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Derek Walcott: poem and prayer

Celebrating life in all its natural a supernatural fullness

  • Pentecost
  • Better a jungle in the head
  • than rootless concrete.
  • Better to stand bewildered
  • by the fireflies’ crooked street;
  • winter lamps do not show
  • where the sidewalk is lost,
  • nor can these tongues of snow
  • speak for the Holy Ghost;
  • the self-increasing silence 
  • of words dropped from a roof
  • points along iron railings,
  • direction, in not proof.
  • But best is this night surf
  • with slow scriptures of sand,
  • that sends, not quite a seraph,
  • but a late cormorant,
  • whose fading cry propels
  • through phosphorescent shoal
  • what, in my childhood gospels,
  • used to be called the Soul.
  • Love After Love
  • The time will come 
  • when, with elation 
  • you will greet yourself arriving 
  • at your own door, in your own mirror 
  • and each will smile at the other’s welcome, 
  • and say, sit here. Eat. 
  • You will love again the stranger who was your self.
  • Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
  • to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 
  • all your life, whom you ignored 
  • for another, who knows you by heart. 
  • Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 
  • the photographs, the desperate notes, 
  • peel your own image from the mirror. 
  • Sit. Feast on your life.
  • Coral
  • This coral’s shape echoes the hand
  • It hollowed. Its
  • Immediate absence is heavy. As pumice,
  • As your breast in my cupped palm.
  • Sea-cold, its nipple rasps like sand,
  • Its pores, like yours, shone with salt sweat.
  • Bodies in absence displace their weight,
  • And your smooth body, like none other,
  • Creates an exact absence like this stone
  • Set on a table with a whitening rack
  • Of souvenirs. It dares my hand
  • To claim what lovers’ hands have never known:
  • The nature of the body of another
Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott (1930-2017) was a poet from St. Lucia who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. His work, colored with his native Caribbean island and infused with a Christian spirituality. “I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer,” he once wrote. “I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation.” The themes in his poetry run the gamut from love to elegy, celebrating life in all its natural a supernatural fullness. Walcott’s poems are marked by a precise and elaborate use of metaphor and other figures of speech.

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  • Pentecost
  • Better a jungle in the head
  • than rootless concrete.
  • Better to stand bewildered
  • by the fireflies’ crooked street;
  • winter lamps do not show
  • where the sidewalk is lost,
  • nor can these tongues of snow
  • speak for the Holy Ghost;
  • the self-increasing silence 
  • of words dropped from a roof
  • points along iron railings,
  • direction, in not proof.
  • But best is this night surf
  • with slow scriptures of sand,
  • that sends, not quite a seraph,
  • but a late cormorant,
  • whose fading cry propels
  • through phosphorescent shoal
  • what, in my childhood gospels,
  • used to be called the Soul.
  • Love After Love
  • The time will come 
  • when, with elation 
  • you will greet yourself arriving 
  • at your own door, in your own mirror 
  • and each will smile at the other’s welcome, 
  • and say, sit here. Eat. 
  • You will love again the stranger who was your self.
  • Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
  • to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 
  • all your life, whom you ignored 
  • for another, who knows you by heart. 
  • Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 
  • the photographs, the desperate notes, 
  • peel your own image from the mirror. 
  • Sit. Feast on your life.
  • Coral
  • This coral’s shape echoes the hand
  • It hollowed. Its
  • Immediate absence is heavy. As pumice,
  • As your breast in my cupped palm.
  • Sea-cold, its nipple rasps like sand,
  • Its pores, like yours, shone with salt sweat.
  • Bodies in absence displace their weight,
  • And your smooth body, like none other,
  • Creates an exact absence like this stone
  • Set on a table with a whitening rack
  • Of souvenirs. It dares my hand
  • To claim what lovers’ hands have never known:
  • The nature of the body of another
Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott (1930-2017) was a poet from St. Lucia who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. His work, colored with his native Caribbean island and infused with a Christian spirituality. “I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer,” he once wrote. “I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation.” The themes in his poetry run the gamut from love to elegy, celebrating life in all its natural a supernatural fullness. Walcott’s poems are marked by a precise and elaborate use of metaphor and other figures of speech.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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