Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two Poems for Walt Whitman

I. Walt Whitman's Birthplace--Town of Huntington, West Hills, Long Island

There, just south of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin & Robbins,
Just west of Bed, Bath & Beyond and Five Guys Burger and Fries . . .
The farmhouse where Walt Whitman was born May 31, 1819.

This is America's Bethlehem,
Birthplace of her greatest poet,
This farmstead, swimming in an ocean of parking lots and store franchises,
On Old Walt Whitman Road.

What would young Walt,
Full of love, sympathy, and lust,
(and when justified, prophetic anger),
What would young WW, great lover of the natural world,
Think of this place,
As it now stands?

II. Walt Whitman's Death House--Camden, New Jersey

Stone's throw from the Delaware River,
Across the water from historic Philadelphia,
Camden, America’s poorest big city, most desperate,
Third World failure of America and Democracy—

What would the great optimistic poet, the great poet of Democracy
Think of Camden now? He loved this city,
This little house, his shanty as he called it, right there on Mickle Street,
Now called Martin Luther King Boulevard,
In sight of Camden County Jail.
This is America’s Golgotha, place of the skull,
City where the great poet died,

The city not yet redeemed. What would Walt think?

                                    [Robert M. Coughlin / August 20, 2014]

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