Derek Walcott

Rookie (23 January 1930 / Castries / St Lucia)

Night in the Gardens of Port of Spain


Night, the black summer, simplifies her smells
into a village; she assumes the impenetrable

musk of the negro, grows secret as sweat,
her alleys odorous with shucked oyster shells,

coals of gold oranges, braziers of melon.
Commerce and tambourines increase her heat.

Hellfire or the whorehouse: crossing Park Street,
a surf of sailor's faces crest, is gone

with the sea's phosphoresence; the boites-de-nuit
tinkle like fireflies in her thick hair.

Blinded by headlamps, deaf to taxi klaxons,
she lifts her face from the cheap, pitch oil flare

toward white stars, like cities, flashing neon,
burning to be the bitch she must become.

As daylight breaks the coolie turns his tumbril
of hacked, beheaded coconuts towards home.

Submitted: Monday, November 07, 2005

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