Transparent Words - Poetry

Catherine Kanaan


Discovering Whitman


I haven’t read much  Whitman

he was left floundering between

my mother’s passion for the prairie

writing of Willa Cather

and my father’s preference for the cool intelligence

of Emmerson and Thoreau and vague hostility

against  the man

but  being the literary  person he was

he did have a copy of leaves of grass

buried in a bookcase

I took it out a few times over the years

but found his writing a bit like an over decorated

Christmas tree

one line though held me spellbound through the years




the uncut hair of graves


and now with that fine spun thread

a link between us I take him up


I see myself in  south dakota

territory in a rich loamy field

my mother’s old farm

an old fashioned plow hooked

up to oxen

Whitman, a cross between

Santa Claus and God the Father,

stands behind me with a sack of seed

a small smile hovering under  his beard


I dig into the black soil  and know

that he will follow sowing his harvest

of heaving rhythms and exhuberance


in  spring I will come back

to see what has sprung up

what I will pick and grind for suitable



I do not know if I will sit at his table

heaped with riches

but something of value will remain

something honest

something deep-rooted


I head to bed half asleep

after a day spent in the open


leaves of grass lie  on the bedside table

sleepy but well meaning I pick them up


the luxurious weight of words

presses down…


drum taps


I come upon the  soldier

lying dead in the battlefield

the dear young face open to the night sky

the dear young face that will  not meet

the dawn


his day close by him forever


the breadth of forehead

white under the moon

no tender thoughts like rippled sun

will play there


I gaze at the young mouth

closed forever

no lover’s kiss will fall upon those lips

no lovers words will  issue forth


his hands lie by his side

palms upward

time there forever stilled


revered field where he lies

blood dripped earth of my fallen soldier

opuses of love and desire




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