Derek Walcott: The Season of Phantasmal Peace

23 October 2019


Then all the nations of birds
lifted together
the huge net of the shadows
of this earth
in multitudinous dialects,
twittering tongues,
stitching and crossing it.
They lifted up
the shadows of long pines
down trackless slopes,
the shadows
of glass-faced towers down evening streets,
the shadow of a frail plant
on a city sill—
the net rising soundless as night, the birds’ cries soundless, until
there was no longer dusk,
or season, decline, or weather,
only this passage of phantasmal light
that not the narrowest shadow
dared to sever. And men could not see,
looking up,
what the wild geese drew,
what the ospreys trailed behind them
in silvery ropes
that flashed in the icy sunlight;
they could not hear
battalions of starlings waging
peaceful cries,
bearing the net higher,
covering this world
like the vines of an orchard,
or a mother drawing
the trembling gauze
over the trembling eyes
of a child fluttering to sleep;

it was the light
that you will see at evening
on the side of a hill
in yellow October,
and no one hearing knew
what change had brought into the raven’s cawing,
the killdeer’s screech,
the ember-circling chough
such an immense, soundless,
and high concern
for the fields and cities
where the birds belong,
except it was
their seasonal passing, Love,
made seasonless, or,
from the high privilege
of their birth,
something brighter than pity
for the wingless ones
below them
who shared dark holes
in windows and in houses,
and higher they lifted the net
with soundless voices
above all change,
betrayals of falling suns,
and this season lasted one moment,
like the pause
between dusk and darkness,
between fury and peace,
but, for such as our earth is now,
it lasted long.

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