Friday, 27 January 2012

Lucie-Smith 2

From the same collection (A Tropical Childhood, 1961) as yesterday’s Lucie-Smith poem, here’s the title poem:
In the hot noons I heard the fusillade
As soldiers on the range learnt how to kill,
Used my toy microscope, whose lens arrayed
The twenty rainbows in a parrot’s quill.

Or once, when I was swimming in the bay,
The guns upon the other, seaward shore
Began a practice shoot; the angry spray
Fountained above the point at every roar.

Then I, in the calm water, dived to chase
Pennies my father threw me, searched the sand
For the brown disc a yard beneath my face,
And never tried to see beyond my hand.

That was the time when a dead grasshopper
Devoured by ants before my captive eye
Made the sun dark, yet distant battles were
Names in a dream, outside geography.
It seems a bit harsh to pinion a young boy’s knowledge of the larger geopolitical and military world: of course swimming in the bay and watching ants devour a dead grasshopper are going to loom larger to you when you are six. Or perhaps the point of the poem is to suggest that these things, somatic and immediate and local, actually trump the other? But Lucie-Smith was born in Jamaica in 1933; so the war the army is practising for here is more than just another colonial skirmish.

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