Poem #28: A City’s Death by Fire – Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott is a Caribbean poet and writer.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.  He is best known for his epic poem Omeros.  His poetry is intense and his language is bold.  His works often references his homeland of St. Lucia.  In this week’s poem,  A City’s Death by Fire, a provincial town is razed by fire and there is a loss of faith and love.  But the poem also deals with the opportunity for change, positive growth and regeneration that can result out of a devastation.  It’s sad but yet hopeful.  Enjoy!

A City’s Death by Fire

After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city’s death by fire;
Under a candle’s eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.



  1. a truly evocative poem kinna ,not overly familar with walcott bar the oxford poetry seat thing last year ,it seems hope and love can rise like a phoneix from the flames ,all the best stu


  2. Having recently read a book about the bombing of German cities in World War II, I found this poem very moving and certainly captures the essence of the destruction that fire can bring. Interesting post – thanks for sharing


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