Sep 18, 2012

Whitman at Armory Square

Written by M.C. Allan

Read by Jason McCall

People came to him—in the streets, in the alleys.
Always, his appetite had been huge, his capacity for
Flesh clung to him like sunlight coats wheat fields,
Taking others into himself. Now he had them
Knowing its home, its resting place, its canvas.
By the hundreds, boys and men brought in
They would greet him with kisses. Friends wrote
On stretchers: shredded arms, exposed brain matter;
Of how beautiful he was bathing, of his proud form;
Some saved by an hour with the saw. On their lips,
How it moved and flexed; they lost, within his sight,
Sometimes a whimper for Christ or mother, sometimes
All shame. And he in turn would tongue
Bloodied spittle. Most surgeries were amputations.
Their bodies onto leaves of paper, spilling
The pus was drawn into roll on roll of cotton.
Rivers of ink through the soft belly of evening,
His work was to cleanse, to comfort these ruins
Touching, exquisitely, himself and those nearby
Dying in the wake of the cut: dysentery, infection.
Until his seed splashed onto the page in long lines,
Many simply wished to dictate a letter home.
Nothing like any poetry that had been seen before
He would write the words they could no longer form
A psalm drawn from dirt and kernel,
With their hands. His own tongue curled up and dropped,
From sweat and wood smoke, from the root.
A shriveling sinew in a filthy pile of gauze.