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Egypt Tobago

Written by: Derek Walcott | Biography
 | Quotes (4) |
 There is a shattered palm
on this fierce shore,
its plumes the rusting helm-
et of a dead warrior.
Numb Antony, in the torpor stretching her inert sex near him like a sleeping cat, knows his heart is the real desert.
Over the dunes of her heaving, to his heart's drumming fades the mirage of the legions, across love-tousled sheets, the triremes fading.
Ar the carved door of her temple a fly wrings its message.
He brushes a damp hair away from an ear as perfect as a sleeping child's.
He stares, inert, the fallen column.
He lies like a copper palm tree at three in the afternoon by a hot sea and a river, in Egypt, Tobago Her salt marsh dries in the heat where he foundered without armor.
He exchanged an empire for her beads of sweat, the uproar of arenas, the changing surf of senators, for this silent ceiling over silent sand - this grizzled bear, whose fur, moulting, is silvered - for this quick fox with her sweet stench.
By sleep dismembered, his head is in Egypt, his feet in Rome, his groin a desert trench with its dead soldier.
He drifts a finger through her stiff hair crisp as a mare's fountaining tail.
Shadows creep up the palace tile.
He is too tired to move; a groan would waken trumpets, one more gesture war.
His glare, a shield reflecting fires, a brass brow that cannot frown at carnage, sweats the sun's force.
It is not the turmoil of autumnal lust, its treacheries, that drove him, fired and grimed with dust, this far, not even love, but a great rage without clamor, that grew great because its depth is quiet; it hears the river of her young brown blood, it feels the whole sky quiver with her blue eyelid.
She sleeps with the soft engine of a child, that sleep which scythes the stalks of lances, fells the harvest of legions with nothing for its knives, that makes Caesars, sputtering at flies, slapping their foreheads with the laurel's imprint, drunkards, comedians.
All-humbling sleep, whose peace is sweet as death, whose silence has all the sea's weight and volubility, who swings this globe by a hair's trembling breath.
Shattered and wild and palm-crowned Antony, rusting in Egypt, ready to lose the world, to Actium and sand, everything else is vanity, but this tenderness for a woman not his mistress but his sleeping child.
The sky is cloudless.
The afternoon is mild.



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