Paul Scott Derrick

Paul Scott Derrick

Paul Scott Derrick, a native of South Carolina, has lived in Valencia, Spain, for the last thirty years and has taught American literature at the University of Valencia since 1989. His main field of interest encompasses Romanticism and American Transcendentalism and their influences on subsequent artistic and intellectual manifestations of the 20th and 21st centuries.

His critical works include Thinking for a Change: Gravity’s Rainbow and Symptoms of the Paradigm Shift in Occidental Culture (1994) and We stand before the secret of the world: Traces along the Pathway of American Transcendentalism (2003).

He has edited and co-translated into Spanish a number of critical editions of works by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson (Spanish and Catalan), Henry Adams, Sarah Orne Jewett and the contemporary English poet, Richard Berengarten. He has, in addition, published English translations of poems by Jorge de Montemayor, Luis Cernuda, Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges.


palm tree raises
limbs in angled light
       green and orange
life against the sky

in a silent field
the ruined farmhouse


Broken figures
and scattered leaves.
Circles drawn in the sand.
like polished stones
committed to the mercy of the earth.
Painted bones
and fossils

fading in the sunbright air.

       *              *

Something is alive beyond
the surface of the visible.

Unravelling in human thought
it ravels into words.

*              *              *

tangled millwheel
in the sluggish brook –
the mutable
of the


“Why me?” I implored.
“Why has this suffering devolved
so precisely onto me?”
I was given no reply.

So then I considered the world.
“Well . . . why
is there so much pain down here?”

I was trying to talk to God.
I proffered the question, in various forms,
again and again.
And again.

Over my head, what the poets call
cerulean blue.
              No sound, except
for the faint complaining of a few dark
dots of birds.
And then I heard the wind.
I listened as it stirred the slumbering pines along
the shore.
That rocky shore, where never-
unsuspecting waves come up to break
and play.
“Why is there so much pain?”
I heard the children shouting as they tumbled in the surf.
Their voices were saying what they always say.

And then, on the horizon,
I saw the line of the sea.
My own,
our own immemorial

Among the broken walls I heard some
dry thing scratching
in the August heat.
I looked down deeper, and could feel
the movements of benighted ants,
marching in darkness,
a mindless dance of meaningful activity.
And then I heard
the diligent digestion of the worm.

And then I died.

              And then—
and only then, I realized what I’d heard
had been the first aspiration
of the first inscrutable phoneme
of the very first syllable
of God’s first word.

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Poetry in this post: © Paul Scott Derrick
Published with the permission of Paul Scott Derrick