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The Schooner 'Flight' Analysis



Author: Poetry of Derek Walcott Type: Poetry Views: 500

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The Star-Apple Kingdom1Adios, CarenageIn idle August, while the sea soft,

and leaves of brown islands stick to the rim

of this Carribean, I blow out the light

by the dreamless face of Maria Concepcion

to ship as a seaman on the schooner Flight.

Out in the yard turning gray in the dawn,

I stood like a stone and nothing else move

but the cold sea rippling like galvanize

and the nail holes of stars in the sky roof,

till a wind start to interfere with the trees.

I pass me dry neighbor sweeping she yard

as I went downhill, and I nearly said:

"Sweep soft, you witch, 'cause she don't sleep hard,"

but the bitch look through me like I was dead.

A route taxi pull up, park-lights still on.

The driver size up my bags with a grin:

"This time, Shabine, like you really gone!"

I ain't answer the ass, I simply pile in

the back seat and watch the sky burn

above Laventille pink as the gown

in which the woman I left was sleeping,

and I look in the rearview and see a man

exactly like me, and the man was weeping

for the houses, the street, that whole fucking island.Christ have mercy on all sleeping things!

>From that dog rotting down Wrightson Road

to when I was a dog on these streets;

if loving these islands must be my load.

out of corruption my soul takes wings,

But they had started to poison my soul

with their big house, big car, big time bohbohl,

coolie, nigger, Syrian and French Creole,

so I leave it for them and their carnival -I taking a sea bath, I gone down the road.

I know these islands from Monos to Nassau,

a rusty head sailor with sea-green eyes

that they nickname Shabine, the patois for

any red nigger, and I, Shabine, saw

when these slums of empire was paradise.

I'm just a red nigger who love the sea,

I had a sound colonial education,

I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,

and either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation,But Maria Concepcion was all my thought

watching the sea heaving up and down

as the port side of dories, schooners, and yachts

was painted afresh by the strokes of the sun

signing her name with every reflection;

I knew when dark-haired evening put on

her bright silk at sunset, and, folding the sea,

sidled under the sheet with her starry laugh,

that there'd be no rest, there'd be no forgetting.

Is like telling mourners round the graveside

about resurrection, they want the dead back,

so I smile to myself as the bow rope untied

and the Flight swing seaward:"Is no use repeating

that the sea have more fish. I ain't want her

dressed in the sexless light of a seraph,

I want those round brown eyes like a marmoset, and

till the day when I can lean back and laugh,

those claws that tickled my back on sweating

Sunday afternoons, like a crab on wet sand."As I worked, watching the rotting waves come

past the bow that scissor the sea like milk,

I swear to you all, by my mother's milk,

by the stars that shall fly from tonight's furnace,

that I loved them, my children, my wife, my home;

I loved them as poets love the poetry

that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea.You ever look up from some lonely beach

and see a far schooner? Well, when I write

this poem, each phrase go be soaked in salt;

I go draw and knot every line as tight

as ropes in this rigging; in simple speech

my common language go be the wind,

my pages the sails of the schooner Flight.

But let me tell you how this business begin.2Raptures of the DeepSmuggled Scotch for O'Hara, big government man,

between Cedros and the Main, so the Coast Guard couldn't touch us,

and the Spanish pirogues always met us halfway,

but a voice kept saying: "Shabine, see this business

of playing pirate?" Well, so said, so done!

That whole racket crash. And I for a woman,

for her laces and silks, Maria Concepcion.

Ay, ay! Next thing I hear, some Commission of Enquiry

was being organized to conduct a big quiz,

with himself as chairman investigating himself.

Well, I knew damn well who the suckers would be,

not that shark in shark skin, but his pilot fish,

khaki-pants red nigger like you or me.

What worse, I fighting with Maria Concepcion,

plates flying and thing, so I swear: "Not again!"

It was mashing up my house and my family.

