An unpublished poem from my archives on this sad day.
Upon Reading Tiepolo’s Hound
for Derek Walcott
A pen trembled above a tea-stained page.
A brush climbed couplets laid out in paint :
Tahiti, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, a lineage
hovered en plein air like ghosts or faint
cloud wisps above the turning, turning sea.
The wave crest’s margin winked, blinked out
sea foam and sea gulls, sea grape clarity,
formed a blotch? a face? under a silver spout :
morning reflected in the red sink basin.
A crisp contour, gaze-wavered and dazed
by the ritual : first prime with chastened
dew drops, let the razor dissolve the haze
between the canvas and the page, the line’s
trial tenuous, a pierced verse live with current
as it leaps pole to pole, scratches the horizon
sine to black-cross to sine. The sky warrants
a knowledge of impression, of color, of light :
dotted palm leaves, slashed dune grasses.
At dawn the sand shifts from gray to white.
The herons undulate, surge. Shadow passes.
A stained glass wild flower flares, dares
to leap at a proboscis coil, a point to stalk
the ocean’s palpable light, to counter-stare
the silent-inked iris, the great pupil rocks
the world’s edge, there, beyond the gully
where the dune breeze blankets and recites
the past : island pins prick a ship’s pulley,
an archipelago anchor this canvas rewrites.
Walcott was a solid year of my life back in 1999-2000 as I worked my way through his massive body of work to crystallize an honors thesis during my senior year at Muhlenberg College. As I honed in on the connection between painting and poetry in his work, he released Tiepolo’s Hound, another of his late career, book-length poems, though this one shifted the post-colonial conversation from writing back to the Empire center of London (literature) to Paris (art). This poem was a bit of an appendix to that project, a creative processing of all I was working through critically. I offer it here in memoriam.