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The Star-Apple Kingdom Analysis



Author: Poetry of Derek Walcott Type: Poetry Views: 266

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The Star-Apple Kingdom1979There were still shards of an ancient pastoralin those shires of the island where the cattle dranktheir pools of shadow from an older sky,surviving from when the landscape copied such objects as"Herefords at Sunset in the valley of the Wye."The mountain water that fell white from the mill wheelsprinkling like petals from the star-apple trees,and all of the windmills and sugar mills moved by muleson the treadmill of Monday to Monday, would repeatin tongues of water and wind and fire, in tonguesof Mission School pickaninnies, like rivers rememberingtheir source, Parish Trelawny, Parish St David, ParishSt Andrew, the names afflicting the pastures,the lime groves and fences of marl stone and the cattlewith a docile longing, an epochal content.And there were, like old wedding lace in an attic,among the boas and parasols and the tea-coloreddaguerreotypes, hints of an epochal happinessas ordered and infinite to the childas the great house road to the Great Housedown a perspective of casuarinas plunging green manesin time to the horses, an orderly lifereduced by lorgnettes day and night, one disc the sun,the other the moon, reduced into a pier glass:nannies diminished to dolls, mahogany stairwaysno larger than those of an album in whichthe flash of cutlery yellows, as gamboge asthe piled cakes of teatime on that latticedbougainvillea verandah that looked down towarda prospect of Cuyp-like Herefords under a skylurid as a porcelain souvenir with these words:"Herefords at Sunset in the Valley of the Wye."Strange, that the rancor of hatred hid in that dreamof slow rivers and lily-like parasols, in snapsof fine old colonial families, curled at the edgenot from age of from fire or the chemicals, no, not at all,but because, off at its edges, innocently excludedstood the groom, the cattle boy, the housemaid, the gardeners,the tenants, the good Negroes down in the village,their mouth in the locked jaw of a silent scream.A scream which would open the doors to swing wildlyall night, that was bringing in heavier clouds,more black smoke than cloud, frightening the cattlein whose bulging eyes the Great House diminished;a scorching wind of a screamthat began to extinguish the fireflies,that dried the water mill creaking to a stopas it was about to pronounce Parish Trelawnyall over, in the ancient pastoral voice,a wind that blew all without bending anything,neither the leaves of the album nor the lime groves;blew Nanny floating back in white from a featherto a chimerical, chemical pin speck that shrankthe drinking Herefords to brown porcelain cowson a mantelpiece, Trelawny trembling with dusk,the scorched pastures of the old benign Custos; blewfar the decent servants and the lifelong cook,and shriveled to a shard that ancient pastoralof dusk in a gilt-edged frame now catching the evening sunin Jamaica, making both epochs one.He looked out from the Great House windows onclouds that still held the fragrance of fire,he saw the Botanical Gardens officially drownin a formal dusk, where governors had strolledand black gardeners had smiled over glinting shearsat the lilies of parasols on the floating lawns,the flame trees obeyed his will and lowered their wicks,the flowers tightened their fists in the name of thrift,the porcelain lamps of ripe cocoa, the magnolia's jetdimmed on the one circuit with the ginger liliesand left a lonely bulb on the verandah,and, had his mandate extended to that ceilingof star-apple candelabra, he would have orderedthe sky to sleep, saying, I'm tired,save the starlight for victories, we can't afford it,leave the moon on for one more hour,and that's it.But though his power, the given mandate, extendedfrom tangerine daybreaks to star-apple dusks,his hand could not dam that ceaseless torrent of dustthat carried the shacks of the poor, to their root-rock music,down the gullies of Yallahs and August Town,to lodge them on thorns of maca, with their ragscrucified by cactus, tins, old tires, cartons;from the black Warieka Hills the sky glowed fierce asthe dials of a million radios,a throbbing sunset that glowed like a gridwhere the dread beat rose from the jukebox of Kingston.He saw the fountains dried of quadrilles, the water-musicof the country dancers, the fiddlers like fifesput aside. He had to healthis