— To Derek Walcott
The room I work in is as foursquare
as half a pair of dice.
It holds a wooden table
with a stubborn peasant’s profile,
a sluggish armchair, and a teapot’s
pouting Hapsburg lip.
From the window I see a few skinny trees,
wispy clouds, and toddlers,
always happy and loud.
Sometimes a windshield glints in the distance
or, higher up, an airplane’s silver husk.
Clearly others aren’t wasting time
while I work, seeking adventures
on earth or in the air.
The room I work in is a camera obscura.
And what is my work—
flipping pages, patient meditation,
passivities not pleasing
to that judge with the greedy gaze.
I write as slowly as if I’ll live two hundred years.
I seek images that don’t exist,
and if they do they’re crumpled and concealed
like summer clothes in winter,
when frost stings the mouth.
I dream of perfect concentration; if I found it
I’d surely stop breathing.
Maybe after all, I hear the first snow hissing,
the frail melody of daylight,
and the city’s gloomy rumble.
I drink from a small spring,
my thirst exceeds the ocean.