It Touches Earth

By Derek Walcott

It touches earth, that branched diviner’s rod
the lightning, like the swift note of a swallow on the staff
of four electric wires, while everything I read
or write goes on too long. Ah, to have
a tone colloquial and stiff,
the brevity of that short syllable, God,
all synthesis in one heraldic stroke,
like Li Po or a Chinese laundry mark! Walk
these hot streets, their signs a dusty backdrop stuck
to the maundering ego. The lines that jerk
into step do not fit any mold. More than time
keeps shifting. Language never fits geography
except when the earth and summer lightning rhyme.
When I was greener, I strained with a branch
to utter every tongue, language, and life at once.
More skillful now, I’m more dissatisfied.
They never align, nature and your
own nature. Too rapid the lightning’s shorthand,
too patient the sea repeatedly tearing up paper,
too frantic the wind unravelling the same knot,
too slow the stones crawling toward language every night.

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