Sunday, January 10, 2010


Charcoal Drawing of Walt Whitman by Merissa Gilbert Garrison

~In Imitation and Praise of Walt Whitman~

From the corner of a blue fog lifting,
Comes an old man bending.
It is the good gray poet dressing
The wounds of the young warriors,
Whom he longs to love.

Dear heart of the nation,
Keeper of democracy,
Man as literature,
Who better to sit by the unsettled
All through their somber night?

Who better to remove their blood soaked rags?
Who better to smooth their hair?
Who better to cry their suffering?
Who better to beseech death to come,
But one who will record it so sacredly?

From the corner of a blue fog lifting
Comes and old man bending.
It is the good gray poet turning
The heavy woolen blankets to find
The face of Christ, divine in death.

After these some hundred years it is
Still the same grass growing,
The same leaves turning,
The same wind blowing across the
Stagnant, bloodied, and flyblown fields.

It is the same celebration of yourself.
The same mist of your breath,
The same play of shadow and light.
It is the same song of yourself,
Sung from the same bearded lips.


Karen said...

I don't know where to start - with the likeness of the great man done in charcoal or done in words and spirit. Both take my breath away.

Merissa first: What talent! What a gift to be able to do this! Her work - all that I've seen of it - is superb. I hope she receives the recognition and acclaim that she deserves. I know how proud of her you must be, not only for her physical talent but for her spirit that allows her to see into the heart and create with such understanding.

Now for you: Read what I said about your daughter, insert your name, and it's really the same. You have demonstrated through the body of your work that you have a rare talent. The thing about your poetry is that it sticks with me. I can remember so many of yours - from the toes creeping across the floor by the sickbed to the scratches on the cold legs after a winter walk to the woman looking out of her tower onto the city to the birds in the room overhead to the contemplation by the pond - and on and on. I only list these to show you how readily they come to me because they really have stuck with me. I often come back to them in my mind and think about the truth revealed or the story told.

This one is no different. Here you show your deep understanding of Whitman's place in our history and hearts. You respect his role as historian and poet, and you show your love and admiration for his spirit.

I think somewhere the Good Great Poet is smiling at you and nodding his head that you turn the same leaves.

This is wonderful, K, and my words don't do it justice.

Coffee With Clark said...

Walt would read this and smile, and be inspired to compose more, spouting it out loudly on the corners of New York City.

Then he'd be "in the spirit" and sit down under an Old mossy Moon and grace us again with something as beautiful as "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking...."

Thank you

trooping with crows said...

It always amazes my mind the way that you seem to know all these heroes of yours personally. This poem is so personal! Like Uncle Walt wrote it himself.
Love all the color and texture of this one...
"blue fog" "gray poet" "blood soaked rags" "woolen blankets"
All these lines draw the reader in to experience it for themselves.
My favorite line...
"It is the good gray poet turning
The heavy woolen blankets to find
The face of Christ, divine in death"
Also, love the truth of stanza starting "After these some hundred years" Mom, I could go on and on about this me later!

trooping with crows said...

Wait a minute! Wasn't this a lost poem??? Did I know that you had found this?

Anonymous said...

I think Karen covered pretty much all the compliments I wanted to throw out there, so I don't want to seem repetitive. :) But yes, very clearly, this is... jeez. Fantastic. Have you heard that clip of the wax cylinder with Walt Whitman reading his poem "America" (I think that's the title) all crackly and quavery? I can imagine his voice reading this one, it sounds perfectly and naturally him.

You do these homages so outstandingly, and to have a gifted illustrator who can add an image like this to your work is a blessing. Almost as great a blessing as what you've shared with us here. ^_^

Karen said...

That's "Good Gray Poet." Sheesh. I hate when I do that.

catvibe said...

The drawing is superb! And I just love this poem, and that's without reading from whence the inspiration hast come forth. I love the form and how it flows forth, an episode of time where things have not changed really, at the heart. Just exquisite K!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Karen, both Merissa and I thank you profusely for the accolades! We are very humbled by your kind assessments of our work.

