The River

Derek Walcott

was one, once;

reduced by circumstance

the Council tends it.  Once


it could roar through town,

foul-mouthed, brown-muscled, brazenly

drunk, a raucous country-bookie,


but lately it has grown

too footloose for this settlement

of shacks, rechristened a city;


its strength wasted on gutters,

it never understood the age,

what progress meant,


so its clear, brown integument

shrivelled, its tongue stutters

through the offiicial language,


it surrenders its gutterals

to the stern, stone Victorian bridge;

reclaimed, it dies a little


daily, it crawls towards a sea

curdled with oil-slick, its force

thins like the peasantry,


it idles like those resinous

wrinkled woodsmen, the country

reek still on them, hoarse


with municipal argument,

who, falling suddenly silent

on wire-bright afternoons, reflect


on mornings when a torrent

roared down their gorges, and

no one gave a damn what the words meant.

Main Location:

St Lucia