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YOU'VE GOTTA READ THIS POEM! > Jean Rhys by Derek Walcott

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message 1: by Joan (new)

Joan Colby (joancolby) | 788 comments JEAN RHYS
By Derek Walcott
In their faint photographs
Mottled with chemicals,
Like the left hand of some spinster aunt,
They have drifted to the edge
Of verandahs in Whistlerian
White, their jungle turned tea-brown—
Even its spiked palms—
Their features pale,
To be penciled in:
Bone-collared gentlemen
With spiked moustaches
And their wives embayed in the wickerwork
Armchairs, all looking coloured
From the distance of a century
Beginning to groan sideways from the axe stroke!

Their bay horses blacken
Like spaniels, the front lawn a beige
Carpet, brown moonlight and a moon
So sallow, so pharmaceutical
That her face is a feverish child’s,
Some malarial angel
Whose grave still cowers
Under a fury of bush,
a mania of wild yams
wrangling to hide her from ancestral churchyards.

And the sigh of that child
Is white as an orchid
On a crusted log
In the bush of Dominica,
A V of Chinese white
Meant for the beat of a seagull
Over a sepia souvenir of Cornwall,
As the white
hush between two sentences.

Sundays! Their furnace
Of boredom after church.
A maiden aunt canoes through lilies of clouds
In a Carib hammock, to a hymn’s metronome,
And the child on the vanished lion-footed couch
Sees the hills dip and straighten with each lurch.
The green-leaved uproar of the century
Turns dim as the Atlantic, a rumourous haze
Behind the lime trees, breakers
Advancing in decorous, pleated lace,
The cement grindstone of the afternoon
Turns slowly, sharpening her senses,
The bay below is green as calalu, stewing Sargasso.

In that fierce hush
Between Dominican mountains
The child expects a sound
From a butterfly clipping itself to a bush
Like a gold earring to a black maid’s ear—
One who goes down to the village, visiting,
Whose pink dress wilts like a flower between the limes.

There are logs
Wrinkled like the hand of an old woman
Who wrote with a fine courtesy to that world
When grace was common as malaria,
When the as lanterns’ hiss on the verandah
Drew the aunts out like moths
Doomed to be pressed in a book, to fall
Into the brown oblivion of an album,
Embroiderers of silence
For whom the arches of the Thames,
Parliament’s needles,
And the petit-point reflections of London Bridge
Fade like the hammock cushions from the sun,
Where one night
A child stares at the windless candle flame
From the corner of a lion-footed couch
At the erect white light,
Her right hand married to Jane Eyre
Foreseeing that her own white wedding dress
Will be white paper.


message 2: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (JennInOhio) | 179 comments Ahh... Now THAT is a poem! Thank you for sharing, Joan!!


message 3: by Farrah (new)

Farrah Great poem Joan. Amazing imagery. There are so many great ones but this is wonderful:

And the sigh of that child
Is white as an orchid
On a crusted log


message 4: by Joan (new)

Joan Colby (joancolby) | 788 comments I love the marvelous similes--"the moon so sallow, so
pharmaceutical" (that's genius) and "a maiden aunt canoes through lilies of clouds" "Breakers advancing in decorous, pleated lace." Amazing.


message 5: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (JennInOhio) | 179 comments I like the references to Wide Sargasso Sea, and sepia photographs, and Victoriana, "Bone-collared gentlemen / With spiked moustaches / And their wives embayed in the wickerwork"


message 6: by Joan (new)

Joan Colby (joancolby) | 788 comments All these connections. Rhys memory of growing up in Dominica inspired Wide Sargasso Sea, then the photograph of Rhys family inspired Walcott's poem. Nice roundelay.


message 7: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (JennInOhio) | 179 comments exactly :-)


message 8: by Jenn (new)

Jenn (JennInOhio) | 179 comments and her "right hand is married to Jane Eyre"


message 9: by Farrah (new)

Farrah I loved that too Jenn.


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