Tuesday Poem: Derek Walcott, The Schooner Flight

As I worked, watching the rotting waves come
past the bow that scissor the sea like milk,
I swear to you all, by my mother's milk,
by the stars that shall fly from tonight's furnace,
that I loved them, my children, my wife, my home;
I loved them as poets love the poetry
that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea.

You ever look up from some lonely beach
and see a far schooner? Well, when I write
this poem, each phrase go be soaked in salt;
I go draw and knot every line as tight
as ropes in this rigging; in simple speech
my common language go be the wind,
my pages the sails of the schooner Flight.

Derek Walcott, extract from The Schooner Flight

This is a very short extract from Part 1 of Derek Walcott's long, narrative poem which you can read here.
The central character is a man called Shabine who is compelled to leave behind everything he holds dear to sign up on the schooner and go to sea.  The analogies between sailing and making poetry continue through the poem and you can't help feeling that Shabine is simply a fictional identity to enable Walcott to tell his own story of leaving the Caribbean, being homesick, an exile, and yet compelled to do it.

There's an interesting exposition of the poem and of Derek Walcott's work by Mary Fuller called Myths of Identity.

It's the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence this week - Derek Walcott is from Santa Lucia originally, but I thought it would be good to have a Caribbean poet and I love his poetry.

For other Tuesday Poems from around the world, please take a look at the Tuesday Poets Hub and check out the contributions on the sidebar.


  1. Well, wow. I will definitely set aside time to read the rest of this poem, Kathleen. Simply wonderful. The language! Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed this immensely Kathleen. I particularly enjoyed the description of "rotting waves"...I look forward to reading the rest of this poem.


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