27 May 2018

Forty Acres, a poem by Derek Walcott

Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving—
a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,
an emblem of impossible prophecy: a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has plowed,
parting for their president; a field of snow-flecked cotton
forty acres wide, of crows with predictable omens
that the young plowman ignores for his unforgotten
cotton-haired ancestors, while lined on one branch are a tense
court of bespectacled owls and, on the field’s receding rim
is a gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him
while the small plow continues on this lined page
beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado’s black vengeance,
and the young plowman feels the change in his veins, heart, muscles, tendons,
till the field lies open like a flag as dawn’s sure
light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower.

I've been told many times, directly and indirectly, notably by Geoffrey and Rustum, both of whom I admire, that if I read any one thing, then I must let it be Walcott. This poem proves them right.

a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,
parting for their president

Derek Walcott


paisley said...

once again your prowess at finding just the right poem for just the right moment overwhelms me... this was an honor to read.... thank you....

paisley said...

"A weblog by Rethabile Hussein Masilo"

and i see we have our eye on higher aspirations these days eh???

Erik Donald France said...

Right on ;->

Glad to be alive and be a part of this world today ;->

Rethabile said...

So am I, Erik. So am I.

Michelle said...

Isn't the image of the gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage fantastic?

http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/ said...

Rethabile, I just came back from Jamaica where I have not gone on the Internet, and now I come home to this. Thank you.

Thank you, my friend

Lyrically speaking said...

Wow...love the poem

Rethabile said...

The image is startling, as scarecrows are.

The poem is good, and the poet is great, as you always said. I hope Jamaica did you good.

Yes, but nothing less from the master, right?

Jo said...

A wonderful, powerful, beautiful poem. I just tried to leave a comment but I think they are all full up.

Rethabile said...

That one got in. It is all that, Jo. Walcott's the man.

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