Nov 132013
Whitman moved among squat hospital cots,
His salt beard bright beside unseasoned breaths.
He poured no balm of runic ode, but cool carafes
Of water for the broken soldiers' ease, sopped blood
From wounded piteous faces, knelt and prayed
Hand in hand for a salvation he did not really feel
Remotely possible.  Hand in hand, he never told
The heavy news that "der Gott ist Tod."
They fought and died in youthful simpleness.
"Liberty" was a word as wide as they,
A torso-word, a wound-word, a death word
Worth living for through all the battling stars
Night-belching cannon or Springfield long-bores
Could crack, pouring out their milky smokes
No somnambulating symbolist could unfocus.

The rose-shell ear of the exploded soldier
Remains the excellentest vase for prayer's flowers.

Myths are the poems of our intenser angels,
Spread-winged griffins among molten smokes,
Constellations constantly re-telling all, line by line,
As they look down between dark-parted stars.
It is in these stories, as they swerve, that we share
Our remoter solitude and sublime source,
Command with chants ruggedest happenstance,
Fan piquant fable to flaming grace, and partake
Of the painful wrenchings of our fate.

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