I was so broke all I needed was shades and a cup

or four shades and four cups in four-cup Port of Spain;

all the silver I had was the coins on the sea.You saw them ministers in The Express,

guardians of the poor - one hand at their back,

and one set o'police only guarding their house,

and the Scotch pouring in through the back door.

As for that minister-monster who smuggled the booze,

that half-Syrian saurian, I got so vex to see

that face thick with powder, the warts, the stone lids

like a dinosaur caked with primordial ooze

by the lightning of flashbulbs sinking in wealth,

that I said: "Shabine, this is shit, understand!"

But he get somebody to kick my crutch out his office

like I was some artist! That bitch was so grand,

couldn't get off his high horse and kick me himself.

I have seen things that would make a slave sick

in this Trinidad, the Limers' Republic.I couldn't shake the sea noise out of my head,

the shell of my ears sang Maria Concepcion,

so I start salvage diving with a crazy Mick,

name O'Shaugnessy, and a limey named Head;

but this Carribean so choke with the dead

that when I would melt in emerald water,

whose ceiling rippled like a silk tent,

I saw them corals: brain, fire, sea fans,

dead-men's-fingers, and then, the dead men.

I saw that the powdery sand was their bones

ground white from Senegal to San Salvador,

so, I panic third dive, and surface for a month

in the Seamen's Hostel. Fish broth and sermons.

When I thought of the woe I had brought my wife,

when I saw my worries with that other woman,

I wept under water, salt seeking salt,

for her beauty had fallen on me like a sword

cleaving me from my children, flesh of my flesh!There was this barge from St. Vincent, but she was too deep

to float her again. When we drank, the limey

got tired of my sobbing for Maria Concepcion.

He said he was getting the bends. Good for him!

The pain in my heart for Maria Concepcion,

the hurt I had done to my wife and children,

was worse than the bends. In the rapturous deep

there was no cleft rock where my soul could hide

like the boobies each sunset, no sandbar of light

where I could rest, like the pelicans know,

so I got raptures once, and I saw God

like a harpooned grouper bleeding, and a far

voice was rumbling, "Shabine, if you leave her,

if you leave her, I shall give you the morning star."

When I left the madhouse I tried other women

but, once they stripped naked, their spiky cunts

bristled like sea eggs and I couldn't dive.

The chaplain came round. I paid him no mind.

Where is my rest place, Jesus? Where is my harbor?

Where is the pillow I will not have to pay for,

and the window I can look from that frames my life?3Shabine Leaves the RepublicI had no nation now but the imagination.

After the white man, the niggers didn't want me

when the power swing to their side.

The first chain my hands and apologize, "History";

the next said I wasn't black enough for their pride.

Tell me, what power, on these unknown rocks -

a spray-plane Air Force, the Fire Brigade,

the Red Cross, the Regiment, two, three police dogs

that pass before you finish bawling "Parade!"?

I met History once, but he ain't recognize me,

a parchment Creole, with warts

like an old sea bottle, crawling like a crab

through the holes of shadow cast by the net

of a grille balcony ; cream linen, cream hat.

I confront him and shout, "Sir, is Shabine!

They say I'se your grandson. You remember Grandma,

your blck cook, at all?" The bitch hawk and spat.

A spit like that worth any number of words.

But that's all them bastards have left us: words.I no longer believed in the revolution.

I was losing faith in the love of my woman.

I had seen that moment Aleksandr Blok

crystallize in The Twelve. Was between

the Police Marine Branch and Hotel Venezuelana

one Sunday at noon. Young men without flags

using shirts, their chests waiting for holes.

They kept marching into the mountains, and their

noise ceased as foam sinks into sand.

They sank in the bright hills like rain, every one

with his own nimbus, leaving shirts in the streets,

and the echo of power at the end of the street.

Propeller-blade fans turn over the Senate;

the judges, they say, still sweat in carmine,

on Frederick Street the idlers all marching

by standing still, the Budget turns a new leaf.

