Derek Walcott.The Wedding of an Actress

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En tering from the glare 

Of the mid-monling traffic, we assume 

Our lily-bordered pew; our eyes 

Gradually grow familiar with the gloom. 

I recognize that dais 

Branching with candles as the stage, the smiles 

Exchanged between the carved and living face, 

That altar tapestry's archaic zeal 

Of harvest, and at the crowd's 

Slow scything at the knee, I kneel. 

Knowing I am a guest in the Lord's house, 

I seal my sense in darkness to admit 

That moment where irreconcilables knit 

'in a white rose, shaped from the soldiery 

which, with His own blood, Christ hath made His spouse. 

I press my forehead hard on the scarred pews, 

Wrestle with prayer and fail. I t is no use. 

In any church my brain is a charred vault 

Where demons roost, A blackened, shifting dust. 

A kyrie shrills, hysterical as the ghost 

Of a dead marriage in the ear. Nothing is real, 

Through my own fault, through my most grievous fault.

And nothing swarms the sight 

Until the choir, altering its mood, 

Proclaims the bride. The bride. To its diapason, 

Between banked lilies and the hallowed stone, 

A crystal of calm blood, 

Sails her veiled body evenly as the swan, 

White as Ophelia on the black flood. 


We too are actors, who behold 

This ceremony; we hold 

Our breath, defying dissolution, 

Faith, we were told, like art, 

Feeds on illusion. 


Through the illusion of another life, 

I can observe this custom like a ghost, 

Watching the incense snaking overhead 

Dissolving like the wafer laid 

In wine along the tongue, 

Hearing their promise buried in this vault, 

Their lines drowned in the surges of a song. 

Yet whether faith or custom matters most, 

In each the private tragedy is lost. 

Faith is as virginal as every bride, 

Custom the church from which I am divorced 

Because of pride, because of grievous pride.

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