Walt Whitman among the
  Reaching Hands

Walt is between the army cots in the field tent.
The soldiers are passing from one life to another.
The tent fills with sawing to the bone.
He holds a bloody bandage and kisses it tenderly.
He opens the tent flaps like morning fog.
He sits on an amputated tree stump.
A drummer boy watches Walt make a piece of grass whistle.
The boy points to the battle, "What can you do about that?"
He straps a drum as he races to the front lines.

There is nothing he can do about it.
The morning is cold as bullets.
He hears the drumming of a woodpecker on dead trees.
There is nothing to do about the cut timber and bone.



He wants to return to the outstretched hands.
He notices the dead field mouse curled into a comma.
What could he do about that?
The crosses are a line of type he could set piece by piece
until they were pebbles in clear water.
He had felt a manís break as sunrise and now his hands
were useless to do much about what was happening.

Walt removed his leather boots and thick woolen socks,
plunged his feet into mud to take root as blackberries.
This is what he could do about it!
For a moment, all is still.
It is the kind of quiet that makes a deer notice.
Even the boy dying on the red blanket of grass notices.


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