In the 12.30 movies the projectors best

not break down, or you go see revolution. Aleksandr Blok

enters and sits in the third row of pit eating choc-

olate cone, waiting for a spaghetti West-

ern with Clint Eastwood and featuring Lee Van Cleef.4The Flight, PassingBlanchisseuse.Dusk. The Flight passing Blanchisseuse.

Gulls wheel like from a gun again,

and foam gone amber that was white,

lighthouse and star start making friends,

down every beach the long day ends,

and there, on that last stretch of sand,

on a beach bare of all but light,

dark hands start pulling in the seine

of the dark sea, deep, deep inland.5Shabine Encounters theMiddle PassageMan, I brisk in the galley first thing next dawn,

brewing li'l coffee; fog coil from the sea

like the kettle steaming when I put it down

slow, slow, 'cause I couldn't believe what I see:

where the horizon was one silver haze,

the fog swirl and swell into sails, so close

that I saw it was sails, my hair grip my skull,

it was horrors, but it was beautiful.

We float through a rustling forest of ships

with sails dry like paper, behind the glass

I saw men with rusty eyeholes like cannons,

and whenever their half-naked crews cross the sun,

right through their tissue, you traced their bones

like leaves against the sunlight; frigates, barkentines,

the backward-moving current swept them on,

and high on their decks I saw great admirals,

Rodney, Nelson, de Grasse, I heard the hoarse orders

they gave those Shabines, and that forest

of masts sail right through the Flight,

and all you could hear was the ghostly sound

of waves rustling like grass in a low wind

and the hissing weds they trail from the stern;

slowly they heaved past from east to west

like this round world was some cranked water wheel,

every ship pouring like a wooden bucket

dredged from the deep; my memory revolve

on all sailors before me, then the sun

heat the horizon's ring and they was mist.Next we pass slave ships. Flags of all nations,

our fathers below deck too deep, I suppose,

to hear us shouting. So we stop shouting. Who knows

who his grandfather is, much less his name?

Tomorrow our landfall will be the Barbados.6The Sailor Sings Back to theCasuarinasYou see them on the low hills of Barbados

bracing like windbreaks, needles for hurricanes,

trailing, like masts, the cirrus of torn sails;

when I was green like them, I used to think

those cypresses, leaning against the sea,

that take the sea noise up into their branches,

are not real cypresses but casuarinas.

Now captain just call them Canadian cedars.

But cedars, cypresses, or casuarinas,

whoever called them so had a good cause,

watching their bending bodies wail like women

after a storm, when some schooner came home

with news of one more sailor drowned again.

Once the sound "cypress" used to make more sense

than the green "casuarinas", though, to the wind

whatever grief bent them was all the same,

since they were trees with nothing else in mind

but heavenly leaping or to guard a grave;

but we live like our names and you would have

to be colonial to know the difference,

to know the pain of history words contain,

to love those trees with an inferior love,

and to believe: "Those casuarinas bend

like cypresses, their hair hangs down in rain

like sailors' wives. They're classic trees, and we,

if we live like the names our masters please,

by careful mimicry might become men."7The Flight Anchors inCastries HarborWhen the stars self were young over Castries,

I loved you alone and I loved the whole world.

What does it matter that our lives are different?

Burdened with the loves of our different children?

When I think of your young face washed by the wind

and your voice that chuckles in the slap of the sea?

The lights are out on La Toc promontory,

except for the hospital. Across at Vigie

the marina arcs keep vigil. I have kept my own

promise, to leave you the one thing I own,

you whom I loved first: my poetry.

We here for one night. Tomorrow, the Flight will be gone.8Fight with the CrewIt had one bitch on board, like he had me mark -

that was the cook, some Vincentian arse

with a skin like a gommier tree, red peeling bark,

and wash-out blue eyes; he wouldn't give me a ease,

like he feel he was white. Had an exercise book,

this same one here, that I was using to write

my poetry, so one day this man snatch it

from my hand, and start throwing it left and right

to the rest of the crew,bawling out, "Catch it,"

and start mincing me like I was some hen

because of the poems. Some case is for fist,

some case is for tholing pin, some is for knife -

this one was for knife. Well, I beg him first,

but he kept reading, "O my children, my wife,"

and playing he crying, to make the crew laugh;

it move like a flying fish, the silver knife

that catch him right in the plump of his calf,

and he faint so slowly, and he turn more white

than he thought he was. I suppose among men

you need that sort of thing. It ain't right

but that's how it is. There wasn't much pain,

just plenty blood, and Vincie and me best friend,

but none of them go fuck with my poetry again.9Maria Concepcion & the Book of DreamsThe jet that was screeching over the Flight

was opening a curtain into the past.

