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Egypt, Tobago Analysis

Author: poem of Derek Walcott Type: poem Views: 20

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There is a shattered palm

on this fierce shore,

its plumes the rusting helm-

et of a dead warrior.

Numb Antony, in the torpor

stretching her inert

sex near him like a sleeping cat,

knows his heart is the real desert.

Over the dunes

of her heaving,

to his heart's drumming

fades the mirage of the legions,

across love-tousled sheets,

the triremes fading.

Ar the carved door of her temple

a fly wrings its message.

He brushes a damp hair

away from an ear

as perfect as a sleeping child's.

He stares, inert, the fallen column.

He lies like a copper palm

tree at three in the afternoon

by a hot sea

and a river, in Egypt, Tobago

Her salt marsh dries in the heat

where he foundered

without armor.

He exchanged an empire for her beads of sweat,

the uproar of arenas,

the changing surf

of senators, for

this silent ceiling over silent sand -

this grizzled bear, whose fur,

moulting, is silvered -

for this quick fox with her

sweet stench. By sleep dismembered,

his head

is in Egypt, his feet

in Rome, his groin a desert

trench with its dead soldier.

He drifts a finger

through her stiff hair

crisp as a mare's fountaining tail.

Shadows creep up the palace tile.

He is too tired to move;

a groan would waken

trumpets, one more gesture

war. His glare,

a shield

reflecting fires,

a brass brow that cannot frown

at carnage, sweats the sun's force.

It is not the turmoil

of autumnal lust,

its treacheries, that drove

him, fired and grimed with dust,

this far, not even love,

but a great rage without

clamor, that grew great

because its depth is quiet;

it hears the river

of her young brown blood,

it feels the whole sky quiver

with her blue eyelid.

She sleeps with the soft engine of a child,

that sleep which scythes

the stalks of lances, fells the

harvest of legions

with nothing for its knives,

that makes Caesars,

sputtering at flies,

slapping their foreheads

with the laurel's imprint,

drunkards, comedians.

All-humbling sleep, whose peace

is sweet as death,

whose silence has

all the sea's weight and volubility,

who swings this globe by a hair's trembling breath.

Shattered and wild and

palm-crowned Antony,

rusting in Egypt,

ready to lose the world,

to Actium and sand,

everything else

is vanity, but this tenderness

for a woman not his mistress

but his sleeping child.

The sky is cloudless. The afternoon is mild.

Anonymous submission.


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