Discourse on Pure Virtue

By George Elliott Clarke George Elliott Clarke

à Geeta

The brown girl, golden, sable-eyed,
flourishing yellow hibiscus,
steps exuberant, august,
into August—
her lushly brocaded gold silk sari
lavishing honey light at her auburn feet,
sandalled, cedarly,
with scent of sandalwood haloing her,
her individualized, warm, light-dark body,
her every glance a direction of the air,
her look of mischievous—even tart—sweetness....
O has she...?
She has
come in from morning’s slight autumnal chill,
her feet moistened with diamantine dew—
how the sea summers in grass
(that same grass that rears at the sun
while butterflies mob frangipani...).
Behold her smile declaring
warm, sun-dyed, terracotta lips—
that chance come home—
and I answer,
“You are light uplifting,
liberating me from murk,
from an inferno of squalor.”
O! Let there be rum and molasses,
rice and mackerel, O Muse,
the Indian Ocean softening and sweetening the Atlantic,
this august autumn.
All these pleasures we will prove:
lotus like slow-motion lightning,
ivory gold fountaining from earth,
like you, a fresh light, sprung from earth.

"Discourse on Pure Virtue" by George Elliot Clarke, from Blue, copyright © 2001 by George Elliot Clarke. Reprinted with the permission of Polestar. Polestar is an imprint of Raincoast Books, www.raincoast.com.

Source: Blue (Rain Coast Books, 2001)

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.