O Carib Isle! By Hart Crane

O Carib Isle!

The tarantula rattling at the lily’s foot
Across the feet of the dead, laid in white sand   
Near the coral beach—nor zigzag fiddle crabs   
Side-stilting from the path (that shift, subvert
And anagrammatize your name)—No, nothing here   
Below the palsy that one eucalyptus lifts   
In wrinkled shadows—mourns.

                                        And yet suppose
I count these nacreous frames of tropic death,   
Brutal necklaces of shells around each grave   
Squared off so carefully. Then

To the white sand I may speak a name, fertile
Albeit in a stranger tongue. Tree names, flower names   
Deliberate, gainsay death’s brittle crypt. Meanwhile   
The wind that knots itself in one great death—
Coils and withdraws. So syllables want breath.

But where is the Captain of this doubloon isle
Without a turnstile? Who but catchword crabs
Patrols the dry groins of the underbrush?
What man, or What
Is Commissioner of mildew throughout the ambushed senses?   
His Carib mathematics web the eyes’ baked lenses!

Under the poinciana, of a noon or afternoon
Let fiery blossoms clot the light, render my ghost   
Sieved upward, white and black along the air   
Until it meets the blue’s comedian host.

Let not the pilgrim see himself again
For slow evisceration bound like those huge terrapin   
Each daybreak on the wharf, their brine-caked eyes;
—Spiked, overturned; such thunder in their strain!   
And clenched beaks coughing for the surge again!

Slagged of the hurricane—I, cast within its flow,   
Congeal by afternoons here, satin and vacant.
You have given me the shell, Satan,—carbonic amulet   
Sere of the sun exploded in the sea.
Hart Crane, "O Carib Isle!" from The Complete Poems of Hart Crane, edited by Marc SImon. Copyright © 1933, 1958, 1966 by Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1986 by Marc Simon. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing.

Source: Poetry (October 1927).

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