Yes, Merissa is a fantastic artist who paints directly from her heart. She must feel an emotional connection to her subject - like I must with writing.

I *truly* appreciate your generous remarks about the body of work I have posted here, and about this poem currently posted. I am happy when my poetry touches someone in anyway. Thank you for your continual endorsement of my work. It means a great deal to me.

Terry - hahaa! I hope he would expound "From Manhattan to Montauk" Ah, yes..."Out of the Cradle...." one of his very best!
Thanks, so much, fellow Whitman admirer.

Merissa - Well, you know how they channel themselves....haha! Thanks for pointing out elements noticed, such as texture and color. One of the things I like about Walt is that he re-invented himself many times during his long life - I think that is important if one wants to be vital. Thanks, Riss! Talk more later. Oh, yes, I did tell you I found this! lol

Joseph - I appreciate your complimentary comments. And, yes -I listen to that clip all the time. It just blows my mind that I am hearing his voice! I left a comment there - In 4 years mine is the only one there. Thanks for the kudos to Merissa. I do consider her a blessing for many reasons - along with my other 3 talented kids! (Mothers must always be equitable - :))
Thanks for mentioning the clip, Joseph - here is that link. Hope everyone will let me know what they think!

(copy and paste - hope it works!!)

Catvibe - you are so sweet, thank you for those kind remarks. Glad you liked the visual art and written form. Your art is wonderful, too. The new site is great!!

Rick said...

You had so better include this in your anthology, Kay. It shows your gifts at their finest. I have no doubt that children will read your work one day as part of their school assignments and wonder at your empathetic visions. You truly have a vibrant heart.

Gerry Boyd said...

well done, indeed. you had me from the first twos. they are magical, really: they seem like they rhyme yet they do not. not sure how you did that, but, bravo!

joaquin carvel said...

first - to merissa - absolutely fantastic. i love how it looks like an apparition rising from his words - but with sharp eyes and focused features. i half expect him to speak. just brilliant.

and k - nothing ghostly about the poem - in fact, much the opposite. he is alve in this, using his head and heart and hands as he always did - as if he never left. "Man as literature" - wow, does that ever nail it! like karen, i don't think i'm doing you nearly the justice you did him - but honestly, i'm not sure i'd call it an "Imitation" of whitman, as it seems to me to be more like an inhabitation. to-the-letter perfect.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Rick, If'n I ever publish an anthology, I will include this one. Thanks for your very thoughtful remarks. I do always appreciate them!

Gerry, I thank you for such a fine compliment! I tried to write rhythmically, like WW did. One could never aspire to his genious, but an honest attempt at imitation is my praise for his work. ;)

Joaquin - thanks for recognizing Merissa's fine art. She is amazing, I must say.

I always appreciate your ability to see intuitively into the depths of poetry. I thank you, sincerely, for seeing this as I tried to present it. Your praise of my work means so much to me!

Aniket said...

I too don't know much of your inspiration but I'm sure he should be mighty glad to have an admirer in you. This was so very wonderful!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aniket - what a lovely compliment. Thanks, my friend!

Terresa said...

This is a glorious tribute to Walt.

Vesper said...

Kaye, I feel wordless... Your talent and your daughter's fill me with happiness...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Teressa - many thanks to you for that complimentary comment.

What a lovely thing to say, Vesper And what is more - I know you sincerely mean it. :)

Sarah Hina said...

Kaye, I had the sensation, while reading this magnificence, of watching a candle flicker with unseen breath. "He lives! He lives!" my heart smiled. In your words, drawn from the lifeblood of his.

You drew the curtain aside, and let us in. "From the corner of a blue fog lifting" seems the best kind of human magic. Connecting us to our own divinity.

Transcendent, Kaye.

Ronald Rabenold said...

Ecco Homo...I love the grass...the element of everything going forth...well done. Thanks for suggesting it and for sharing your gift...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Ron - glad this resonated. Thanks for looking it up and leaving your reflections. :)