Insomniac since four, hearing this narrow,

rigidly metred, early-rising rain

recounting, as its coolness numbs the marrow,

that I am nearing forty, nearer the weak

vision thickening to a frosted pane,

nearer the day when I may judge my work

by the bleak modesty of middle age

as a false dawn, fireless and average,

which would be just, because your life bled for

the household truth, the style past metaphor

that finds its parallel however wretched

in simple, shining lines, in pages stretched

plain as a bleaching bedsheet under a guttering

rainspout; glad for the sputter

of occasional insight,

you who foresaw

ambition as a searing meteor

will fumble a damp match and, smiling, settle

for the dry wheezing of a dented kettle,

for vision narrower than a louvre’s gap,

then, watching your leaves thin, recall how deep

prodigious cynicism plants its seed,

gauges our seasons by this year’s end rain

which, as greenhorns at school, we’d

call conventional for convectional;

or you will rise and set your lines to work

with sadder joy but steadier elation,

until the night when you can really sleep,

measuring how imagination

ebbs, conventional as any water clerk

who weighs the force of lightly falling rain,

which, as the new moon moves it, does its work

even when it seems to weep.

Derek Walcott

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