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ears that see

December 14, 2009

Continuing yesterday’s theme of listening, here is an extract from the epic poem Omeros, by Derek Walcott. I first encountered it in Ruth Padel’s book 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem, which I cannot recommend highly enough for anyone who would like to get more out of modern poetry. I have been struck by the way this poem rewards listening on different levels – in our imagination we can hear the sounds of Seven Seas’ world, and in real life we can relish Walcott’s amazing dexterity with the sounds of English.

Seven Seas rose in the half-dark to make coffee.
Sunrise was beating the ring of the horizon
and clouds were rising like loaves. By the heat of the

glowing iron rose he slid the saucepan’s base on-
to the ring and anchored it there. The saucepan shook
from the weight of water in it, then it settled.

His kettle leaked. He groped for the tin chair and took
his place near the saucepan to hear when it bubbled.
It would boil but not scream like a bosun’s whistle

to let him know it was ready. He heard the dog’s
morning whine under the boards of the house, its tail
thudding to be let in, but he envied the pirogues

already miles out at sea. Then he heard the first breeze
washing the sea-almond’s wares; last night there had been
a full moon white as his plate. He saw with his ears.

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