In Memory of Derek Walcott
by Daniel Bosch
Cover Her Face.
If I take my grief to the beach
And scan my blurred reflection
As I slip it into a yellow Walkman—
If I hear only arias,
Only your words’ permanent surf—
If I navigate the rectilinear
Terrycloth islands of Revere,
Ignore the cold water, the sorry-ass
Pilgrimage of pale, bony
Shadows, the nylon umbrellas’
Eerie, radial spectra,
The glint of my phony
Ray Bans—if I drag my empty leash
Past these bodies made of milk and honey
While gulls squabble over reddening girls,
Over turf, over nothing, but under every plane
That screams into Logan, its tail swaying
Left-right-left, like a runway model’s—
It may be possible
To think that the shaded easel up ahead
Is you’re A-frame shelter here,
That it holds a final painting, a watercolor,
That the Pitons won’t find their shallow
Images, sharp memories, too hard to swallow,
And that you, who have tuned out
Boom-boxes and radios,
Will see me mouthing, adios.
Mine Eyes Dazzle.
I spoke with Helen. We forgot the time.
The face that launched your thousand pages wore
A caul of wrinkles beautiful as rhyme.
Jim Crow’s feet laced her eyes, and when she told
Of her long captive voyage in the hold
Of your imagination, we forgot the time.
We spoke of other men, the pain of snow,
The greenest islands glinting in your eye.
Her caul of wrinkles testified. Your rhyme
Rang in her voice, and so did her disdain
For those who seem to feel another’s pain.
(One’s own page should suffice.) Then Helen asked
If I adhered to your career advice:
“Be professional: Live off your wife.
This is a calling.” Wrinkled, beautiful,
She smiled to think how foolish you had been
Ever to let her speak with other men.
I spoke with Helen. I will not forget
Her wrinkled face, her beauty like a net.
She died young.
When his brakelights embarrass St. Mary’s street,
My cabbie kills the radio, turns up the heat,
And Charon or cherub, idling in the glare,
Waits for his fare.
Pastoral cold. I read between the blinds,
But infer no welcome: that was in my mind.
My eggshell trochees toward the cab aren’t planned,
And yet they scan.
I speak to the mirror: “Take me to Logan.”
The reflection grunts assent. He hasn’t spoken,
Yet I have heard his accent, and knowing my islands,
Read his silence.
No man is insulated. From the tick of the meter,
From winter’s dry grasp, from the gasp of the heater
Or the way a backseat horizontalizes,
Cuts down to size.
Apostrophes of steam mark cold contractions.
Boston’s concrete begs for spare abstractions.
At five a.m., its stoplights mimic thinking
With bright blinking.
A full stop on Commonwealth. Pushing a cart, your
Narrow, shapka’d figure makes its departure
From the median—taking its time,
Like grief or rhyme,
Making little scarves with each exhaled breath
That do not warm him. He looks scared to death,
An exile who knows his hemisphere’s
Too big. Up here,
An island is a platform where you pause
To look both ways before you safely cross,
Where you realize you’ve caused the world to wait—
Where though you know you haven’t got the power
To stretch those seconds into minutes, your
Ambition takes a step into the street
To find its beat.
About the Author
California-born poet and translator Daniel Bosch is the first member of his family to complete a college degree. He took a B.A. in literature at New College of Florida, where he focused late 20th-Century American Poetry and wrote a thesis on the early poems of John Berryman. In graduate school at Rice University and Boston University, Daniel studied with scholar and translator Edward Snow, poet and translator Richard Howard, and poet and playwright Derek Walcott.
Daniel has taught expository writing, critical thinking, literature, and verse composition at Harvard University (where he was awarded the Henry Dunster Prize in Tutoring and served as Poetry Editor for Harvard Review), Tufts University, Boston University, and Merrimack College. For eight years he directed the Writing Studio at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, where his colleagues awarded him the E.E. Ford Prize for Faculty Excellence; in 2011, Daniel’s work at the Writing Studio was celebrated with a Presidential Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education citing him as one of the top twenty arts educators in the country. In 2019 he was named winner of Emory’s student-nominated Crystal Apple Award in Small Seminar Education. From 2013 until 2020, he was Senior Editor at Berfrois.
This poem was first published in 1998 as “Elegy” in the journal Salamander, and was republished in the book Crucible.
Post image by Josh Duncan (Unsplash).