Phyllis Allfrey: Love for an Island

A classic poem from Dominica's great writer, the late Phyllis Allfrey


Love for an island is the sternest passion;
pulsing beyond the blood through roots and loam
it overflows the boundary of bedrooms
and courses past the fragile walls of home.

Those nourished on the sap and the milk of beauty
(born in its landsight) tremble like a tree
at the first footfall of the dread usurper –
a carpet-bagging mediocrity.

Theirs is no mild attachment, but rapacious
craving for a possession rude and whole;
lovers of islands drive their stake, prospecting
to run the flag of ego up the pole,

sink on the tented ground, hot under azure,
plunge in the heat of earth, and smell the stars
of the incredible vales. At night, triumphant,
they lift their eyes to Venus and to Mars.

Their passion drives them to perpetuation:
they dig, they plant, they build and they aspire
to the eternal landmark; when they die
the forest covers up their set desire,

Salesmen and termites occupy their dwellings,
their legendary politics decay.
yet they achieve an ultimate memorial:
they blend their flesh with the beloved clay.

– Phyllis Shand Allfrey

Reproduced with the permission of Curtis brown Ltd., London, on behalf of the estate of Phyllis Shand Allfrey. Copyright the estate of Phyllis Shand Allfrey