The Wind in the Dooryard Poem

I didn’t want this poem to come
from the torn mouth,
I didn’t want this poem to come
from his salt body,

but I will tell you what he celebrated:

He writes of the wall with spilling coralita
from the rim of the rich garden
and the clean dirt yard
clean as the parlour table
with a yellow tree
an ackee, an almond
a pomegranate
in the clear vase of sunlight;

sometimes he put his finger
on the pulse of the wind,
when he heard the sea in the cedars.
He went swimming to Africa,
but he felt tired;
he chose that way
to reach his ancestors.

No, I did not want to write this,
but, doesn’t the sunrise
force itself through the curtain
of the trembling eyelids?
When the cows are statues in the misting field
that sweats out the dew,
and the horse lifts its iron head
and the jaws of the sugar mules
ruminate and grind like the factory?
I did not want to hear it again,
the echo of broken windmills,
the mutter of the wild yams creeping
over the broken palings,
the noise of the moss
stitching the stone barracoons,

but the rain breaks
on the foreheads of the wild yams,
the dooryard opens the voice
of his rusty theme,
and the first quick drops of the drizzle,
the libations to Shango,
dry fast as sweat on the forehead
and our tears also.

The peasant reeks sweetly of bush,
he smells the same as his donkey–
they smell of the high, high country
of clouds and stunted pines–
the man wipes his hand
that is large as a yam
and as crusty with dirt
across the tobacco-stained
paling stumps of his torn mouth,
he rinses with the mountain dew,
and he spits out pity.

I did not want it to come,
but sometimes, under the armpit
of the hot sky over the country,

the wind smells of salt
and a certain breeze lifts
the sprigs of the coralita
as if, like us,
lifting our heads, at our happiest,
it too smells of the freshness of life.

fromĀ Sea Grapes, 1971

Derek Walcott Caribbean Playwright (St. Lucia)

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