A poem from Walcott’s White Egrets

London’s Guardian newspaper has published a poem from Walcott’s new collection White Egrets. The poem, number 42, is dedicated to Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison. This is the poem.

This prose has the gait of a mule urged up a mountain road,

a slope with wild strawberries; yes, strawberries grow there,

and pines also flourish; native trees from abroad,

and coffee-bush shining in the crisp blue air

fanning the thighs of the mountains. Pernicious ginger

startles around corners and crushed lime

leaves its memory on thumb and third finger,

each page has a freshness of girlhood’s time,

when, by a meagre brook the white scream

of an egret beats with the same rhythm as crows

circling invisible carrion in their wide dream;

commas sprout like thorn-bush alongside this curved prose

descending into some village named Harvey River

whose fences are Protestant. A fine Presbyterian

drizzle blesses each pen with its wooden steeple over

baking zinc roofs. Adjectives are modestly raised in this terrain,

this side-saddle prose on its way to the dressmaker

passes small fretwork balconies, drying clothes

in a yard fragrant as Monday; this prose

has the sudden smell of a gust of slanted rain

on scorching asphalt from the hazed hills of Jamaica.

The poem was published at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/06/42-by-derek-walcott

Photo of white egrets by Michael Nichols for National Geographic magazine.

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