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The Sea Is History Analysis



Author: poem of Derek Walcott Type: poem Views: 22

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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.





Anonymous submission.






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