"Dominica ahead!""It still have Caribs there."

"One day go be planes only, no more boat."

"Vince, God ain't made nigger to fly through the air."

"Progress, Shabine, that's what it's all about.

Progress leaving all we small islands behind."

I was at the wheel, Vince sitting next to me

gaffing. Crisp, bracing day. A high-running sea.

"Progress is something to ask Caribs about.

They kill them by millions, some in war,

some by forced labor dying in the mines

looking for silver, after that niggers; more

progress. Until I see definite signs

that mankind change, Vince, I ain't want to hear.

Progress is history's dirty joke.

Ask that sad green island getting nearer."

Green islands, like mangoes pickled in brine.

In such fierce salt let my wound be healed,

me, in my freshness as a seafarer.That night, with the sky sparks frosty with fire,

I ran like a Carib through Dominica,

my nose holes choked with memory of smoke;

I heard the screams of my burning children,

I ate the brains of mushrooms, the fungi

of devil's parasols under white, leprous rocks;

my breakfast was leaf mold in leaking forests,

with leaves big as maps, and when I heard noise

of the soldiers' progress through the thick leaves,

though my heart was bursting, I get up and ran

through the blades of balisier sharper than spears:

with the blood of my race, I ran, boy, I ran

with moss-footed speed like a painted bird;

then I fall, but I fall by an icy stream under

cool fountains of fern, and a screaming parrot

catch the dry branches and I drowned at last

in big breakers of smoke; then when that ocean

of black smoke pass, and the sky turn white,

there was nothing but Progress, if Progress is

an iguana as still as a young leaf in sunlight.

I bawl for Maria, and her Book of Dreams.It anchored her sleep, that insomniac's Bible,

a soiled orange booklet with a cyclop's eye

center, from the Dominican Republic.

Its coarse pages were black with the usual

symbols of prophecy, in excited Spanish:

an open palm upright, sectioned and numbered

like a butcher chart, delivered the future.

One night, in a fever, radiantly ill,

she say, "Bring me the book, the end has come."

She said, "I dreamt of whales and a storm,"

but for that dream, the book had no answer.

A next night I dreamed of three old women

featureless as silkworms, stitching my fate,

and I scream at them to come out of my house,

and I try beating them away with a broom,

but as they go out, so they crawl back again,

until I start screaming and crying, my flesh

raining with sweat, and she ravage the book

for the dream meaning, and there was nothing;

my nerves melt like a jellyfish - that was when I broke -

they found me round the Savannah, screaming:All you see me talking to the wind, so you think I mad.

Well, Shabine has bridled the horses of the sea;

you see me watching the sun till my eyeballs seared,

so all you mad people feel Shabine crazy,

but all you ain't know my strength, hear? The coconuts

standing by in their regiments in yellow khaki,

they waiting for Shabine to take over these islands,

and all you best dread the day I am healed

of being a human. All you fate in my hand,

ministers, businessmen, Shabine have you, friend,

I shall scatter your lives like a handful of sand,

I who have no weapon but poetry and

the lances of palms and the sea's shining shield!10Out of the DepthsNext day, dark sea. A arse-aching dawn.

"Damn wind shift sudden as a woman mind."

The slow swell start cresting like some mountain range

with snow on the top."Ay, skipper, sky dark!"

