Sunday, November 7, 2010

Walt Whitman's Death Mask


WALT WHITMAN'S DEATH MASK

You started out superbly.
No one was more gifted or blessed.
You called yourself
a freakish character,
saying it was “damnable”
to be tailorized after a mode.
So, come on – admit it
you were a little Rabelaisian!


You were one of those big sprawlers –
your masterful words never touching
the lines of the white ruled paper
upon which you so liberally wrote.


You were a winger too -
an open-air man,
whose feet were
never really needed
for traveling.


Wasn’t it just yesterday that you
lolled in your high board bed,
over on Mickle Street -
eating pickled peaches
out of a blue glass jar,
while listening to sounds
from the street below?


And now your face
is all repose, and sweetly so,
with eyes closed and lips tight
and your splendid head
at its noblest and most serene.

10 comments:

Ronald Rabenold said...

A nice tribute...very good...good to hear from you and Walt again...

Rick said...

Okay, you just know how much I love this one so I'm not even going to tell you!

Doctor FTSE said...

Walt Whitman . . not read as much as he should be? A very thoughtful tribute.

Karen said...

Your tribute makes me want to know more and read more of this great man, whom I admit to knowing only in passing acquaintance. Your devotion to his work and knowledge of his life is inspiring, Kay. I see the Whitman I do know in these lines:

You were one of those big sprawlers –
your masterful words never touching
the lines of the white ruled paper
upon which you so liberally wrote.


You were a winger too -
an open-air man,
whose feet were
never really needed
for traveling.

I do think of him as a sprawler, but the winger line is surprising and superb.

jason evans said...

I can't help thinking about the legacy of each of us.

Gordon Mason said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the images you brought to this poem.

joaquin carvel said...

i am awed by this - and realize what little i really know about him, too.

but i love the voice of this - intimate, familiar, gently ribbing but altogether admiring. it's the kind of tribute only a friend could write, knowing the "open-air man" as well as the room on mickle street, the picked peaches.

it breathes big and soars - fitting, i think, and wonderful. and it inspires me to go beyond his words and learn more about his life. thank you for this.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Ronald - I appreciate your stopping by and leaving a comment. I always love bringing Walt to people's attention. Thanks!


Rick - Yes, I know you do - and I love you for it! Thanks, my friend. It's always a pleasure to see you.


Doctor FTSE - I absolutely agree with you. Thank you for your lovely comment.


Karen - He was a very good person and then the finest poet of his time (or any other time, perhaps). I never tire of studying him, or his poetry. His life, literary and otherwise, was simple, yet remarkable. Thanks!!


Jason - Whitman thought about his legacy, long and hard. He *affected* his very thoroughly. :)


Gordon - many thanks for that nice comment! Glad you enjoyed it!


Joaquin - thanks, as always, for knowing my heart. I hope you do seek Walt out. I think you will be surprised at what you find! He is not some old man who wrote doggeral. He was akin to every atom in the cosmos. Writing with unique form, he churned out some of the most innovative work of the 19th century - and beyond.

Julie said...

I love your poem. Yes, it is an excellent tribute. The beginning is a beautiful setup for those last three powerful stanzas. The pickled peaches and blue glass jar are fantastic details! And the high board bed, the sound of the street below...oh, yeah. That stanza nails it.

Walt Whitman has probably influenced all of us, hasn't he? His rhythmical lines are just masterful. I love his style, too.

I do find it odd (and very troubling) that several of my younger poet friends discount him. All they seem to be learning about him is the debate about his sexuality. In my opinion...who cares about his sexuality? Sure, it's important in a historical and societal context (even though we really don't know the truth). But there was so much more to him than one thing. He was a master poet!

By the way, I also adore a poet who can write about another poet in such a lovely way. At the same time that you honor him, you also give insight into his life and work. Wonderful!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Julie - thanks for your glowing comments. I really do appreciate them! Yes, Whitman was unique - His poetry is very musical - with the lines, themselves, keeping the rhythm. I love how he wrote about the divine nature that we all possess. His work was revolutionary 150 years ago and remains so today. He was such a good person and an excellent poet, of course. Thanks for all your good words. ;))))