Most will disagree, but without a doubt my favorite poem is “Love After Love” by Nobel prize winning St. Lucian author, playwright and poet, Derek Walcott. For me, it has always broached themes of individual identity, reconciliation, acceptance and of course, love of self.
For reasons I cannot explain, this weekend I read it once more with an entirely separate lens – that of the post-colonial Caribbean nation.
History…at least the one I was initially taught in primary and secondary school was…. his story. By that I mean a linear, euro-centric account of the origins of the West Indies – one that I’ve accepted with several grains of salt. For me, deference to Carib and Arawak science, beauty and culture; African religious syncretism, expression and folklore; and East Indian mysticism, ingenuity and familial structures were all critically important and unforgivably absent aspects of Caribbean historical accounts.
Reading this poem this weekend made me think. At what intersection would these equally weighted histories meet amicably in the present day post-colonial Caribbean? Can we ever really come to terms with history… and all parts thereof?
I wouldn’t dare attempt to answer the question definitively, but take a read and let us know what you think.
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.