Parades, Parades

Derek Walcott

There's the wide desert, but no one marches

except in the pads of old caravans,

there is the ocean, but the keels incise

the precise, old parallels,

there's the blue sea above the mountains

but they scratch the same lines

in the jet trails--

so the politicians plod

without imagination, circling

the same sombre garden

with its fountain dry in the forecourt,

the grigri palms desiccating

dung bods like goats,

the same lines rule the White Papers,

the same steps ascend Whitehall,

and only the name of the fool changes

under the plumed white cork-hat

for the Independence parades,

revolving around, in calypso,

to the brazen joy of the tubas.


Why are the eyes of the beautiful

and unremarked children

in the uniforms of the country

bewildered and shy,

why do they widen in terror

of the pride drummed into their minds?

Were they truer, the old songs,

when the law lived far away,

when the veiled queen, her girth

as comfortable as cushions,

upheld the orb with its stern admonitions?

We wait for the changing of statues,

for the change of parades.

Here he comes now, here he comes!

Papa!  Papa!  With his crowd,

the sleek, waddling seals of his Cabinet,

trundling up to the dais,

as the wind puts its tail between

the cleft of the mountain, and a wave

coughs once, abruptly.

Who will name this silence

respect?  Those forced, hoarse hosannas

awe?  That tin-ringing tune

from the pumping, circling horns

the New World?  Find a name

for that look on the faces

of the electorate.  Tell me

how it all happened, and why

I said nothing.

Main Location:

St Lucia