

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