"This ain't right for August.""This light damn strange,

this season, sky should be clear as a field."A stingray steeplechase across the sea,

tail whipping water, the high man-o'-wars

start reeling inland, quick, quick an archery

of flying fish miss us! Vince say: "You notice?"

and a black-mane squall pounce on the sail

like a dog on a pigeon, and it snap the neck

of the Flight and shake it from head to tail.

"Be Jesus, I never see sea get so rough

so fast! That wind come from God back pocket!"

"Where Cap'n headin? Like the man gone blind!"

"If we's to drong, we go drong, Vince, fock-it!"

"Shabine, say your prayers, if life leave you any!"I have not loved those that I loved enough.

Worse than the mule kick of Kick-'Em-Jenny

Channel, rain start to pelt the Flight between

mountains of water. If I was frighten?

The tent poles of water spouts bracing the sky

start wobbling, cloudsunstitch at the seams

and sky water drench us, and I hear myself cry,

"I'm the drowned sailor in her Book of Dreams."

I remembered those ghost ships, I saw me corkscrewing

to the sea bed of sae worms, fathom past fathom,

my jaw clench like a fist, and only one thing

hold me, trembling, how my family safe home.

Then a strength like it seize me and the strength said:

"I from backward people who still fear God."

Let Him, in His might, heave Leviathan upward

by the winch of His will, the beast pouring lace

from his sea-bottom bed; and that was the faith

that had fade from a child in the Methodist chapel

in Chisel Street, Castries, when the whale-bell

sang service and, in hard pews ribbed like the whale,

proud with despair, we sang how our race

survive the sea's maw, our history, our peril,

and now I was ready for whatever death will.

But if that storm had strength, was in Cap'n face,

beard beading with spray, tears salting his eyes,

crucify to his post, that nigger hold fast

to that wheel, man, like the cross held Jesus,

and the wounds of his eyes like they crying for us,

and I feeding him white rum, while every crest

with Leviathan-lash made the Flight quail

like two criminal. Whole night, with no rest,

till red-eyed like dawn, we watch our travail

subsiding, subside, and there was no more storm.

And the noon sea get calm as Thy Kingdom come.11After the StormThere's a fresh light that follows a storm

while the whole sea still havoc; in its bright wake

I saw the veiled face of Maria Concepcion

marrying the ocean, then drifting away

in the widening lace of her bridal train

with white gulls her bridesmaids, till she was gone.

I wanted nothing after that day.

Across my own face, like the face of the sun,

a light rain was falling, wih the sea calm.Fall gently, rain, on the sea's upturned face

like a girl showering; make these islands fresh

as Shabine once knew them! Let every trace,

every hot road, smell like clothes she just press

and sprinkle with drizzle. I finish dream;

whatever the rain wash and the sun iron:

the white clouds, the sea and sky wih one seam,

is clothes enough for my nakedness.

Though my Flight never pass the incoming tide

of this inland sea beyond the loud reefs

of the final Bahamas, I am satisfied

if my hand gave voice to one people's grief.

Open the map. More islands there, man,

than peas on a tin plate, all different size,

one thousand in the Bahamas alone,

from mountains to low scrub with coral keys,

and from this bowsprit, I bless every town,

the blue smell of smoke in hills behind them,

and the one small road winding down them like twine

to the roofs below; I have only one theme:

The bowsprit, the arrow, the longing, the lunging heart -the flight to a target whose aim we'll never know,

vain search for an island that heals with its harbor

and a guiltless horizon, where the almond's shadow

doesn't injure the sand. There are so many islands!

As many islands as the stars at night

like falling fruit around the schooner Flight.

But things must fall, and so it always was,

on one hand Venus, on the other Mars;

fall, and are one, just as this earth is one

island in archipelagoes of stars.

My first friend was the sea. Now, is my last.

I stop talking now. I work, then I read,

cotching under a lantern hooked to the mast.

I try to forget what happiness was,

and when that don't work, I study the stars.

Sometimes is just me, and the soft-scissored foam

as the deck turn white and the moon open

a cloud like a door, and the light over me

is a road in white moonlight taking me home.

Shabine sang to you from the depths of the sea.





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