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The Saddhu Of Couva

 When sunset, a brass gong,
vibrate through Couva,
is then I see my soul, swiftly unsheathed,
like a white cattle bird growing more small
over the ocean of the evening canes,
and I sit quiet, waiting for it to return
like a hog-cattle blistered with mud,
because, for my spirit, India is too far.
And to that gong sometimes bald clouds in saffron robes assemble sacred to the evening, sacred even to Ramlochan, singing Indian hits from his jute hammock while evening strokes the flanks and silver horns of his maroon taxi, as the mosquitoes whine their evening mantras, my friend Anopheles, on the sitar, and the fireflies making every dusk Divali.
I knot my head with a cloud, my white mustache bristle like horns, my hands are brittle as the pages of Ramayana.
Once the sacred monkeys multiplied like branches in the ancient temples: I did not miss them, because these fields sang of Bengal, behind Ramlochan Repairs there was Uttar Pradesh; but time roars in my ears like a river, old age is a conflagration as fierce as the cane fires of crop time.
I will pass through these people like a cloud, they will see a white bird beating the evening sea of the canes behind Couva, and who will point it as my soul unsheathed? Naither the bridegroom in beads, nor the bride in her veils, their sacred language on the cinema hoardings.
I talked too damn much on the Couva Village Council.
I talked too softly, I was always drowned by the loudspeakers in front of the stores or the loudspeakers with the greatest pictures.
I am best suited to stalk like a white cattle bird on legs like sticks, with sticking to the Path between the canes on a district road at dusk.
Playing the Elder.
There are no more elders.
Is only old people.
My friends spit on the government.
I do not think is just the government.
Suppose all the gods too old, Suppose they dead and they burning them, supposing when some cane cutter start chopping up snakes with a cutlass he is severing the snake-armed god, and suppose some hunter has caught Hanuman in his mischief in a monkey cage.
Suppose all the gods were killed by electric light? Sunset, a bonfire, roars in my ears; embers of brown swallows dart and cry, like women distracted, around its cremation.
I ascend to my bed of sweet sandalwood.

Poem by Derek Walcott
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