Walt Whitman on Donald Trump

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Selected poems

 

 

Dream, on a morning in the sacred month of October
For Father Gabriel Rochelle

 

In the bardo,

huddled and waiting with others

after our life reviews,

each making ready for

 

our atonement, you entered

the vestibule to our right

bearing a large wooden cross.

Wordlessly, you spoke to me

 

to rise, and to follow; whereupon,

we walked into yet

another room — an anteroom,

which led outward, back into

 

the world, not as we know it, but

yet another world. This is when

the cross came apart

through your own ingenuity, and

 

broke cleanly through the middle,

lengthwise, to become two crosses,

of which you handed one

half for me to carry, and the other

 

half you lifted to bear

on your shoulder. Upon awaking,

I am now both cleansed

and challenged, given direction but

 

needing to reset my compass,

buoyed up but aware of the weight

of the new I will need to carry, as

I find my way from the vivid depths

 

of the dream on a morning

in the sacred month of October, as I

emerge toward a shimmering

of light breaking through the clouds.

 

 

The sunflowers

Their large heads loomed above me,

arrayed with their bright yellow petals.

 

Row after row of them arranged

in lines to the right side of the house

 

and adjacent to the garage in the back.

At nine, I looked up at their creaking

 

stalks on autumn days on my way to

and from school, and looked down

 

on their ranks from the glassed-in

porch of the second floor railroad flat

 

my father rented after my mother's

death. I was overcome by their yellow

 

brilliance and the size of their corollas,

which exceeded the diameter

 

of a human head. Our landlords were

an elderly Albanian couple who moved

 

slowly and spoke incoherently, as my

Polish father did, in broken English,

 

their red and white oilskin tablecloth

always graced with a small white bowl

 

of sunflower seeds for the enormous

caged parrot, who could swear in

 

impeccably explicit language. The bird

was menacing but obedient to its owners.

 

Although any visitor was treated

as a home invader. He would begin

 

by hissing, then moved into a barrage

of curses. The Albanians winnowed

 

the seeds from their crop after

deadheading the flowers, their kitchen

 

table having become a staging area

for putting up kernels. After the harvest,

 

deep in October, the plots

where the sunflowers loomed became

 

desolate with dried stalks the wind

blew through, with a sound whose tone

 

underscored the sereness of autumn.

I looked at the stark rows from

 

the glassed-in porch upstairs, where

I had been stung by a wasp, which made

 

my finger throb as if it had been hit

by a hammer, but the memory

 

of the glory of the sunflowers in bloom

continued to fill me, as do the rays

 

of sunlight that shone into the rooms

of that tawdry railroad flat, bearing its

 

curled and cracked linoleum, with

a sadness that still pervades me when

 

I think of awakening there, and hearing

the winds of loss blowing every morning.

 

 

What we ever really need to know

All we need to know

is that Magdalene, Mary, the mother

of James, and Salome came

in the darkness before morning to

 

His tomb to anoint the body with

spices and oils. That alone

is beautiful. Just the thought of

anointing the dead body of Jesus

 

makes us pause with astonishment —

His body battered and bloodied,

then crucified, the five wounds

from the nails in His hands and feet,

 

the lance mark near His heart.

All we need to know

is that Joseph of Arimathea removed

Jesus from the cross, wrapped

 

His body in linen, and placed it in

a tomb, which was cut into rock,

like a cave, that a stone, weighing

possibly as much as two tons, was

 

lifted into the opening, on grooves,

upon which it could be slid into

place, only by several strong men.

All we need to know

 

is that Magdalene, Mary, the mother

of James, and Salome found the stone

rolled away, the body of Jesus gone,

an empty pile of bloody linens

 

in which the body had lain.

All we need to know

is that they were all startled into tears

by the depth of their amazement,

 

that they probably placed their baskets

of oils and spices on the rocky ground,

that they embraced each other,

that they knew what they knew,

 

that there was a plenitude and

a providence in the joy of their knowing.

All we need to know

is that as the sun rose out of the darkness

 

the light entered the cave in the rock,

that as the sun had risen,

so had Christ, that the women could

be seen dancing, their arms raised,

 

crying out, Hallelujah, that as they

danced and sang, what had transpired

from the spiritual alchemy in that cave

was such that His rising up was also

 

our ascension if we only were so bold

to believe in such a revolutionary act

as our own hearts opening in resurrection

within us, resolutely without question,

 

opening to Christ consciousness, opening

to I art thou, to such an inviolate

unspoken mystery, the whirling

cosmos inside me and you, to awaken to

 

what is beatific, as was the light

Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James,

and Salome danced in, which

is really all that we ever need to know.

 

 

Walt Whitman on Donald Trump

Oh, you snake oil selling provocateur,

you faux gilded imposter

selling authoritarianism for American

democracy, may you choke

on your own phlegm-filled speeches,

your conspiratorial rants,

your endless quiver of lies, whose

 

equivocal insults you brandish

and shoot like arrows

at those whose integrity you should

quaver beneath instead of belittling.

You choose to ruin and impede

instead of build and facilitate. Your

brand of hatred scars

 

and lacerates, leaving a barren swath

in its wake. You've long ago made

a deal with the devil, and even he has

stepped aside from your burning

wrath and vehemence.

May the best in us topple you

and the ugliness of your kind, may we

 

persevere in preserving our largesse

and swamp you in the imbecility

of your own making, your smallness

of character, or lack thereof entirely;

the soulless fluke that you are, whose

odious turpitude rages

in the monstrous wake you leave

 

for the history you will never be able to

rewrite, for the dark legacy

you will come to be known for,

and the spiritual insolvency with which

you have defrauded all of the people.

May the echoes of your offensive

and irritating pseudo-flamboyance ring

 

in your own ears. May your defiant

windup toy impressions

of how and what eloquent presidents

walk and talk like

strike you down in your spitefulness.

May you crawl like the worm that

you are. May we reinhabit the earth.

 

 

Wally SwistWally Swist's books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love, The Daodejing: A New Interpretation, with David Breeden and Steven Schroeder, and Candling the Eggs. His forthcoming books are The Map of Eternity, Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir, and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays.

 

Recent articles by Wally Swist.

Cloud meditations
Finding my grandfather

Topic tags: poetry, Wally Swist, Walt Whitman, Donald Trump

 

 

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Existing comments

Hope you sent the president a copy!
john frawley | 03 September 2018


Sadly, I don't think it will work, but a nice try and well worth the effort. Thanks.
Bill Venables | 04 September 2018


Beautifully written. And very chastening.
Pam | 04 September 2018


Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I love 'Dawn on a morning in October'... it is so evocative, such a powerful meditation on discipleship. Thank you. Also love the one on Easter Morning, which is indeed all we need to know. And oh, thank you for voicing what many of us are thinking - or rather trying to put into thought - about the President of the United States. Please God, may we 'reinhabit the earth'; for compassion and the spirit of humanity is under threat of extinction, for sure.
PIRRIAL CLIFT | 04 September 2018


May God forgive you Walt Whitman.
Peter Flood | 06 September 2018


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