Book Six: Return to St. Lucia


  • Walcott in the Caribbean looks out over the horse tracks and turns inward to reflect on his characters.
  • He recalls the smells of the Antilles at Christmas.
  • January is Walcott's birth month and is double-faced in what it offers.


  • Hector dies after wrecking his van. His death is a kind of prayer of repentance before the Madonna.
  • Walcott on returning to St. Lucia learns of Hector's death and debates with a driver the improvements to the island. Walcott wonders if his poetic nostalgia is cruel.
    Ill. A montage. Hector as representative of the corruption that comes to the island from leaving the sea.


  • At Hector's funeral, Achille forgives and asks forgiveness of Hector.
  • The pride and beauty of Helen.
  • Philoctete cares for his wound, which is a symbol of regret.


  • While at Mass, Ma Kilman, as a Sibyl-like figure, tries to remember a herb that will heal Philoctete.
  • She leaves the church, drawn by the power and memory of the stinking weed.
  • An aside that tells how the plant came from Africa to the Caribbean brought as a seed by the swift.


  • Walcott opens with a parable of the Beatles reflecting on human treachery, and he comes to understand that the only marriage he has ever been faithful to is that with his poetic craft.. Kilman searches for the African gods that to her remain unnamed--Erzulie, Shango, Ogun.
  • Kilman becomes an African prophetess as she seeks to uncover the secret of the medicine for Philoctete's wound.
  • She is a symbol for the mothers, a sibyl, an obeah.


  • Kilman bathes Philoctete's wound in a brew using the herb, and the wound is healed.
  • Philoctete's healing and restoration is Edenic in its potential to heal the shame of his people.
  • Walcott sees his need for healing and the island's need. Both he and his lost love cared for St. Lucia in their own way.


  • Plunkett cancels their plans for a European cruise because he remembers his last visit to London and his disappointment with the city, how he longed to return home to St. Lucia.
  • He further reflects on what he loves about the island and what unnerved him about London.
  • Maud, unable to sleep, senses her own approaching death and reflects on her love of gardens.


  • On the way to 5 am mass, the Plunketts are almost driven over by Hector. Hector calls them "honkies" without realizing who it is, and the Major confronts him.
  • Plunkett drops Maud off at mass, walks to the harbor (believing that he repeats the steps of his midshipman ancestor), and goes to buy fresh, hot bread.
  • As they drive home, Plunkett too senses Maud's coming death.


  • The Major's grief when he discovers Maud dead.
  • A catalog of empire in Plunkett's mind.
  • Walcott notes that the Plunketts remind him of his parents.


  • Walcott attends Maud's funeral, reflects on Helen's beauty and Achille's charity of soul towards the Major.
  • A dual passage where Walcott both claims to have been trained by Plunkett as a boy yet also admits that he is a fictional character.
  • Helen tells Achille that she will return to him.


  • Plunkett and Walcott speak in the bank line. The Major's off-hand comment is an unpleasant reminder of class and race differences, which Walcott is sick of having to deal with.
  • Both Walcott and Plunkett have idolized Helen, who needs neither history or literature to be understood.
  • Walcott explores the guilt at trying to hear Greek epic in Caribbean daily life.


  • Ma Kilman puts on a Christmas feast, and Achille and Philoctete dress as warrior-women for Boxing Day.
  • Helen puts her yellow dress on Achille for the pageant.
  • Achille and Philoctete dance for the pageant and recall the colonial past.