19 pages 38 minutes read

Derek Walcott

The Flock

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1985

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Displacement and Isolation

“The Flock” begins with ducks, like “arrows of yearning” (Line 4), being shot from the reeds because they long for “our different sky” (Line 4). With this opening image Walcott introduces a recurring theme of displacement: “our different sky” is the sky of the tropics, which belongs to him and others born in the Caribbean. Needless to say this sky is also warmer and more welcoming during the winter months, attracting migratory birds like the blue-teal and mallard. Yet, unlike these birds, the speaker cannot easily escape to his homeland. This causes him pain and evokes feelings of drudgery, which are embodied by the image of the knight crossing a snowy alp in winter.

Perhaps the most wretched image in this poem is that of the “sepulchral knight” (Line 9) who trudges through the “white funeral of the year” (Line 12) to a “black tarn’s edge” (Line 10). The speaker pictures himself as this knight:

I travel through such silence, making dark
symbols with this pen’s print, across snow,
measuring winter’s augury by words (Lines 18-20)

The knight is not heading south, but rather moving further and further against the wind, as though attempting to contravene nature, which pushes the poem’s other living beings, the ducks, instinctively southward.