To celebrate the American release of Derek Walcott’s White Egrets (FSG, $24), Molossus is proud to publish the below poem. Farrar Straus Giroux also kicks off their celebration of National Poetry Month—which includes their publication of titles by Walcott and Don Paterson—today at their blog The Best Words in the Best Order.
All of this happened when I turned away,
the deliberate delight in incoherence, the whiff of chaos
off the first page of some new book, the putrescent decay
of drawing which I had begun to smell, the coarse
exuburance that passed for wit, it’s still incredible the way
my gift abandoned me like a woman I was too old for,
I thought it was the violet that stood up to the armoured car,
I thought it was the wet leather smell of a mare,
I thought it was my voice, my shell-cupped ear,
all of this happened when I turned my head
for a slight second from the page. I couldn’t hear whose—
either the gift or what it loved was dead,
not just the nightingale’s, but the ground dove’s coos.