malarial island in its bath of bay leaves,its forests tossing with fever, the dry cattlegroaning like winches, the grass that kept shakingits head to remember its name. No vowels leftin the mill wheel, the river. Rock stone. Rock stone.The mountains rolled like whales through phosphorous stars,as he swayed like a stone down fathoms into sleep,drawn by that magnet which pulls down half the worldbetween a star and a star, by that black powerthat has the assassin dreaming of snow,that poleaxes the tyrant to a sleeping child.The house is rocking at anchor, but as he fallshis mind is a mill wheel in moonlight,and he hears, in the sleep of his moonlight, the drownedbell of Port Royal's cathedral, sees the copper penniesof bubbles rising from the empty eye-pocketsof green buccaneers, the parrot fish floatingfrom the frayed shoulders of pirates, sea horsesdrawing gowned ladies in their liquid promenadeacross the moss-green meadows of the sea;he heard the drowned choirs under Palisadoes,a hymn ascending to earth from a heaven invertedby water, a crab climbing the steeple,and he climbed from that submarine kingdomas the evening lights came on in the institute,the scholars lamplit in their own aquarium,he saw them mouthing like parrot fish, as he passedupward from that baptism, their history lessons,the bubbles like ideas which he could not break:Jamaica was captured by Penn and Venables,Port Royal perished in a cataclysmic earthquake.Before the coruscating fa├žades of cathedralsfrom Santiago to Caracas, where penitential archbishopswashed the feet of paupers (a parenthetical momentthat made the Caribbean a baptismal font,turned butterflies to stone, and whitened like dovesthe buzzards circling municipal garbage),the Caribbean was borne like an elliptical basinin the hands of acolytes, and a people were absolvedof a history which they did not commit;the slave pardoned his whip, and the dispossessedsaid the rosary of islands for three hundred years,a hymn that resounded like the hum of the seainside a sea cave, as their knees turned to stone,while the bodies of patriots were melting down wallsstill crusted with mute outcries of La Revolucion!"San Salvador, pray for us,St. Thomas, San Domingo,ora pro nobis, intercede for us, Sancta Luciaof no eyes," and when the circular chapletreached the last black bead of Sancta Trinidadthey began again, their knees drilled into stone,where Colon had begun, with San Salvador's bead,beads of black colonies round the necks of Indians.And while they prayed for an economic miracle,ulcers formed on the municipal portraits,the hotels went up, and the casinos and brothels,and the empires of tobacco, sugar, and bananas,until a black woman, shawled like a buzzard,climbed up the stairs and knocked at the doorof his dream, whispering in the ear of the keyhole:"Let me in, I'm finished with praying, I'm the Revolution.I am the darker, the older America."She was as beautiful as a stone in the sunrise,her voice had the gutturals of machine gunsacross khaki deserts where the cactus flowerdetonates like grenades, her sex was the slit throatof an Indian, her hair had the blue-black sheen of the crow.She was a black umbrella blown inside outby the wind of revolution, La Madre Dolorosa,a black rose of sorrow, a black mine of silence,raped wife, empty mother, Aztec virgintransfixed by arrows from a thousand guitars,a stone full of silence, which, if it gave tongueto the tortures done in the name of the Father,would curdle the blood of the marauding wolf,the fountain of generals, poets, and crippleswho danced without moving over their graveswith each revolution; her Caesarean was stitchedby the teeth of machine guns,and every sunsetshe carried the Caribbean's elliptical basinas she had once carried the penitential napkinsto be the footbath of dictators, Trujillo, Machado,and those whose faces had yellowed like posterson municipal walls. Now she stroked his hairuntil it turned white, but she would not understandthat he wanted no other power but peace,that he wanted a revolution without any bloodshed,he wanted a history without any memory,streets without statues,and a geography without myth. He wanted no armiesbut those regiments of bananas, thick lances of cane,and he sobbed,"I am powerless, except for love."She faded from him, because he could not kill;she shrunk to a bat that hung day and nightin the back of his brain. He rose in his dream.(to be continued)





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