Long Woodbrook afternoons when it never rained
—already this is another century—
the street agape, the households all asleep,
the smell of soap and orange peel under the stairs
—the smell of still having too long to wait—
and the aunts asleep, and the smothering patience of indoors.
I am five years old: bay rum and white cotton pillows
and ice melting in a little glass.
I am twelve years old and reading a detective novel
in a rocking-chair, and ready to go home.
Silence except for pigeons in the roof.
Silence that still weighs Sunday afternoon.
The taste of Sunday:
today it is smoky coffee at nine,
at half past eleven, rusty coconut water.
Silent rainy season heat, which the grackles love,
they jook along the garden wall like imps.
I am reading the poems Walcott wrote
the year I was born; resigned, in this same valley,
to Sunday, to this relentless light.
The temperature has not changed.
Grass smells the same, cut weeds smell the same,
grackles still stalk and mock.
Love is still a hot stone dropped in the sea.
Poems are still not easy to write.
Have mercy, long September day,
bare breath bleaching the hours.
Have mercy, staring sky, you prove the cruelty of blue.
Have mercy, walls, have mercy, rooms,
silent as yawns and empty as speechless mouths.
Have mercy, books, two thousand turning to dust.
Have mercy, unmade bed, where I sigh, unreading.
Have mercy, four o’clock, the insects still sleeping.
Have mercy, October, interrupting this poem.
Have mercy, cup of tea,
I cannot drink you fast enough.
Have mercy, master Walcott,
you should be reading this poem.
Instead I crack the binding of your book.
Have mercy, this page, you have been too patient,
bare as an empty road, as an empty bed
on Sunday, silent as an unshadowed wall,
bare as a stone.
•••Nicholas Laughlin is the editor of The Caribbean Review of Books. His poems have appeared in the Boston Review, Poetry Review (UK), and Poetry Wales, and he is working on a book about Guyana, part travel narrative, part cultural history. He was born and has always lived in Trinidad.