Anis Shivani

To Derek Walcot

To Derek Walcott (appeared in Washington Square)


Start over Omeros, with a new sea.
The fishermen in St. Lucia have bargained
with the sunny devil to prosper among
friends. The very sand is choked with
lust. The islands send signals at night
to marooned in-between gods, who assemble,
drunk and smiling, to hear assorted
complaints. I have not known old and ugly
women, only their embryos when cool.
Blueness is a question of the seeing
entity willing to suspend disbelief.
It is impossible to grow up as an empiricist,
check values against values, expire
at night behind dark unfanned doors,
and argue with the trust of neighbors.
I give you, Seamus and Joseph, fellow sons
of history, How to bend on locked knees,
before the composers of civic behavior,
and come away ignorant as birth.


Start over Omeros, with a new sea.
A roseate history lecture, pinned to the fins
of the roving sharks, whose blue vision
sparks the live islands’ very marrow
and ends the drunken hangover
from the fifties and before, at last:
St. Lucia, of a Sunday afternoon, becalmed
like a lonely bride in her last moments of waiting,
will not yield her secrets to mere passersby:
of which more, intestate or not,
to follow, after the satirists have unfolded their
lawyerly pajamas and sagely sipped on poisonous
tea. Everything here channels tonnage
from afar, from Caliban’s unknown travels,
from Prospero’s fickle sayings,
from Crusoe’s accumulated mistrusts,
so that in the end there is nothing left to see.
Yet the tourists come, bonded to cameras.
Yet the poets sing, in sugary tongues.
Yet the politicians breathe fire and ice.
Once, before ill-repute was for natives to own,
I sang of fishermen and their catch –
the evening stretching from horizon to horizon,
the very sand as though pocked with the holes of thought –
in a laughing voice, smooth and round,
like my neighbors’ calculation of unfallen time,
all comparison of disuse allowed.


Start over Omeros, with a new sea.
Your transcription of the dead Aegean
into the lush Caribbean cauldron, where the sea,
inundated by hopscotched peripatetic wanderers,
hollers in the single digits of the night,
How not to worship Wagner’s blond beasts,
yet awakens a bad taste in the mouth,
knows the song of delight, sung in chiffons of salt,
murderous to the ears, yet clocked and heard
by all my sleeping neighbors. I have not known
such uncaring sleep, since those days of youth
when I first emerged into freefalling silence.
No, the walls of Jericho might not fall.
Apocalypse is for the continental bourgeois
who skip through the pages of history
as though through Gothic romances,
already knowing all the famous endings.
Here, a midsummer cloudburst drenches
our pig-sleep, creeping past pink death.
These offices have long remained vacant.
Child of illegitimate silence, I have willed
some nonpareil paradise to come into being,
and it only takes a man or two to put it
on the map where Europe never strayed.

Anis Shivani

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