Wednesday, January 15, 2020
after Walt Whitman
humor both authors: let us revisit the infamous tree.
Join the first one, sitting alone and sun starved
cross legged in patches of velvet dark.
I do not mean, rest in the shade, beloved
I don’t invite you to revel in absence with him,
to admire the beauty of neglect.
this was after all, a sweet poem intended and therein lies the struggle
the ars poetica tempts its reader
into passive attention. So, I divorce it. I mean to arrest
the hand of the man, hoist it with a scrap of frayed rope.
it is that simple— to write in praise
of a thing they used to kill us. Even
as the thing itself lifts this page, consider the violence—
I did say kill. You stiffen like a corpse, or perhaps a breeze shivering
along the limb of that oak—
I’ve returned to the tree now—
The grandmother of my grandmother's last breath
once its companion, erased by the dear friends of a dead man.
My grandmother’s, grandmother’s own dear friends, owned. Dear friends—
Sometimes I am obliged
to transcribe a torrent of blood
leaking from the slack mouth of my manlover.
An unbending history in his arms, and you may still give it poetry’s name.
I know once Whitman saw a live-oak
growing in Louisiana— I’ve heard it from the strange-fruit.
He splintered a twig that wasn’t what it seemed:
my uncle’s femur now shriveled in his palm. rude.
I promise you no hyperbole,
there were two bodies decaying in the arms
of his muse. Uttering their names into his lap as he wrote,
& what became of the praise? That's the problem
with poems in the order of the natural:
the romantic will always give himself permission
an auction block, back
into a patch
of innocent moss. Will allow you to take a portion
of it with you, will twine his mouth to the blood. What, this time a toe or flap
of the scalp? Is that what you want, a token? I’m curious—
A souvenir? Something to make the solitary tranquil,
to un-utter the wail? Is this what I must
dress our death in? joyous leaves of dark green?
let the blood be
the simple blood for one more stanza.
How could anyone write of the tree
and only the color green? I should have left you
in Louisiana with it, an empty beauty, but
I knew very well I could not.