@ 27.105 MHz: To Walt Whitman Working In A Hospital In Washington D.C.

For the doctors, there, the call is to save them,

or to ease their the throes of their dying.

For the chaplains, the call is to comfort them.
For the orderlies, the call is to attend their daily needs.

For the Poets, like you, the call is to mourn and lament the loss of them;

as, for the enemy, the call has been to mutilate or murder them

in the name of false sovereignty and falsified confederacy.

 

These boys are dying in the very bloom of their adolescent beauty.

They have been disabled, disfigured, or diseased by a disturing dispute

that seeped out of the counting houses of greed,

and crept from the whipping posts of chattel compulsion

into the chambers of legislative debate,

to rise like a hideous spectre over the fields of battle,

the pools of blood and the fly-speckled heaps of human remains,

cooling under the chill of death that rides on the drafts of conflict.

 

Their beauty is the kind that even this ugliness cannot fully infiltrate,

and cannot entirely, and never, ever, triumphantly annihlate;

not while the Poets, like you, deter the sepulchral silence with words.

Their hair should have cascaded in profuse length and silken softness.

Their lips should have been kissed by lips that pronounce evocations of Love.

Their torsos should have been bared to the teases of sunlight and breeze.

Their slender limbs were meant for better than bearing of arms and charges of battle;

the only arms they should have borne should have been a lover's embrace.

Their agile feet should have been released from stern shoes' stout enclosures

to frolic with grass-stained soles in wildflower meadows, or

to receive the lap and laver of shallow creeks' shimmering flows

beneath ancient bridges on townships' back roads.

 

You have watched, aghast, as the light withdraws from their eyes.

You have heard the rattle of death in their throats where, once, tenderest sounds had emerged.

You have witnessed the stiffening of frames and the bluing of flesh, in the shadow of death;

in the hour when thrumming gnomons shall no longer rise over their sundials' faces.

And lavender buds no longer blossom into the release of their nectar;s sweetness.

The stones that will bear their mundane names, and the dates of their entrance and exit,

will be less longer muted by ineloquence than your poems will resonate in the eloquence

of your love for the beautiful---the comely---the delectable boys who die here,

martyrs, even the least of them, to preserve the inviolable Union;

the boys you have cherished who enter, unshirted and barefoot, into your Poems,

proclaimed in your lengthy, lush lines' quiet profession,

in that penetralia from which the admitted seek no secession.

 

Starward

Author's Notes/Comments: 

After reading three of Walt Witman's four elegies on the death of Abraham Lincoln; and knowing that he worked as a nurse, or a nurse's assistant, in a military hospital in or near Washington D.C.; I wrote this poem, without planning for it, in a single sitting.  Lest the wrong impression is taken, I should like to remind the reader that the poem does not claim to speak for the great Walt Whitman; but to him.  To have witnessed that much death of the young people in the very flowering of their lives must have been almost as terrible as witnessing it on the battlefield; and perhaps more sadly prolonged than (presumably) the rapidity of a battle or skirmish.

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