All of these waves crepitate from the culture of Ovid,
its sibilants and consonants; a universal metre
piles up these signatures like inscriptions of seaweed

that dry in the pungent sun, lines ruled by mitre
and laurel, or spray swiftly garlanding the forehead
of an outcrop (and I hope this settles the matter

of presences). No soul was ever invented,
yet every presence is transparent; if I met her
(in her nightdress ankling barefoot, crooning to the shallows),

should I call her shadow that of a pattern invented
by Graeco-Roman design, columns of shadows
cast by the Forum, Augustan perspectives—

poplars, casuarina-colonnades, the in-and-out light of almonds
made from original Latin, no leaf but the olive’s?
Questions of pitch. Faced with seraphic radiance

(don’t interrupt!), mortals rub their skeptical eyes
that hell is a beach-fire at night where embers dance,
with temporal fireflies like thoughts of Paradise;

but there are inexplicable instincts that keep recurring
not from hope or fear only, that are real as stones,
the faces of the dead we wait for as ants are transferring

their cities, though we no longer believe in the shining ones.
I half-expect to see you no longer, then more than half,
almost never, or never then—there I have said it—

but felt something less than final at the edge of your grave,
some other something somewhere, equally dreaded,
since the fear of the infinite is the same as death,

unendurable brightness, the substantial dreading
its own substance, dissolving to gases and vapours,
like our dread of distance; we need a horizon,

a dividing line that turns the stars into neighbours
though infinity separates them, we can think of only one sun:
all I am saying is that the dread of death is in the faces

we love, the dread of our dying, or theirs;
therefore we see in the glint of immeasurable spaces
not stars or falling embers, not meteors, but tears.

Derek Walcott, “The Bounty”