Wrestling with Uncle Walt

Whew, what a month, April was. It was National Poetry Month here in the little kingdom of the US of A, and I managed to meet my own challenge of recording and uploading one poetry video every day of the month. My followers have increased by more than ten fold and I am so honored and tickled to have you all along for this trip. Oh, yes, it ain’t over just Poetry Month ended, and as far as I know there will be no singing from the fat lady here.

Then came May 3rd, my youngest boy’s birthday, and that celebration included a local live poetry event (just scroll or click back to my last post), in which I got to read not only one of my pieces but as far as I know, the second poem that my little guy had ever written. You’re darn tootin’ I was proud!

And now, my friend Suzie from across the great Pond has done me the honor of featuring the Dad Poet and his 30 day challenge over on her blog, No More Wriggling Out of Writing.   Be sure to spend a little time there, as she has a blog worth following. I have been for over a year now. Thank you, Suzie. Your words are so kind, and I am grateful for all the moral support you and so many others provided. If I may be vulnerable for a moment, I want to tell you that part of my dream, and by that I mean my life’s ambition, is to play some part in making sure that poetry does not slip away as a lost art, but instead continues on its current path to becoming once again a more relevant part of people’s every day lives. I cannot recall who said it, but some big shot poet was purported to say that the purpose of poets is to help people enjoy their lives. God, I love that. I really do.

My final day of April was a day at the lake, enjoying the wilds and reading from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. Some time ago I happened across Ezra Pound’s “Pact” with Walt Whitman, and it inspired me to explore my own similar feelings on the subject. I haven’t always appreciated my daddy Walt, but I’ve come to understand that he really did bust the doors wide open for modern poetry.

My own poem about Walt has been submitted and rejected for publication. Maybe it’s derivative, or maybe I say what Pound said but in more words. I could keep submitting it other places, but in light of recent events here on the Dad Poet, I think it’s fitting to submit it here to you.

Wrestling with Uncle Walt

I bequeath myself to the dirt and grow
from the grass I love.
If you want me again look for me under your boot soles.
–Walt Whitman

I didn’t like you when I was young–
that awful way you rambled on, “I am
America!” you’d cry and I’d be terrified
and look to see if neighbors watched–

the crazy uncle, singing of himself
in a dirty shirt and scuffed old boots,
crooning your “Song of America,” rolling
on the lawn. You were inspired by your own
bad breath, sniffing your arm-pits,
sighing content. On green stained knees

you wielded a blade of grass, tried to pass
it on to me. Wisdom, you insisted–
like a maniac– more in the veins
of that one leaf than in all the writing of the world!

Your spread arms wide, you whispered
to the dirt, to sons and soldiers passed
into the earth. Blood and war nourished,
you said, grass that fed the cattle, gave
us milk, and so we all were one.
On and on like that you’d prattle and I was made

to study those long droning lines. I hated you.
Worst of all was when you hauled me to the ground
and held me down, mortified in front of friends who said,
like others have, that you were just a pervert.

I knew better, still I berated you
for loving everyone, always and in public,
for rattling my head and hairs with your dirty nails
and knuckles. I never heard your leaner lines
of restful noon-day walks and falling mating eagles,
not until I grew, and began to listen on my own
to tales of men in uniform and lilacs
in the court yard, softer and sweeter
than the Captain’s Song; of men, you
loved and touched with healing hands.

Now I think of you, Uncle as I lie
with lovers on green lush lawns,
or listening, in their arms, to the waves
that unceasingly caress the beach.

How you invited me, how I had cringed
to see you hold the hand of another man
under a dark corner table– how you swam
naked with brothers, while the widow
longingly looked on– how I am so like you.

Your path and mine treads grass and flowers,
toward a home yet always here. I know
you feed their roots, and so I look for you,
daily, beneath the soles of my road-worn boots.

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13 thoughts on “Wrestling with Uncle Walt

    • Thank you, Jennifer. Hm… Perhaps I could do a reading of this. I was enjoying my break from the camera and microphone. :-) I have a poem by my friend Kristine that I need to practice, but perhaps I can record this soon too. Thank you for asking! There are a lot of inter line rhymes, in this one, as it turned out to be one of those pieces in which I play with sounds and rhythms. I’m so glad you liked it.

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  1. As I mentioned before, I had a very similar relationship with Whitman, coming back to him only through Pound’s pact. It’s always somewhat bizarre and slightly comforting to know that others have experienced certain things the same way. I suppose with a figure as towering as Whitman, similar relationships are bound to be felt. Thank you for sharing.

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    • That’s right! You did mention it recently! That’s why it was on my mind. I had forgotten. Too many late nights sleepless in front of the screen. I should have remembered. Yes, it was your mentioning of “Pact” that got me thinking about how that poem inspired this one. I thought it would tie in with recent discussions here. Forgive the holes in my brain this week, Alex!

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    • Thank you, sir! I think Whitman wanted to keep things a bit of a mystery. I do think, if you can go by his poems, he was probably mostly into men, but there is great evidence that he was perhaps pan-sexual. It seems he just loved everybody. Or that’s the impression he wishes to leave us. I love my goofy, bearish, wise old uncle/ daddy. :)

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  2. Pingback: Daddy Walt, or Uncle Walt? Happy Birthday to My Namesake « The Dad Poet
  3. Pingback: Whitman’s Birthday Weekend, and Shopping with Ginsberg « The Dad Poet
  4. Pingback: Sunlight & Poetry « Big Apple Dayze

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