That sail which leans on light,
tired of islands,
a schooner beating up the Caribbean
for home, could be Odysseus,
home-bound on the Aegean;
that father and husband’s
longing, under gnarled sour grapes, is like
the adulterer hearing Nausicaa’s name in
every gull’s outcry.
This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
between obsession and responsibility will
never finish and has been the same
for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore now
wriggling on his sandals to walk home, since
Troy sighed its last flame,
and the blind giant’s boulder heaved the trough from
whose groundswell the great hexameters come to the
conclusions of exhausted surf.
The classics can console. But not enough.
“Sea Grapes” from COLLECTED POEMS 1948-1984
by Derek Walcott.
Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott.
Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved.
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Poem selected by the Nobel Library of the Swedish Academy.
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