Sea Poems: 16 / 500

The Sea Is History

Rating: 3.1

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that gray vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.

First, there was the heaving oil,
heavy as chaos;
then, likea 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 harp 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.

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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Ahmad Shiddiqi 09 October 2008

powerful! keep writing! could you read and comment on my poems too? thank you.

4 13 Reply
qerjbv1jbrv1 14 December 2017

no no no no no

0 0 Reply
Brian Jani 13 May 2014

Derek walcott Amazing poetic skills here

4 7 Reply
Carlos Echeverria 08 January 2018

I read this poem out loud and the words came out of me from depths of my being, like they were written in me before I was born.

5 3 Reply
Bernard F. Asuncion 08 January 2018

Such an interesting write by Derek Walcott??????

4 4 Reply
Joseph Dickson 03 June 2020

good i like this i like all nature

0 1 Reply
Sweeney Prufrock 09 August 2019

Am I the only one reading slavery/emancipation/civil rights into this?

2 1 Reply
Jamie G 30 October 2018

Yap Yap Yap Fantastic Work

1 3 Reply
Robin Rambles On 24 August 2018

I love rocks and nature you brought the words nicely together thanks

4 5 Reply
Sarah Daclan 10 July 2018

Ive been searching poems about history and I found this, great poem love it.

4 4 Reply