The Caribbean Writer

On the Headland

Ian McDonald


The day gone was clear, shining, new-born,
Strong winds scoured the sky a perfect, piercing blue,
White gulls floated, fell, over the heaving water.
When dark came it was ebony and pitch
As if the force of it was bent on wiping out all light
For all of time and not for just one night.
I climbed the headland through clumps of tough courida
To stand alone now in the strong outcrop.
My feet bare and cold on the stone outcrop.
The black forest is mighty at my back:
Spreading green in the shining day,
Solid and black now in the midst of night.
It is majestic, it harbors everlasting beauty.
It stretches far, far away over Indian earth,
Age-old, slumbering, dark, waiting with patience
Until all passes, all that is temporary.

** ** ** ** **

Where I stand on the bare, stone headland
Drinking in draughts of stone-cold air
At the mouth of the great river
The tide is turning, huge and heavy,
Crashing on the land everywhere,
Leaning on it, pushing, tearing, wearing it away.
The sea’s salvage butts inland:
You can hear the big pieces grinding and rolling,
Driven on the frothing face of waters.
I stand and feel I have not lived before

And will not live again to be like this,
Where beauty, changing utterly to mystery,
Cannot be understood or learned or justified.
Lonely an hour in the dark, pure wind
I feel the need to go from here, this stumbling place,
This stone and furious foothold on the world,
To find a welcoming, the certainty of grace,
Warmness, mercy, meaning in all things:
The old and flawless key of love
So often used before
Turning the cold bolt of the world
That shuts a heavy door.

** ** ** ** **

Yesterday, in the Village by the headland,
It happened. I saw it. Out of nothing
A man howled like a maddened dog
And broke the bones of his treasured wife.
The heavy sea and the stone land and the great forest,
They outlast all striving.
Now there’s no moon and, before morning light,
Only the stars glitter in the darkness:
A branch of flowers
Shaking in the wind.


Copyright © Ian McDonald

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