This Week’s Poem by Derek Walcott

January 13, 2024
1 min read

A Far Cry From Africa
A wind is ruffling the tawny peltOf Africa, Kikuyu, quick as flies,Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.Corpses are scattered through a paradise.Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:”Waste no compassion on these separate dead!”Statistics justify and scholars seizeThe salients of colonial policy.What is that to the white child hacked in bed?To savages, expendable as Jews?Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes breakIn a white dust of ibises whose criesHave wheeled since civilizations dawn>From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.The violence of beast on beast is readAs natural law, but upright manSeeks his divinity by inflicting pain.Delirious as these worried beasts, his warsDance to the tightened carcass of a drum, While he calls courage still that native dreadOf the white peace contracted by the dead.
Again brutish necessity wipes its handsUpon the napkin of a dirty cause, againA waste of our compassion, as with Spain,The gorilla wrestles with the superman.I who am poisoned with the blood of both,Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?I who have cursedThe drunken officer of British rule, how chooseBetween this Africa and the English tongue I love?Betray them both, or give back what they give?How can I face such slaughter and be cool?How can I turn from Africa and live?
Derek Walcott was born in St. Lucia, West Indies, in 1930. He is the author of more than twenty collections of poems and plays, including Omeros , The Arkansas Testament  and The Bounty. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.
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