Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Julie Bolt

Put Down Your Bugle, O Bard!

For Whitman

Bugles are not saxophones or pianos or drums --
and drums should never be played by soldiers,
unless it is to awaken them from their trance
and spur a dance of rebellion against their code.

Walt Whitman, my great love, there are no perfect soldiers,
even in perfect electric bodies, singing democracy.
Soldiers kill other bodies in all their detail and poetry
-- all they contain for the centuries.

Your Lincoln's abolitionist stance was slow.
What was that war really about? What are all wars really about?
Do you know all the wars America begot since you went underground?
I have run out of fingers and toes and eyes to count.

Whitman: I hear Manifest Destiny in your poems.
You objectify an Indian woman and call her "squaw,"
you write of a Black man's "wooly head" and see America --
it's trees and prairies -- as a grand project for the taking.

So, Whitman, like all fathers and daughters,
like all lovers, or teachers and students,
we have our beef. The daughter, the lover, the student
is disillusioned. The father, lover and teacher thinks
the daughter, the lover, the student, is naive

Do I forgive you? Yes, because at a symbolic slave auction
you stripped a man and woman of their skin to show
the divinity of muscle, tendon, nerve: the same red blood,
the minds of our ancestors and offspring over continents, centuries.
You objectified to humanize -- and find the sacred.

Whitman, you saw much. No one sees everything.
But I know this: No war is ever glorious or pure.
Remember when Lewis Brown lost his leg in 1864?
And if everyone read Leaves of Grass, would there be war?
Would there be hate and bombs then, since, before?

Whitman, put down your bugle, blow saxophone jazz
Play a crazy piano! Nurse the sick, nurse the country.
Grow a blog of grass, appear on FOX and laugh at them all!
Sing what democracy means -- and then what it doesn't. Hey,
I've got my turn-tables, so you, I, and all our comrados, can jam.

If Walt Whitman Was a Woman in the 21st Century

( for the Whitman sesquicentennial)

In the 21st Century Whitman wears no beard. The experienced feminine is now the poet! She sings democracy, the body, the road. She walks with bold strides. Her long hair, and proud breasts, sway. She smiles broadly. She engages all that she sees and what she sees attracts her, satisfies her well. Her endless volume is hypertext and everyday she waters it and it and everyday it grows grows grows.

She has no fear of bars or men's desire. She passes men, only to feed them and love them. She follows women who have bold or bashful eyes. Her own eyes are wry, glittering with hope and mischief. Women want to be near and near to her. They want to tell her stories. Men approach her with good intentions. They want to confess their sins. She does not believe in sins. Only love and liberty and a little postcolonial deconstruction with beer.

If she's horny, then her love risings are multitudes. Hypersextext. Barbaric yawps! Rooftops will do. Orgasms which interlink all that is womanhood. Orgasms that interlink all that is man that comes from a woman.

When she is asked, "Walt Whitman, are you a dyke?" She cries yes yes yes! She does not hide her love for women in poems. She does not hide her love for men in digital cameras. Her road is open and she sings of it while driving a hybrid. She still likes gas stations though: the bathrooms, the Doritos, the camaraderie. Turn up your car radios! Turn them loud! Whitman the woman wants hip hop, punk and country in equal measure. They are all America's songs.

She loves America, but calls no state or country home. One of her grandfathers is Irish and another is African. She has a grandmother who is Indian and a grandmother from the Philippines. Since she is the Whitman of the 21st Century America, her uncles, aunts and cousins are from over 200 recognized and unrecognized countries.

Whitman wears boots of leather and a jacket of suede. She is a vegetarian in theory. She contradicts herself. She never forgets her oversized sunglasses for photo shoots. Since she is Whitman she has no shame. You can find her on Google image search, webcams, the blogosphere. And there she is! In Backstage, Harpers, and Common Dreams.

Since she is Whitman, she has come to save America. Since she is a woman, she has come to save the world. Since she is Whitman and a woman, she laughs loudly. She has a crooked tooth because she is careless and lost her retainer. She is a rock star in a smoky club. A nomad with frequent flier miles. Since she is Whitman she always travels coach coach coach.

©2006 by Julie Bolt

After several years of teaching, studying, writing, and roaming in the Southwest and West Coast, Julie Bolt has returned to her hometown -- New York City. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of English at Bronx Community College. Her creative work has appeared in The Taj Mahal Review, Syntax, The Red River Review, and Thieves Jargon, amongst others. She also writes articles on pedagogy, and is currently working on a chapbook entitled Sacred Lie. Julie lives with her family and dogs in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Visit her Web site.

  Home Contributors Past Issues Search   Links  Guidelines About Us

Subscribe to the Slow Trains newsletter