Driftwood

November 18, 2021
Bubbles darken the ocean as they rise to the surface
Photo by zig0004 / Flickr

for Derek Walcott & Sigrid Nama

At the end of this sentence, rain will begin.
— D.W., “Archipelagos,” Map of the New World

 1.

 Part of the bannister-railing is absent
in spite of its strong metal-rivet moorings.

 Termite-eaten, consumed by the sea,
I can see its woody skeleton float faraway

 among the surf, its salt-scarred coat
tossing and struggling to keep afloat

 against the waves’ incessant lashing.
There is music in its disappearance —

  a buoyant symphony,
note-strokes resurrecting life,

 a new story — history restored
by resilient fingers of a master artist.

 Wheelchair and weak legs
are inconsequential impediments —

 his mind sparking with electric edge,
whiplash wit at its most acerbic.

 There is generosity for family, friends —
those who are gone, and remain —

 and thirty new poems,
an intricate magic of ekphrastic love.

 

 2.

 In the front garden facing the same sea
with Pigeon Island on the horizon’s left,

 lies a cluster of wind-eroded oval rocks —
their shapes mimic a lost egret’s nest

 or a ballerina’s curved arch —
a stone-memorial for a close friend.

 

 3.

 The driftwood is now out of sight —
part of his house donated to the sea —

 in gratitude the sea sings
a raucous song,

 folded cumulonimbus clouds echo
in synchronicity — a soundscape

 absorbing his commandment:
At the end of this sentence, rain will begin.

Castries, St Lucia

Editorial note: From Anthropocene: Climate Change, Contagion, Consolation, forthcoming in the US and UK on December 2.

Sudeep Sen’s prizewinning books include Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Rain, Aria (A. K. Ramanujan Translation Award), Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980–2015 (London Magazine Editions), EroText (Vintage), Kaifi Azmi: Poems | Nazms (Bloomsbury), and Anthropocene: Climate Change, Contagion, Consolation (Pippa Rann). He has edited influential anthologies, including The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, World English Poetry, and Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians (Sahitya Akademi), and he guest-edited the “Writing from Modern India” issue of WLT (Nov. 2010). Blue Nude: Ekphrasis & New Poems (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) and The Whispering Anklets are forthcoming. Sen’s works have been translated into over twenty-five languages. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNN IBN, NDTV, AIR, and Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell), and Name Me a Word (Yale). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS, editor of Atlas, and currently the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Museo Camera. Sen is the first Asian honored to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read at the Nobel Laureate Festival. The government of India awarded him the senior fellowship for “outstanding persons in the field of culture/literature.”

World Literature Today
630 Parrington Oval, Suite 110
Norman, OK 73019-4037
405-325-4531



Updated by World Literature Today: [email protected]