“A somnolence as sweet as malaria”

By Derek Walcott

In a green street of hedges and vermilion roofs
and gates that creak open into banana yards
and doors that groan on the evocation of ginger
behind which are the hill with five cresting palms
whose long fingers are stirring tropical almanacs
darkened with rain over the grey savannahs
of zebu and bison and the small chalk temples
of an almost erased Asia, and the ovations of cane
through which turbaned horsemen carry feathering lances.
The cloud-white egret, the heron whose hue
is wet slate, move through a somnolence
as sweet as malaria to a child whose parched lips
are soothed by a servant or his own mother,
to the sudden great sound of rain on the roofs,
cloudburst of benediction, dry seas in his ears.


The Caribbean Review of Books, August 2004

Derek Walcott was born in St Lucia in 1930. His Collected Poems: 1948–1984 was published in 1986, and his subsequent works include Omeros (1990), The Bounty (1997), and Tiepolo’s Hound (2000). His new book, The Prodigal, will be published in October 2004. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.