Derek Walcott

Rookie (23 January 1930 / Castries / St Lucia)

A City's Death By Fire Poem by Derek Walcott


After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city's death by fire;
Under a candle's eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Saturday, November 19, 2011
# 432 poem on top 500 Poems


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Comments about this poem (A City's Death By Fire by Derek Walcott )

  • Gold Star - 39,733 Points Aftab Alam Khursheed (2/25/2015 1:35:00 AM)

    Nice poem- presentation via dream (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 2,153 Points Kevin Patrick (2/25/2014 10:26:00 PM)

    A surrealist dream depicted with Judeo Christian imagery, provides a breathtaking vista, of soulful yearning. A lovely read (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 1,489 Points Howard 'the motivational poet' Simon (2/25/2014 1:07:00 PM)

    A poem of deep sadness and loss that is impregnated with incredible imagery. Well done Walcott. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 930 Points George Samuel (2/25/2014 12:04:00 PM)

    Great work great ideas to view images and uncover their beautiful pictures great thinking. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 369 Points Stephen W (2/25/2014 10:29:00 AM)

    Does anyone know what this poem is about? I haven't a clue. (Report) Reply

    Freshman - 1,379 Points L. E. O. Gibraltar (1/14/2015 2:01:00 PM)

    I'm not sure what it means. But I do think the piece is about a Gospeller (an evangelist) shaking things up in a place where unorthodoxy has become the truth.

  • Veteran Poet - 1,175 Points Paul Reed (2/25/2014 5:33:00 AM)

    I wrote the tale by tallow.. great rhythm and alliteration. It contrasts the ashes of the city where man overly concentrates his efforts and mentality, and sometimes forgets the gift of the green open spaces which were given for free. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 69 Points Sathyanarayana M V S (4/19/2009 12:10:00 PM)

    Now I know why Walcott is called as the greatest living English poet. His poetry has a diffirent flavour, with rich imagery, surrealism and sweet words. (Report) Reply

Read all 7 comments »

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