There is a shattered palm
on this fierce shore,
its plumes the rusting helm-
et of a dead warrior.
Numb Antony, in the torpor
stretching her inert
sex near him like a sleeping cat,
knows his heart is the real desert.
Over the dunes
of her heaving,
to his heart's drumming
fades the mirage of the legions,
across love-tousled sheets,
the triremes fading.
Ar the carved door of her temple
a fly wrings its message.
He brushes a damp hair
away from an ear
as perfect as a sleeping child's.
He stares, inert, the fallen column.
He lies like a copper palm
tree at three in the afternoon
by a hot sea
and a river, in Egypt, Tobago
Her salt marsh dries in the heat
where he foundered
He exchanged an empire for her beads of sweat,
the uproar of arenas,
the changing surf
of senators, for
this silent ceiling over silent sand -
this grizzled bear, whose fur,
moulting, is silvered -
for this quick fox with her
sweet stench. By sleep dismembered,
is in Egypt, his feet
in Rome, his groin a desert
trench with its dead soldier.
He drifts a finger
through her stiff hair
crisp as a mare's fountaining tail.
Shadows creep up the palace tile.
He is too tired to move;
a groan would waken
trumpets, one more gesture
war. His glare,
a brass brow that cannot frown
at carnage, sweats the sun's force.
It is not the turmoil
of autumnal lust,
its treacheries, that drove
him, fired and grimed with dust,
this far, not even love,
but a great rage without
clamor, that grew great
because its depth is quiet;
it hears the river
of her young brown blood,
it feels the whole sky quiver
with her blue eyelid.
She sleeps with the soft engine of a child,
that sleep which scythes
the stalks of lances, fells the
harvest of legions
with nothing for its knives,
that makes Caesars,
sputtering at flies,
slapping their foreheads
with the laurel's imprint,
All-humbling sleep, whose peace
is sweet as death,
whose silence has
all the sea's weight and volubility,
who swings this globe by a hair's trembling breath.
Shattered and wild and
rusting in Egypt,
ready to lose the world,
to Actium and sand,
is vanity, but this tenderness
for a woman not his mistress
but his sleeping child.
The sky is cloudless. The afternoon is mild.
Derek Walcott's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (Egypt, Tobago by Derek Walcott )
- I, the Poet-Seer, Emmanuel George Cefai
- Desperation does what long years Do not .., Emmanuel George Cefai
- The Clock Is Fast Turning, Emmanuel George Cefai
- Emotions occurrences, Emmanuel George Cefai
- The same going round and round, Emmanuel George Cefai
- Stately, Emmanuel George Cefai
- To savor of Fame, Emmanuel George Cefai
- The Poet had a blank face, Emmanuel George Cefai
- Not happy, Emmanuel George Cefai
- The same, Emmanuel George Cefai
Poem of the Day
- 04 Tongues Made Of Glass, Shaun Shane
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- 1914 V: The Soldier, Rupert Brooke
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- All the World's a Stage, William Shakespeare
- Learn to Live, Roopa Menon
- Not Waving but Drowning, Stevie Smith
- Alone, Maya Angelou
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
- Heather Burns
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)