Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that grey vault. The Sea. The Sea
has locked them up. The Sea is history.
Mainly in triplets, the St. Lucy poet then tells a story that echoes much of our recent thinking on the powerful figure of the ocean that has transported us recently. We find the figure in the voices of many thousands gone, from Phillis Wheatley to Langston Hughes, the saints who help us find our way on this long road.
Then came the white sisters clapping
to the waves progress,
and that was Emancipation --
jubilation, O jubilation --
as the sea's lace dries in the sun,
but that was not history,
that was only faith,
and then each rock broke into its own nation;
From there he patiently builds a counterstory to the poem's three page narrative just concluded:
then came the synod of flies,
then came the secretarial heron,
then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,
fireflies with bright ideas
and bats like jetting ambassadors
and the mantis, like khaki police,
and the furred caterpillars of judges
examining each case closely,
and the dark ears of ferns
and in the salt chuckle of rocks
with their sea pools, there was the sound
like a rumor without any echo
of History, really beginning.
We're not sure what to make of the not resolve at the end, but we take it for the not resolve that it is. In the meantime (which is the period that matters), we find ourselves attracted to the way Walcott has animated the natural world -- in the fashion of the griot -- with human characteristics. Let's leave it at that and come back to it. Wind that back.