“This is how, one sunrise, we cut down them canoes.”
Philoctete smiles for the tourists, who try taking
his soul with their cameras. “Once wind bring the news
to the laurier-cannelles, their leaves start shaking
the minute the axe of sunlight hit the cedars,
because they could see the axes in our own eyes.
Wind lift the ferns. They sound like the sea that feed us
fisherman all our life, and the ferns nodded ‘Yes,
the trees have to die.’ So, fists jam in our jacket,
cause the heights was cold and our breath making feathers
like the mist, we pass the rum. When it came back, it
give us the spirit to turn into murderers.
I lift up the axe and pray for strength in my hands
to wound the first cedar. Dew was filling my eyes,
but I fire one more white rum. Then we advance.”
from Omeros by Derek Walcott, the first lines of Book I
I think maybe its time to tackle this again. Or at least to dip my toes in again and remember the language and the warm Caribbean waters. Omeros is a postmodernist epic poem set mostly on the island of St Lucia and loosely based on Homer’s epics.
We’ve been reading epics and myths as our bedtime stories. Rosemary Sutcliff’s retelling of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Penelope Lively’s retelling of The Aeneid. And D’Aulaire’s Greek myths, Egyptian myths, Gilgamesh, now we’re reading a book of myths and legends from around the world. Anyway, maybe that is why suddenly Omeros jumped from the shelf and asked me to take a little peek.