Remembering St. Lucia and Derek Walcott

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, my family was fortunate enough to enjoy vacations on the island of St. Lucia in the West Indies for several years in a row. We stayed at a resort called The Windjammer on Labrelotte Bay, between Castries and Gros Islet on the northwest coast. In the George Charles Airport in Castries a pair of portraits are displayed prominently, those of two St. Lucia natives who are Nobel Laureates: Sir Arthur Lewis (Economics, 1979) and Derek Walcott (Literature, 1992). I read more of Walcott's poems after visiting St. Lucia and learning more about him. I always brought a stack of books to read in the sun, often including one of Walcott's. The vacations were also a time for me to write. Following is a poem from the winter of 2001. I'm posting it today as a small tribute to Derek Walcott, who died this week. 

Cool Blue

St. Lucia, St. Lulu, blue-green and green-blue---there's an ooh in the blue air, in the o-round mouth on the white deck of the cruise liner chasing a tank ship bound for the oil farm at Castries. Dark parts of the seascape like indigo ink slurred through turquoise fields in the bay. Jet-lets of spume way off shore---the dip boat, no banana boat, shipped out. Each villa boasts a few conch shells, T-Rex of seashells, grail we never find up north, bony case with smooth pink lining. Each villa is a conch of white walls, terra-cotta floors. With its owner away, we snowbirds claim the showy chassis for a couple of hot weeks. Julia, at the front desk, thirty years old this month, says Nelson Mandela said if he had to choose a place to live outside of South Africa, it would be St. Lucia, where he could sleep with doors open. It's so calm, she says. When I tell her I admire Derek Walcott's poems, she says his birthday is January 26th (which is mine, too, I say) and that he'll be home next month for the island's Independence Day party. He may write something special. When I mention his teaching in Boston, she nods, "Yes, the Nobel Laureate." Julia asks if my hometown is "cool," calm, she explains, not too busy like New York City.